A horse riding body protector is a special vest with pads to provide protection should one be kicked by a horse or fall off a horse. It is wore over one's clothes; if one is wearing a jacket the vest can be worn either under the jacket (if the jacket has enough room) or over it. The body protector vest typically consists of a front and back panel, fastened with velcro fittings.

Although a body protector, like any type of protection, may not prevent all injuries (for example, if a horse falls on you, you are still likely to be hurt), it's protection can reduce both the frequency of injury and the severity. Its purpose is to protect the chest, back, spine and internal organs. The amount of protection provided depends on the type of padding (foam is the most common) and thickness (thicker padding provides more protection). Some protectors include protective shoulder pads.

Body protectors are color coded to indicate the level of protection:

  • Black. The minimum level of protection. Considered appropriate only for licensed jockeys.
  • Brown. Medium level of protection. Considered appropriate for low risk riding (not for jumping, unstable horses, or riding over hard surfaces such as roads)
  • Purple. The most protection, suitable for competitive horse riding and working with horses.

To get the full benefit of a vest, the following is advised:

  • Type. Use a purple rated rather than brown or black rated.
  • Size. The vest size should be correct for the person wearing it, so that it provides a snug but comfortable fit. It should not move about as you ride or work (this would be an indication that it is too loose). For children, do not purchase a large size with the intention that they will grow into it, since it will not give proper protection until they have grown.
  • Fit. Although a vest can be adjusted somewhat with the velcro strips, this is limited. Since different people have different shapes (e.g. the bosom size for women), one needs to purchase a vest that is not only the right size but also the right fit. Fortunately, different brands have somewhat different fits (even for the same sizes) so if one brand does not feel comfortable then try others. A poorly fitting vest will be uncomfortable, which can result in one not wearing it.
  • Wear it. With any safety equipment, it only protects if it is used. Ideally, a body protector should be worn all the time when one is with horses, not just for long or difficult rides.
  • Children. Children in particular can easily have accidents with horses (they are often less aware of horse safety rules and because of their small size horses may be less aware of them). An adult needs to make sure that the child puts on his/her vest and that it is properly adjusted before the child is with horses.
  • Replace damaged.  If a vest has been damaged or the foam dented, it should be replaced as it will no longer provide the same level of protection.
  • Replace old. The foam tends to degrade over time, so even undamaged vests should be replaced at least every 3 years.

A bodty protection is only one element of basic horse riding protection. The others include a helmet, correct boots (and tack), and following horse safety