April 29, 2008

Riding hats and body protectors meeting even the highest safety standards are useless if they don't fit correctly, warns the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).

Ill-fitting hats and body protectors are likely to be uncomfortable - perhaps deterring riders from using them at all, says BETA. While safety equipment should be chosen carefully according to the type of riding involved with competitors also considering the various disciplines' rules.

Retailers attending BETA Safety Courses learn about safety standards as well as the garments' construction, care and application. They are instructed by medical experts in human physiology and riding injuries, as well as undertaking supervised, hands-on tuition in hat and body protector fitting.

Tackshop staff who successfully complete the course receive individually named BETA Safety Certificates to display in-store - indicating to equestrian shoppers that they have been professionally trained.

Irish riders are becoming much more safety conscious, according to retailer Sue Perrott whose Sue Perrott Saddlery is in Mallow, Co Cork. "Attitudes have changed, not only among leisure riders but also on the racing yards.

"Having been trained by BETA, I feel I can fine-tune the fitting of riding hats and body protectors for all types of riders," said Sue, also a riding instructor who invites customers to 'ride' her shop's life-size saddle horse while trying on body protectors.

BETA monitors riding hat standards and developed and administers the internationally recognised BETA Body Protector Standard. The association also promotes riding as an enjoyable, healthy leisure activity.

"Thanks to many advances in materials plus innovative manufacturing techniques, a correctly fitted hat or body protector can feel incredibly lightweight and comfortable," said Claire Williams, BETA's executive director.

"With an array of colours and styles available, modern equestrian safety gear can be fun and fashionable - and is definitely not boring."