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Fitting An Equestrian Air Vest for Children

With the adoption of air vests and body protectors gaining traction in the hunter, jumper, equitation, and dressage disciplines, we are also seeing a market increase in the demand for this equipment from parents for their children.

While parents like the idea of an air vest providing neck and spine protection, the reality is that fitting a child for an air vest can present some unique challenges.

  1. Air vests have a minimum weight requirement. For most, it's 70 lbs, although Hit Air makes two kids models that have a 50 lb minimum. These weights are important because this equates to the amount of force necessary to activate the trigger to inflate the vest. If a child does not meet the minimum weight, then there's a risk of being drug.
  2. Width and length. Even if a child meets the minimum weight requirement, their measurements are important. A vest must fit correctly to ensure that the air chambers are appropriately placed during inflation. If the vest is too big, the air chambers have a risk of shifting. 

A couple of things to look for to ensure proper fit of an air vest for a child:

  • The vest should be snug against the body. It should not be tight and the elastic should not be significantly stretched in the case of a low profile vest. If the vest is too tight, when it deploys it will be uncomfortable. The sweet spot is that the canister should not be tipping away from the torso (which presents it's own risks) nad the vest should not be shifting around or loose, but that there is enough room for the mesh to stretch to accommodate a couple of layers for warmth during colder weather.
  • The vest should cover at least the top of the tailbone, but should not be so long that the child is sitting on it or that it's significantly bunching at the back.

While many parents are looking for a low profile vest, some children are too small to fit into one. The low profile vests include:

Load image into Gallery viewer, Penelope Collections Airlight Air Vest by FreeJump
Each of these products have their own size chart and fit very differently. Of all of them, the Penelope Airlight XXS is the smallest fit and is often the best option for fitting smaller children looking for a low profile vest.
Load image into Gallery viewer, Hit Air Pro Kids
If a low profile vest is still too large or a child doesn't meet the 70 lb weight minimum, the other options are the Hit Air Pro Kids and the Hit Air Advantage Kids. These don't fall into the low profile category mainly because they don't look like a garment and they don't have air Load image into Gallery viewer, Hit Air Advantage Kids
vest compatible clothing to go along with them, but they only have a 50 lb weight minimum so they are good alternatives if you are absolutely wanting an air vest for your child. Fit requirements still apply, although the Hit Air Pro Kids is meant to be a looser fit while the Hit Air Advantage Kids is a slimmer fit.
In some cases, an air vest cannot be sized for a child, a body protector is highly recommended as an alternative. Body protectors do not have a weight requirements and have a greater variety of sizing options, all the way down to an infant size. While not quite as low profile as an air vest, a body protector has the following benefits and considerations:
  • Pinpoint impact protection from being kicked, stepped on, or landing on a fence rail
  • Does not require a child to remember to clip and unclip onto the saddle strap when mounting and dismounting
  • No ongoing cost of replacing canisters
  • No need to reset anything after a fall
  • Lower cost of entry (body protectors are less expensive to purchase)
  • Ability to sell and recoup costs when the child outgrows it

If you're looking for protective equipment for your child, Ride EquiSafe has all of the options, including every brand of air vest available in North America. Our goal is to help you keep your child safe and protected by exploring all of the appropriate options so that you can make the best decision for your child.

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