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Equestrian Hit Air Vest Review: My Favorite Fall in 30 Yrs

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Written by Horse Rookie

Air Vests for Horse Riding and My Hit Air Equestrian Safety Vest Review

Confession: I own a LOT of horse tack and riding gear. (Far too much for someone with a single horse and a single income.) Yet, if forced to downsize to only TWO can’t-live-without essentials, my helmet and my Hit Air Equestrian Air Vest (available on Amazon) would easily make the cut. Walking away without a scratch from an “involuntary dismount” while cross country jumping made sure of that.

If you ride horses, you will fall off. It’s not a risk, it’s an inevitability. Falls are an unfortunate reality for all equestrians, regardless of experience, gender, discipline, horse, age, or environment. (Neat sport, eh?) The good news? There are many ways to mitigate your risk of serious injury, practice safe riding habits, and feel more confident in the saddle. Wearing a Hit Air Vest is top of my list (besides a helmet).

Horses are amazing and powerful creatures, and we’re blessed they allow us to partner with them. The joy they bring us far outweighs the risks (at least for me). That doesn’t mean sticking your head in the sand about safety, however, and hoping for the best. This post will help you stay safe…so you can keep riding!

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If you want to “Hit Air… Not Ground,” order your Hit Air Vest at Amazon

My Equestrian Air Vest Journey

I think I speak for most riders (rookies and pros, alike) when I say: My primary fear isn’t getting hurt. It’s not being able to ride because I got hurt. Horses are a big part of my identity, social calendar, and physical and mental wellbeing. In other words, riding is a need-to-have not a nice-to-have.

When I finally got my own horse, it was the realization of a 30-year dream. It was a big investment of time and money, and it came with tradeoffs of not investing that time and money in other things. I took a gulp and took the plunge.

Schoolmaster, meet rookie

My Quarter Horse Monkey is a finished reined cow horse, meaning he’s trained in the full range of reining maneuvers, as well as working cattle. At the time I bought him, I was trained in neither. In fact, I hadn’t ridden western more than a handful of times in a decade.

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Air vests aren’t just for english riders

I also wanted to teach him to jump, though he’d never so much as trotted over a pole on the ground. I really hadn’t jumped anything except a few cross rails as a child. (OK, I jumped a friend’s horse over a single rail once in adulthood–and fell off.)

My point is, even after having ridden english for 30 years, the activities I wanted to work on with my horse were new to me.

Nerves of (not) steel

Over the next 18 months, I rode a lot (usually three lessons and two practice rides each week). I had a lot of work to do, and learning entirely new disciplines like reined cow horse and jumping frankly scared me. (Just not enough to quit.)

I felt out of my depth, was trying to catch up to Monkey’s western level, and was trying to teach him what to do when people leave all those pesky sticks on the ground.

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Jumping… the early days

On the weekends, I attended “Cow Class” to learn how to work live cattle. For the first few months, I had to do it in my dressage saddle because my custom western saddle hadn’t arrived yet.*

(*I bought the Quarter Horse that doesn’t fit any standard saddle in the store. I don’t even want to talk about it.)

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Cow work… the early days

I was super nervous every time Saturday cow class rolled around–for at least nine months. My palms sweated. All of me sweated. My heart pounded, and sometimes I physically shook. Monkey knew the job so well that he’d make (the right) decisions before I knew where we were going next.

In the jump arena, we were both starting from ground zero. He stumbled over tiny poles, bunny hopped over cross rails, and I struggled to keep my nerves in check.

If anxiety is a challenge for you, I wrote about 32 practical tips for nervous horse riders

Practice makes progress

All that to say, it gets better. Hang in there. Even if you’re nervous, even if your horse is confused (and so are you), keep practicing. Little by little, I learned to read cows and help Monkey do his job better. Little by little, he learned that cross rails didn’t require an extra two-foot clearance and I learned to help him find proper distances.

Jumping... progress!

Jumping… progress!

Now, two years into our partnership, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. And I know for a fact that we wouldn’t have come this far this far if it weren’t for my air vest.

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Hit Air Vest to the rescue

I had never heard of an air vest until 2016. I was standing in the cross ties grooming my new horse when a gal walked by and mentioned that one of our friends had just taken a tumble in the cross country field.

“Ouch,” I said. “Is she going to be OK?”
“Oh, yeah. She had her air vest on, so she’s fine.”
“Her what?”

I stared at her dumbfounded as she explained that there was such a thing as a vest that functioned like a personal airbag. I pulled out my phone and made a note to research it that night. I ordered a Hit Air SV2 Vest the next day.

