Saturday, October 2, 2010

Air Bags for Riders

Recently, a friend at work sent me a link to an article on the use of air bags in the equestrian world, specifically cross-country jumping. I admit that sometimes I'm not in the know when it comes to what's new. While air bags made perfect sense in some ways, I hadn't realized they were put into use for equestrian sports yet.

In my mind, I pictured an airbag popping out of the front of the saddle and inflating. If you hadn't fallen off by then, the air bag would most certainly boot you out of the seat. Maybe not such a hot idea after all.

My curiousity peaked, so I checked out this article. Okay, so the air bag isn't mounted on the saddle, but built into a vest. Hmmm... Sounds intriguing for a coward like me who rides a 17-1 horse with a propensity for shying at invisible objects. So I read on. This article claimed this inflatable vests had saved several riders for catastophic injuries, paralysis, or even death. A claim which might be hard to prove considering you can't rewind time and try the same stunt or jump without a vest.

Still, it sounds interesting. There's one big hitch for me. You attached a line to the saddle. When you fall off, the line is pulled tight and inflates the airbag. I can just see me dismouting and  forgetting about the line and ending up battling an inflating airbag as I'm trying to get my body safely to the ground. I wonder how many times that happens?

I was hoping there would be this magic technology which actually senses you're flying through the air at a great rate of speed and inflates the airbags. It appears, technology hasn't caught up yet with my imagination.

Then there's the hefty price tag starting at $390. But then, isn't it a small price to page for minimal broken bones or not breaking your back?

I'm not sure. I will keep any eye on this technology to see where it goes. I think it's a intriguing idea. Here's a link to the article:

Has anyone else tried inflatable airbags on your horse?


Alison said...

Great post, Jamie!
I would forsee the same type of thing--it inflating while I'm holding my horse who immediately freaks out, runs off, crashes through the neighbor's fence . . . you get the idea.

PS If you enjoy Equestrian Ink as much as I do, please share its geat stories and information with other horse-lovin' friends!

BB said...

I'm all for safety for the riders the more I learn about horses and how unpredictable they can be. It's a chance you take every time you get in the saddle. Granted there is probably more research and design needed but if it helps keeps someone from paralysis I have to think its worth checking out.

Funder said...

LOL, a friend of mine boarded at a barn where the XC riders used one of the airbag systems. Apparently you only forget to disconnect the system once - it's loud and startling, and it's expensive to replace the bag system!

There's a new company that I saw at Tevis, and their airbag system takes 60 lbs of pressure to activate. It definitely disconnects if you fall off, but you have a chance at getting half off, feeling a tug, and remembering to disconnect.

Jami Davenport said...

LOL, Alison. I know what you mean.

Bouncin' Barb, I'm all for safety. With a horse as big as mine, it's only smart, but I've seen people injured more seriously on smaller horses than bigger ones.

Funder, I wondered about that. So you won't disconnect twice.

Devonsangel said...

I have an air vest and after a recent XC schooling incident, I will not ride over jumps without it, if I can help it.

I was schooling over a 2'6 natural jump that was in a dark area of woods and my horse refused. I convinced him to get over it but wasn't set myself and fell off. Instead of getting bruised, sore and a potential case of whiplash, I just bounced. My air vest deployed and stabilized my neck and back before I hit the ground.

The canister replacement was $20 and took about 15 minutes to replace and I'm ready to go again. The vest itself does not need to be replaced unless the tubing is damaged.

I HIGHLY recommed anyone, young or old, who jumps, to wear one. It is light and inconspicuous. It is cheap insurance compared to one emergency room visit. As an older woman rider (44) I can't afford to be hurt and take off work (or more importantly not be able to ride).

I'm encouraging all the riders in my barn to get their own or borrow mine.