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Do Horses Spook When Air Vests Go Off?

It's the #1 question we get: "Will my horse spook when my equestrian air vest goes off?" Horses are not exactly predictable creatures, and the minute you say one thing about them, they do the other. It's impossible to say definitively how a horse will react, but in our experience, the majority (note we don't say all) of horses don't care or care very little. 

Why? Lots of reasons.

  1. There's likely a lot of hullabaloo going on that's causing the air vest to deploy, i.e. the horse is spooking at something else or something is occurring that is causing the rider to fall.
  2. The horse is startled by the fact that all of a sudden, the rider isn't where they're supposed to be. Enter guilty or sheepish looks of the horse who might have had something to do with that.
  3. The sound is super fast. By the time the horse has a chance to react, it's over. 
  4. Especially if it's occurring at a show or in an environment with lots of activity, in the grand scheme of things, it's not really that loud.

What we commonly see is riders being anxious about the "pop" or being startled when it goes off and transferring that anxiety or surprise to the horse. (We have been known to anthropomorphize.) 

That said, there are some horses that indeed will react to the popping of an air canister. Perhaps that's because they're sound sensitive. Perhaps it's a bit chilly out and they're on springs that day and any little thing will set them off.

Should the prospective reaction of your horse prevent you from wearing safety equipment? We would say no. The handful of horses that will react to the noise of an air canister pales in comparison to the number of injuries that will be avoided as a result of using a horse riding air vest.

Our recommendation? Test your horse with the canister. If they have a reaction, buy more canisters and do some desensitization work. Your safety is worth it!


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