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Cow work… progress!

It helped me feel safer and be safer while I learned to gallop after cows, do sliding stops, and conquer 2’6 jump courses. (See “before” photos above for a reminder of why I needed all the help I could get!)

Air vests made our list of Adult Horseback Riding Gear because they’re such a game changer.

Hitting the ground in my Hit Air Vest

Though I had many close calls, it was two years before I actually fell off. Monkey and I were riding in our first three day eventing clinic, and we were learning to jump into water for the first time out in the field. I could feel him hesitate over the log, but he jumped it. I assumed we were in the clear!

Not so much. As soon as his hooves hit the water, and he saw his reflection, he pulled some sort of UFO sideways maneuver up and over the side bank. I never saw it coming, and I was on the ground before I even knew what hit me.

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My “Hit Air Moment”

What actually hit me, though, was air. My vest had deployed when I (involuntarily) separated from my horse, and the next thing I knew I was sitting up on the bank–100% OK. I gave my dad a thumbs up across the field, and I’m sure he was equally stunned that all was well.

I’d fallen off before. Thirty years of riding is a long time, so I’ve lost count of how many unplanned landings I’ve experienced. Though I’d never been seriously injured, previous falls typically knocked the wind out of me, left me with aches and bruises, and really shook my confidence.

This time, however, I felt fine. I felt fine immediately after my fall (enough to hop right back on and finish the course), and I felt fine when I woke up the next morning. I wasn’t sore. I wasn’t bruised. And, strangest of all, I felt more confident after than before I’d fallen.

My Hit Air Vest had worked, and maybe–just maybe–I didn’t have to be so nervous about all the “what ifs” anymore. Now that you know more about my personal journey with air vests, let’s dig into the details and answer some common questions.

*Note: I was also wearing my Airowear Outlyne body protector under my Hit-Air Vest, which I highly recommend doing if you’re jumping. It has way better side protection than those with lace-up sides. And, of course, I had on my Tipperary helmet. I never (ever) ride without it, and I love how it comes down lower than other helmets in the back for even more protection.

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Want to increase your safety even more? Learn about our 7 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults (Uses, Features, Reviews).

What is an Equestrian Airbag?

I first heard this quote in one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing:

“You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down.”
“When the fall’s all that’s left, it matters a great deal.”

Nearly every time I pull on my air vest to ride, I think about that. If you arrive at that pivotal moment where the fall is all that’s left, how you fall matters a great deal.

Injury inspires innovation

FYI the terms “equestrian airbag,” “equestrian air vest,” and “inflatable horse riding vest” are synonymous.

Much like seat belts were invented to decrease auto-related injuries and deaths, air vests (i.e. equestrian airbags) were an innovation in response to horse-related injuries and fatalities. According to Landsafe’s summary of FEI’s risk reporting, the risk of low-impact falls with injury is 1 in every 250.

A rotational fall increases the risk of serious injury to 1 in 5.

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If you’re anything like me, visions of Christopher Reeves are now dancing through your head like sugar plum fairies of doom. Whoa, self. Take a deep breath.

Most falls don’t result in serious injury, but even low-impact falls can bruise your body and your confidence. Air vests were created to help riders fall better, and the folks at Hit Air have been at it the longest–more than twenty years.

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How does an air vest work?

Let’s get one thing straight first: air vests are not the same as static body protectors.

Body protectors, like my Airowear Outlyne, do not inflate. They help disperse the impact of a fall and help protect all those important organs in your core from hooves and other obstacles.

As I mentioned earlier, wearing a body protector underneath your air vest is a great idea if you want double-protection. (You’ll see many professional eventing riders do this, so rookies are in good company.)

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Falling with grace (more than usual, anyway)

So how can an air vest help protect you during a fall? You wear the vest on the outside of your clothes and attach it to the saddle with an accessory called a lanyard.

If the two components (saddle and vest) get separated, a small CO2 canister within the vest automatically activates and expands pockets around the vest, filling them with compressed air.

Hence Hit Air’s slogan “Hit air… not ground.”

According to Hit Air, testing has shown their products reduce head acceleration by more than 50% and body acceleration by more than 70%.

When you’re careening toward the ground, pumping the brakes sounds like a pretty good idea.

What equestrian air vests protect

Inflation and protection varies by manufacturer, so remember I’m only talking about Hit Air.

The SV2 model I have inflates strategic pockets around the vest that protect my neck, collar bones, spine, sides, back, and hips.

