One of my favourite things about working events has to be the people I meet. Owners, trainers, product reps, sponsors, photographers, artists, vets...just about every category you can think of and a few you probably can't.
|Wendy shows off her display space in the indoor arena.|
Wendy had come to the US in late April to display her product at Rolex and we were lucky enough to have her stay over to the next weekend to visit South Carolina and provide some demos and information on falls and energy and how to think about protecting yourself as you inevitably hurl yourself from your steed. As we do.
I've talked about my vest before and my basic thoughts on the types of protection available to us at this time. Too bad we don't have knee protectors.
|I apparently lack Irish style genes, but it doesn't stop me!|
My disclaimer: I have received no incentives to share this product with you and have no stake other than my own safety parameters and intellectual curiosity. I hold, as you know, quite firmly to my self-proclaimed title of Mme. Skeptic and Ms. Analyse-It-To-Death (that one's not so catchy). But I was really impressed by the work and thought that went into this vest and with Wendy herself and her earnest desire to have an open, honest dialogue with riders and to provide them with effective protection, having evented herself on the other side of the ocean.
ENERGY MANAGEMENT – Body Protectors and Air Jackets Explained
Written by Wendy McCaughan
This article is intended to be a basic but factual and helpful piece for anyone who is confused by what is on offer in the market – there is no reference to brands including my own. My thanks to the Impact Engineer and Aeronautical Engineer who helped me get the physics right.
Body Protectors and Air Jackets perform in different ways.
The purpose of a traditional body protector is to help prevent injury to joints, bones and internal organs in the event of a riding accident when thrown from a horse or kicked. It does this by absorbing and spreading the forces involved. To a large extent body protectors are designed to emulate a ridged shell with spinal conformity and have the effect of wrapping around the ribcage. They should be impervious and ideally largely unbending around the circumference of the upper body, backed up by an impact absorbing and dispersing layer to cushion the blow. Too much flexion in the shell would allow blunt point impact to bend and possibly break a bone.
Physics of Impact
When falling from something there is the energy from gravity accelerating the person’s weight (mass) plus the energy given by the thing they fell off (bike, horse etc). Most riders are sitting at over 1.4 metres (4’8”) above the ground and may be traveling anywhere from 15-25 mph. That is a long way to fall, even when the horse is stationary. Once on the ground there is the added danger of being kicked or trampled - an average horse weighs 1200-1500 lbs, (544 – 680 kg), so the risk to the rider is significant.
Newton’s third law of motion states: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” i.e. push a ball and it rolls away, the more energy put into the push the further the ball goes. When landing, this energy has to go somewhere and often the energy goes into the rider’s body. Therefore the choice of safety garment must be shock absorbing so that the body inside is protected.
In a horse riding environment impact types would be:
-Flat impact on ground with no hard lumps,
-Blunt but point loaded impact i.e. a rock, tree root, fence post or rail,
-Sharp penetrative impact.
I would say that the first two and a combination of both are most likely. If when falling from a horse we hit, for example, a tree root or fence, the energy is transferred into a small area causing greater damage than if we fall onto flat ground. Therefore it is vital that the rider chooses the best shock absorbing and energy dispersing materials as their primary layer of protection (it is all about lessening the transfer of energy to the body). Body protector foams for use in the equestrian sector are designed to pass stringent impact tests.
|Do not want.|
All body protectors carrying the EN: 13158 or BETA marked labels have been tested to one of 3 levels and this denotes that at each level the body protector is capable of absorbing and spreading a given amount of impact. Protectors meeting BETA Level 3 should provide a level of protection that is considered appropriate for normal horse riding, competitions and for working with horses. These certified body protectors also have specific dimensional and space requirements so that sufficient torso areas are protected.
Air jackets are not body protectors. Whatever the benefits of wearing these items, currently none of them meet the relevant European CE standard for body protectors for equestrian use. To pass the standard protectors must be independently tested by a European-approved laboratory, using impact performance test methods to simulate impact due to falls and kicks from horses.