We have all seen these pictures in our riding centres’ old photo albums, in which riders are wearing pants with an elastic band under the foot, no chap and a velvet helmet… without chin strap. Today’s riding helmet standards have not always been common place in riding clubs nor even on competition courses! Although among dangerous sports, horse riding ranks 10th for accident rate and 3rd for serious injuries (source: L’Eperon.fr)
Today people are more aware of the risks and increasingly safety conscious ; they almost always wear a proper helmet and back supports, rigid protection jackets and airbags more frequently ….
What does the law say about wearing a riding helmet? What created the market boom for airbag vests? We carried out some research to enlighten you on the matter…
WEARING A HELMET AND CURRENT LAW
As surprising as it may be, in its section related to safety measures applicable in riding centres and privately owned stables, the sports Code in France does not explicitly imposes wearing a helmet in horse riding… Article A322-127 only mentions that the state of equipment, saddle and harness must not endanger riders nor horse safety. A minimal safety level is alluded to…. In riding centres and stables, internal regulations must therefore impose helmets to riders. They also have some obligations to comply with, such as; inform their customers! The centre is required to recommend wearing a helmet-only since 2003! It is strongly advised to post this notice clearly (on top of having to include it into the stable internal regulations list). This recommendation was turned into a requirement in 2013 only: In other words, if the law does not demand that riders wear a helmet, the club must impose it to its riders and mention it clearly in its internal regulations…
Furthermore, riding centres must have riding hats and helmets in a good state, available and adapted to the morphology of every rider, and make sure accidents are prevented (Sports code article A322)
Moreover, helmets standardization is being discussed at a European scale, and all EU countries don’t agree! The actual norm in use is NF EN 1384 (a helmet is referred to as “3 points”: hard shell, flex visor, back of the skull)
THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA: THE AIRBAG FOR THE RIDERS
Initially, the airbag was first patented in 1953 in Aeronautics. At the end of the fifties, Ford and General Motors were experimenting restraint devices by inflatable cushions, and in 1973 an airbag was fitted in a car for the first time. The airbags we now have in our cars were introduced by Mercedes in the eighties…
How did this airbag switch from the car to the individual sport airbag? via motorbike racing of course!
AIRBAG IN SPORT
In 1995, the Japanese manufacturer MUGEN DENKO adapted the airbag concept to motorbike. It would be re-designed and improved year after year until 2006, when an individual airbag obtained the EC certification for the first time. It was intended for the safety of motorbike riders, but it quickly moved to ski and horse riding: sports where falls can cause serious injuries! In motorbike racing, it will become compulsory in March 2018. In ski cross, 8 countries have already equipped their world cup athletes with an airbag (50% of the competitors).
In order to meet the growing demand in equestrian sports, companies manufacturing and selling airbags for motorbike have rapidly diversified into our sport. Since the end of the 2000, airbags for riding in quarry, at the stables as well as on courses have little by little become more popular…
At Horse Pilot, we have been thinking about how to make this airbag more compact and discreet. We have tested existing designs, have had feedbacks from our athletes on airbag vests they are familiar with, and have contacted an expert in the field: In&Motion, a French company specialized in designing and manufacturing garment integrated airbag systems, who offers specific solutions to motorbike riders and skiers. Our experience of innovating materials made us rule out rigid textiles to replace them by flexible and breathable materials. The result is a model we have been selling since June 2017.
As in motorbike racing and ski, professional horse riders have helped us finalize this product. Their comments can be summarized in one single sentence: “a good protection must be effective when needed but must be forgotten and discreet the rest of the time.”
WHAT’S NEXT ?
Since 2014, In&Motion has been developing an airbag for skiers, which will automatically inflate when it detects a fall. No cable to connect! It is actually an algorithm which detects an unusual movement of the skier and sets off the airbag before the impact of the fall. This device has been launched on the market in partnership with the brand POC since July 2016.
In view of the speedy development of stand alone technologies, we can hope to benefit from this new concept in our world of Pilots quite soon, don’t you think, dear Pilots?