What it feels and sounds like

This was an open question for me for the first two years. I’d watched videos of the vest inflating online to get a general sense of the noise level and pressure, but I hadn’t experienced it until that day in the field.

The Feel: Hit Air Vests are specifically designed to “inflate out,” meaning they expand away from your body. That keeps you from feeling like you got punched in the gut. When I fell, the vest inflated so fast that my brain couldn’t register that it happened. I didn’t feel like I “bounced” when I hit the ground, but I also didn’t feel the traditional “OOF!” smack that knocks the wind out of you. #dontmissthat

Because I also had my body protector underneath, things were quite…snug…after my vest inflated. The worst part was waiting a few minutes for the vest to deflate enough for me to unclasp the front buckles and take it off. It wasn’t painful, but it was a bit claustrophobic.

The Sound: This was a big open question for me until that point. How would Monkey react to the single “firecracker pop” air vests make when inflating. Sure, he jumped away from the sound (preferable to scooting toward me!) and ran back to the rest of the group. But he wasn’t traumatized by it. He let me get back on right away, and I haven’t noticed any lingering issues on his part.

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Watch & Learn: Hit Air Vest Videos


10 Reasons I Chose (and Love) My Hit Air Vest

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Best Horse Riding Neck Protection

Protecting my neck in the event of a fall was my number one priority when looking for my air vest. I always wear my helmet, but decreasing the speed-to-ground and neck stability isn’t something static body protectors (i.e. non-inflating vests) provide.

When I think about injuries that can impact my long-term wellbeing and ability to ride my horse, neck issues top my list.

Hit Air Vests feature the largest neck airbag in the inflatable vest category (when deployed). In fact, many other inflatable vests don’t have a dedicated neck air pocket at all. (I ruled those out immediately.)

Best Horse Riding Hip Protection

It’s not only senior riders who have to worry about hip injuries. This is another thing I don’t want to deal with down the line, so I wanted a vest that offered substantial hip and lower back protection.

The flip-down pocket at the bottom of my equestrian Hit Air vest does just that, and I was so glad to have it when I came off in the field. A bruised tailbone isn’t something I want to experience either.

Suitable for English and Western

Having a multi-discipline vest was a big consideration since I do english riding (dressage, stadium jumping, eventing) and western riding (reining, trail, cow work). Hit Air Vests are designed for all riders* not just elite jumpers.

*Well, not trick riders probably… but that’s another story.

Reusable

Admittedly, I had some initial sticker shock when I saw the price of air vests. But, that was before I realized they were designed to be reusable over and over after deployments (unless they become damaged in some other way). Once I understood you could simply snap the air pockets back into place, swap out the CO2 canister, and get back to riding, I understood I was definitely getting what I paid for.

Deploys Fast

Air vests don’t do any good unless they’re able to inflate before you hit the ground. That’s not much time either. Hit Air Vests inflate in 0.18 seconds or less (depending on the model), and to the rider it feels instantaneous. At least, it did to me!

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Breathable and Lightweight

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I hate restrictive clothing when I ride almost as much as I hate feeling nauseous in super hot weather. Finding a vest that didn’t restrict my movement, impact my position, or make me overheat was important.

Hit Air Vests are very lightweight, even with the CO2 canister. (I forget I’m even wearing it.) Most models are around 800 grams, and they allow for total breathability unlike static body protectors. It’s yet another reason I choose my air vest over my body protector in the summer–unless I’m cross country jumping when I wear both.

Durable for the Long Run

My vest materials is very tough and shows zero signs of wear or tear after more than two years of frequent use. Even after my fall, there was absolutely no sign it ever happened on the vest itself. (On camera…another story.) The fabric doesn’t snag, tear, or fade.

Quiet Deployment

Generally speaking, it’s pretty quiet. All inflatable units make a popping sound when the CO2 canister activates and the vest inflates. When mine went off, Monkey did shy a bit sideways and head back to the rest of the horses in our group.

But, let’s be honest: he would’ve done that anyway. He wasn’t traumatized by the noise, and I’ve had no issues with that post-fall.

Low Profile Design

Looks aren’t everything, I know. But I’d rather not ride around looking like I’m surrounded by bubble wrap either. My SV2 vest is black, really thin, and others barely notice I’m wearing it. Safety can be subtle, and I prefer when it is.

Brand Reputation

Hit Air has a solid company reputation, and they’ve been innovators in inflatable safety vests for more than 20 years. I feel better knowing the experts made my vest, and it’s been tested to the ends of the earth and back (not that I feel that far).

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BONUS: Psychological Incentive

I didn’t expect this benefit, but it turns out I’m much better at staying in the saddle when I know my air vest will go off if I bail. Call it motivation or embarrassment aversion, but it works.

I’ve saved many near-falls because my brain tried not to ensure I didn’t inflate my vest!

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Mindset is a big part of riding. Check out my 32 Practical Tips for Nervous Riders.

Where Air Vests Fall Short (Get it?)

No product is “perfect,” and many times imperfections are matters of personal preference. For me, there are a few things about my air vest I’m not wild about:

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Price Tag: You get what you pay for with a Hit Air vest, and it’s not an investment I regret (at all). However, the cost makes it a non-starter for many equestrians who simply don’t have the budget for gear at this price point. I wish it was more affordable for all riders. (And that’s not counting things like replacement cartridges…)

Deflation Speed: The most important speed factor is INFLATION for obvious reasons. But after I fell, it took several hours for the vest to entirely deflate on its own (You can squeeze the air out faster manually if you want.) I also wish it deflated faster right after the fall. It took me several minutes to be able to even undo the front buckles it was so tight when inflated. (It also hisses while deflating.)

Small Parts: I don’t have a better answer, but keeping track of critical parts the size of a screw… well, good luck. I ended up buying an extra tools kit just so I could keep one in my trailer and one in the tack room. Why? So I can find them more quickly after a fall to replace the canister.

Note: Other than trying to make the vest quieter upon deployment, this isn’t something Hit Air can do much about. But sometimes other riders may not want to ride out with you if you’re wearing an air vest because it could potentially spook other horses if it goes off. This happened to me once, and I simply chose not to ride with that group anymore.

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How the Best Equestrian Air Vests Stack Up

Equestrian Hit Air Vests Model Comparison

  Hit Air SV2 Hit Air LV Hit Air Advantage
Where to Buy See at Amazon See at Amazon See at Amazon
Key/Canister Type Y-Type Y-Type B-Type
Weight 810g 900g 1kg
Inflation Speed 0.18 second 0.18 second 0.09 second
Sizes Adjusts XXS to Small Adjusts S to XL Medium (adjusts S to XL)
Large (adjusts XL-3XL)
XL (adjusts 3XL-5XL)
CO2 Canister 48cc 48cc 50cc and 60cc
Key Box Cover Standard Standard Insulates sound
Side Protection Horizontal and side angle under arm and waist Horizontal and side angle under arm and waist Horizontal from front to back + waist
Hip Protection Flip down Flip down Pocket telescopic with no buttons
Neck Protection Large Large Large

There is also a zipper front version of the Hit Air Advantage. It was created especially for riders in western saddles to decrease the chance of front buckles from getting caught on the horn. (I haven’t had any trouble with mine though.) If you prefer a zipper, you can find it here on Amazon.

Hit Air also makes a model for children that meets BE and Pony Club standards. I don’t have kids, but if I did I would want my children riding in air vests–especially in the earlier years. You can find more details here.

Hit Air Vest Accessories

If you’ve decided to invest in a Hit Air Vest, a) Congrats! and b) there are a few accessories you should be aware of:

CO2 Cartridge: The size of your cartridge varies based on the vest model and vest size. Buy at least one replacement so you have one on-hand if you need it. (Amazon sells three packs at a discount, so I was all over that.)

  • 48cc (Hit Air SV2/LV)
  • 50cc (Advantage XS, S, M)
  • 60cc (Advantage L, XL)

Key Ball:

This is the small metal ball and clip that stay on your vest attached to the CO2 canister (except during a fall). You can replace yours or buy a replacements on Amazon at the links below.

Saddle Strap:

This is the strap that stays on your saddle and where you attach the lanyard. I bought an extra saddle strap (Prime shipping, baby!) so I could keep one on my jump saddle and one on my western saddle.

Adjustable Bungee Lanyard: This is the coiled cord that joins your vest and saddle strap. You can also get replacements or buy extras of the bungee lanyard on Amazon.

Directions and Allen Wrench Set: You MUST hang onto this. You can’t “put your vest back together” after it inflates without these tools.

Pro Tip: Though you’d think one of these would be enough, I learned my lesson after I fell. I couldn’t find this little kit anywhere! (It turned out to be out in my trailer.) Buy an extra kit so you can keep one with your everyday tack and one with your travel stuff or in your trailer.

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Equestrian Air Vest Reviews

In addition to my positive review in this article, you’ll find plenty of other top-level and novice riders raving about their “Hit Air Moments.”

Here’s one of my favorite testimonial videos from Eventer Sam Watson, and you can find additional testimonials on Hit Air’s website here.

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Did you know Hit Air vests are also popular with equestrians who have epilepsy? Read why in 3 Tips for Horse Riding With Epilepsy (and Confidence).

Air Vest Rookie Mistakes

Being safety conscious is smart, but you don’t want to look silly along the way. Here are three rookie mistakes to avoid when it comes to your air vest:

  • Forgetting to unclip when dismounting: Yep, it happens. (Luckily, I’ve only gotten close!) Though you have to give it a solid tug, hopping off while your vest is still clipped to your saddle is a surefire way to give you and your horse a mini heart attack. UNCLIP!
  • Forgetting to clip in after mounting: I’ve done this one. Sigh. You invest in an expensive air vest and then forget to attach it during your ride. This is particularly easy to do if you stop to unclip while taking off a jacket or get off and back on mid-ride.
  • Caring what other people think: Air vests are gaining in popularity, but they’re by no means commonplace on every riding scene. If you’re worried about being the only one wearing a safety vest, I’ve been there. But, at the end of the day, I choose safety over raised eyebrows. (I discuss this a bit in my article about what to wear horseback riding.)

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Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Whether you’ve been in the horse world ten years or ten days, you’ve probably heard at least one of these statements. People use them to justify not taking safety precautions and/or taking risks they probably shouldn’t.

The thing is, they’re not true.

Assumptions that fall flat:

  • “My horse is bombproof.”
  • “I’ve gone faster/jumped higher than that, so I won’t fall off this time.”
  • “I never wear a helmet, and I’m still alive. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!”
  • “I’ve never fallen off before, so I won’t this time either.”
  • “I’m too experienced to fall off.”
  • “That horse doesn’t have any buck in him.”
  • “I have a really solid seat, so I won’t fall off.”
  • “My horse has seen [object or activity] a million times, so he won’t care.”
  • “He/she did it, so I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
  • “My horse’s former owner did this all the time, so this won’t phase him.”
  • “[Insert small child’s name and age] can ride that horse, so you don’t need a helmet.”

Riding horses is inherently risky, but you can take steps to mitigate that risk. You’re worth it!

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9 Horse Riding Safety Tips

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to take at least basic precautions around horses. Here are 9 quick tips that’ll help keep you safe:

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Ride the right horse

Getting on a nervous, dangerous, and unfamiliar horse is a good way to reach a bad ending. Also, don’t ride a horse that’s out of your personal comfort zone or experience level.

Don’t ride alone

Sometimes you can’t help it, but try not to ride alone. If you must, always let someone else know where you’re riding and when they should expect you to check back in afterward. (That’s good advice even when you aren’t alone!)

Be aware of your surroundings: Is another rider struggling to maintain control of her horse? Is there a stallion being lunged in the round pen next to you? Is snow sliding off the arena roof? Think ahead about what might happen and be willing to adjust your plans.

Wear Safety Equipment

You already know how I feel about wearing helmets (read about it here if you don’t), and now you know how I feel about safety vests. Use them!

Inspect Your Gear

A cracked helmet or a frayed girth might go unnoticed, so check your gear. Check your equipment before you swing into the saddle.

Wear Your Cell Phone

If you wear riding tights, get ones with a cell phone pocket. (See my favorite Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights at Amazon.) If you wear jeans, get a leg holster like the one I got at Amazon. Don’t put your phone in your saddle bag. If you fall off, it’ll run home with your horse!

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Wear a Medical Bracelet

If you do happen to fall off, first responders will be able to get key information about your health and contact info. I wrote more about them in my article about what to wear horseback trail riding.

Wear Appropriate Apparel

Things like baggy clothes or shoes without safety heels are rookie mistakes that can get you hurt. If you’re not sure what to wear horseback riding, start with our guide about what to wear horseback riding.

Know Emergency Procedures

Do your homework ahead of time (when there isn’t an emergency). Take a basic first aid class. Learn how to fall through a program like Landsafe. Ask your trainer how to do a jockey stop. Know what to do if you or someone you’re riding with takes a tumble.

Don’t Be A Hero

You have nothing to prove to anyone. If you’re feeling unsafe in a particular situation, step off and handle things from the ground. My horse has developed a fear of longhorn cattle, and I’m fine getting off and walking him by the neighbor’s bull. Better safe than sorry.

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Horse Riding Safety Vest Infographic

You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*

Feel free to share on Pinterest, as well by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower

Horse Riding Safety Vest Infographic

Learn how equestrian safety vests can help keep riders safe.

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Inflatable Horse Riding Safety Vest FAQs

Q: What is an inflatable horse riding safety vest?

When you hear the term “inflatable horse riding safety vest,” it’s the same thing as an “air vest” or “equestrian airbag.”

If you ride horses, you’ll eventually experience a fall (if you haven’t already). Inflatable riding vests, or air vests, are an invention that helps mitigate your risk of serious injury by inflating the vest using CO2 in a fraction of a second.

Wearing a Hit Air Vest is top of my safety list (besides my helmet), and you can read this full review to learn why I picked the Hit Air SV2.

See what an air vest looks like in action:

Q: What is an equestrian airbag?

See question above. An “equestrian airbag” is the same thing as an “air vest” or “inflatable horse riding safety vest.”

Q: Do I really need an air vest if I already wear a body protector?

Wearing a body protector

is a great start, especially if you’re riding a spirited horse or doing activities like jumping or cow work. But, for me, doubling up my body protector AND air vest is really worth it.

Air vests are made to provide improved protection during impact over the entire upper body, spine, and pelvis. Most body protectors don’t go down as far on the front, back, or sides. In addition, the laced side models have way less side/rib cushion, so I wouldn’t even consider one of those. (I got my Airowear Outlyne because it has awesome side protection.)

The biggest difference for me is neck support. Body protectors don’t have any, air vests offer tons. Neck injury isn’t something I want to mess around with. Period.

In fact, if I’m going to only wear one vest on a ride, I wear my air vest. It’s way more breathable, lighter, and has strategic support around my neck that a body protector simply doesn’t provide.

Q: Would an air vest help if I’m scared to ride my horse?

Every rider is different, so an air vest won’t be a “fix” for every nervous rider. The best first step is to understand why you’re scared to ride your horse. For example:

  • Did you have a fall?
  • Did you suffer an injury?
  • Did you witness something frightening happen to another rider?
  • Does your horse misbehave?
  • Is your horse much more advanced than you are?
  • Are you learning a new discipline or moving up the levels?
  • Does your trainer make you nervous?
  • Do you have to ride alone a lot?
  • Does your imagination run wild… toward the worst case scenarios?

Depending on the reason(s) behind your fear, there could be many things you could try. From counseling to switching horses or trainers, from taking baby steps toward your goals to working through behavioral issues, your “solution” should be unique to you.

Plus, check out my top 32 tips for nervous riders here!

All that said, I believe an air vest is a GREAT idea for any nervous rider. (I am one, so I’m speaking from experience.)

It won’t “fix” all your problems or suddenly send your confidence through the roof. It will, however, give you some peace of mind that should something go wrong during your ride, you’re much better protected. For me, that realization freed up a lot of brain space to actually focus on the task at hand instead of swirl through all the “what ifs” in my head.

Go back to the beginning of this article to learn more about why I chose my Hit Air SV2 air vest and why I love it so much.

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Q: Will an air vest help me gain confidence riding horses?

Read the previous question for a detailed response. In general, my answer is YES–an air vest can help you gain confidence riding horses. Knowing you have increased neck, spine, and hip protection (much more than a static body protector) should give you added peace of mind during riding situations that make you nervous.

Wearing an air vest isn’t the only thing that’ll boost your confidence though. Read through my safety tips section for additional best practices that will help you feel (and be) more safe in the saddle.

I also shared 32 practical tips for nervous riders here. 

Q: What do I do with the Hit Air lanyard?

The lanyard is the cord that attaches the vest to the saddle strap. See how to set it all up in the video below:

Lost yours? Grab a replacement lanyard here.

Q: What do I do with the Hit Air Vest screw?

The screw (a.k.a. bolt) that comes in your tool kit is used to reset the vest after deployment. See this question for the step-by-step process.

Lost yours? Get a replacement tool kit here.

Q: Where can I get a Hit Air replacement cartridge?

The size of your CO2 cartridge varies based on the vest model and vest size (see below). Always have at least one replacement cartridge on-hand in case your vest deploys and you need to swap it out ASAP. (Amazon sells three packs at a discount, so I was all over that.)

Here are the cartridge sizes by vest model:

  • 48cc (Hit Air SV2/LV)
  • 50cc (Advantage XS, S, M)
  • 60cc (Advantage L, XL)

Q: Where can I get a Hit Air Vest buckle extender?

If you need extra room, you can grab a buckle extender at 4 Star Eventing Gear here and gain 6-7 inches of space.

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Q: How do I replace air cartridges in a Hit Air vest?

You can replace the CO2 cartridge anytime, not only after the vest deploys. (I swapped mine for a fresh canister after last winter. It was out in the cold often, and I figured it was good to start fresh in the spring.)

(NOT DEPLOYED) To replace the cartridge in my SV2 model vest, it’s super simple:

  1. Make sure you have a replacement canister that’s the correct size. (Go back to this section if you aren’t sure.)
  2. Unzip the cartridge pouch on the vest.
  3. Unscrew and remove the current canister.
  4. Screw in the new canister.
  5. Zip up the pouch.

The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.

(DEPLOYED) To replace the cartridge after the vest has deployed, there are a few extra steps. You’ll also need the tool kit that came with your vest. (Lost it? Grab a replacement here.)

  1. Make sure you have a replacement canister that’s the correct size. (Go back to this section if you aren’t sure.)
  2. Unzip the cartridge pouch on the vest.
  3. Unscrew and remove the used canister. (It’ll have a hole in the bottom and the new one won’t, so don’t worry about getting them confused.)
  4. Unlike swapping canisters on a vest that has not inflated, you can’t simply screw in the new canister. The metal mechanism moves up when deployed, so the key ball won’t fit until you put the mechanism back in place.
  5. Insert the bolt that came in your tool kit to the bottom of the unit and tighten using the allen wrench from your tool kit.
  6. As you twist the allen wrench, you’ll see the mechanism lowers back into place.
  7. Take your key ball and put it into the slot. (Remember, if your vest deployed, the key ball and clip that normally hang off your vest will be clipped to the lanyard on your saddle.)
  8. Release the bolt by untwisting it with the allen wrench. That will hold the key ball in place until the next time you accidentally separate from your horse.
  9. Put the bolt and allen wrench back in the tool kit pouch so you don’t lose them.
  10. Screw in the new CO2 canister.
  11. Thread the end of the lanyard clip back through the hole in the pouch.
  12. Zip up the pouch.
  13. Snap all the air bag pockets on your vest back in place. (Make sure they’re fully deflated first.) Voila!

Once you’ve practiced this a few times, it only takes a couple minutes. Here’s a helpful video for you visual learners:

Q: How do I reset my Hit Air Vest?

Your vest needs to be “reset” after each deployment (i.e. inflation). That basically means you have to reset the connection mechanism and swap in a new CO2 cartridge. You’ll also need the tool kit that came with your vest. (Lost it? Grab a replacement here.)

  1. Make sure you have a replacement canister that’s the correct size. (Go back to this section if you aren’t sure.) Unzip the cartridge pouch on the vest.
  2. Unscrew and remove the used canister. (It’ll have a hole in the bottom and the new one won’t, so don’t worry about getting them confused.)
  3. Unlike swapping canisters on a vest that has not inflated, you can’t simply screw in the new canister. The metal mechanism moves up when deployed, so the key ball won’t fit until you put the mechanism back in place.
  4. Insert the bolt that came in your tool kit to the bottom of the unit and tighten using the allen wrench from your tool kit.
  5. As you twist the allen wrench, you’ll see the mechanism lowers back into place.
  6. Take your key ball and put it into the slot. (Remember, if your vest deployed, the key ball and clip that normally hang off your vest will be clipped to the lanyard on your saddle.)
  7. Release the bolt by untwisting it with the allen wrench. That will hold the key ball in place until the next time you accidentally separate from your horse.
  8. Put the bolt and allen wrench back in the tool kit pouch so you don’t lose them.
  9. Screw in the new CO2 canister.
  10. Thread the end of the lanyard clip back through the hole in the pouch.
  11. Zip up the pouch.
  12. Snap all the air bag pockets on your vest back in place. (Make sure they’re fully deflated first.) Voila!

Once you’ve practiced this a few times, it only takes a couple minutes. Here’s a helpful video for you visual learners:

Q: What’s the best air jacket for horse riding?

I can only speak from my personal research and experience, but I’m thrilled that I chose the SV2 Hit Air Vest.

best-air-vestHere are a few reasons why:

  • It has the most upper body protection, especially for your neck and hips.
  • It’s super lightweight, so I can wear it comfortably all summer.
  • It’s adjustable enough that I can also wear it over bulky winter riding clothes (and my body protector).
  • It’s reusable, so you’re only out the cost of a new CO2 canister if it deploys. (I get the canister three packs to save a little money.)
  • It doesn’t restrict my movement at all, which means it doesn’t impact my riding position.
  • Hit Air has been in this business for more than twenty years, so I’m confident in the craftsmanship and innovation that went into my vest

Yes, they’re expensive. (All air vests are.) But, my vest has already paid for itself in saved medical bills and peace of mind.

Q: What’s the best air vest for kids?

Good news! Hit Air makes an air vest for children, too. If your kiddo is into show jumping, eventing, fox hunting, getting an air vest is a no brainer. Though I don’t have children myself, I’d want my child riding in an air vest at all times–at least in the earlier years when they’re learning to develop a solid seat or riding in open spaces.

Q: What’s the best air vest for eventing?

If you’re asking about static body protectors, I recommend the Airowear Outlyne or Airowear Airmesh. The safety standards are impressive (learn more here if you’re interested), and they’re way more flexible than other vests I’ve tried. Plus, they have total side protection instead of simple lace-up sides. That’s a big deal.

I didn’t know about the Airmesh model when I got my Outlyne, or I would’ve gotten that. Anything that keeps me cooler on the cross country course in the dead heat of summer is worth it in my book.

If you’re asking about air vests, I recommend the Hit Air SV2. Scroll back up to the top to read my story and detailed review to learn why. Or go ahead and order yours with free shipping. I know they’re expensive, but my vest has already paid for itself in saved medical bills and peace of mind. (In fact, I wore it this morning when I had to ride alone at the barn.)

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Q: Are there any issues storing my vest in cold or hot places?

Hit Air doesn’t provide any guidance about this that I could find, but my trainer advised against keeping the vest out in the tack room once it gets super cold.

I also found similar CO2 canister manufacturers who do specify that keeping the devices in extreme heat is the biggest #rookiemistake. For example, don’t stick your extra canisters in your truck glove box during the summer. Keeping it in a shaded indoor tack room would be fine.

Q: What about “Hit Air Vest attachment”?

When people ask about “Hit Air Vest attachment,” they could mean 1) How do you attach the vest to your saddle? or 2) What are all the pieces and accessories that go with the vest?

If you’re wondering about the former, check out the video below:

If you’re wondering about the latter, pop back up to this section for a run-down of all the accessories for Hit Air Vests.

Q: Where can I find Hit Air Vest Instructions?

When you order your new Hit Air Vest, it’ll come with a little plastic pouch that holds an instructions booklet and the parts you’ll need to reset your vest after deployment. You MUST hang onto this. You can’t “put your vest back together” after it inflates without these tools.

I couldn’t find this little kit anywhere after my fall. (It turned out to be out in my trailer.) Now I know it’s worth buying an extra kit so you can keep one with your everyday tack and one with your travel stuff or in your trailer. If you end up away from home without your kit and need to reset your vest, you’ll be out of luck.

Q: Where can I find a used Hit Air Vest?

I’d be careful about this one.

There are lots of things I love buying secondhand, but safety equipment isn’t among them. Personally, I would never buy a used helmet or a used air vest. You don’t know how the previous owner maintained her gear (if at all) or how much/how often the items were used.

For example, if that pristine looking helmet has actually been in 20 falls before I get it, the structural integrity could be shot (but not visibly so).

Though air vests are designed to be reusable (for that price tag, they’d better be…), I would still be concerned about wear and tear on the parts or how and wear the vest was stored before I owned it.

I see the appeal of saving a few bucks, but I’d rather skip some Starbucks runs and get a new air vest on Amazon.

Q: Hit Air vs Point Two — Which is better?

The most similar Point Two model to the Hit Air vests we’ve discussed is the ProAir.

ProAir vests are lightweight and durable, but the Hit Air vest offers far more air flow and breathability.

Both brands can be worn with or without a body protector.

Overall, we prefer the design and protection offered by the Hit Air vest, but the Point Two vest is a solid runnerup.

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No Downtime. No Regrets.

While no safety product can guarantee you’ll walk away from a fall without injury, there’s no good reason not to take advantage of safety innovation within our sport.

best-equestrian-air-vestNot long before my fall, my barn hosted a dressage clinic. The clinician came into the arena the first day walking gingerly and limping. It turned out that she’d been bucked off a young horse a week prior and was still sore and bruised. (Luckily she was wearing a helmet.)

Being able to get up immediately, without even a scratch, and get back in the saddle was enough to turn me into an air vest convert. The results are so much better than the alternatives!

If you want to “Hit Air… Not Ground,” order your Hit Air Vest today. Yes, it’s an investment. No, you won’t regret it.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!