Best Equestrian Air Vest (A Buyer’s Guide) 

equestrian air vest

Nearly 65% of injuries related to horseback riding are head traumas; however, other injuries (25%) also occur from falling off your horse. Wearing self-inflating air vests has become an important aspect of rider safety in recent years.  

Horse riding is a high-risk sport, whether you are riding for fun or competing. An air vest is an essential item to add to your safety gear as it increases your chances of staying injury-free and safe. This piece of protective equipment is only effective if you buy quality, use it correctly, and take good care of it. 

So what are the best air vests you can buy to help keep you safe? And what considerations should you keep in mind while shopping? 

We’ve tested the best equestrian air vests on the market, and with the included buyer’s guide, you can shop with peace of mind. 

5 Best Air Vests for Horse Riders (Our Review) 

Hit-Air Pro Plus (Best Overall) 

Hit-Air Pro Plus (Best Overall) 

The Hit-Air Pro Plus air vest is our best overall pick. It comes in a variety of different sizes, colors, and lanyard options so you can customize your safety gear air vest. This is also one of the first air vests for equestrians that came to the market, and it has built an impressive track record.

The manufacturer claims the lightweight air vest is the most tested air jacket on the market, and it has won several awards. Safety tests have proven the vest reduces head acceleration by 50% and body acceleration by more than 70%. 

The air vest provides advanced protection for a rider’s spine, neck, torso, rib cage, and vital organs. 

At the back of the air vest you’ll find the main airbag; this strengthens the vest’s shock buffering function. Secondary airbags protect the neck and chest. There’s also an extra shock-absorbing VISCO ELASTAN panel behind the CO2 cartridge and on each of the rib panels. This provides added protection should the rider fall onto the CO2 canister during a fall. 


  • Available in 3 sizes (small, medium and large)
  • 4 color options
  • 6 lanyard options
  • Can buy a saddle strap for your English or endurance saddle 
  • 50 cc CO2 canister for the small size vest; 66 cc for medium and large size vests
  • Lightweight  
  • Deflates within seconds to reduce pressure from the inflated vest


  • Testing has been limited and doesn’t include a SATRA standard test 
  • Canisters are single-use only 

Other Hit-Air air vests you could consider are the Hit-Air Original that has a 48 cc CO2 canister or the Hit-Air Advantage with Zipper Closure, which has added protection over your hips. If your kids do horse riding and you want to offer them added protection, check out the Hit-Air Kids air vest.   

Point Two ProAir Air Vest (Best Budget) 

Point Two ProAir Air Vest

The Point Two ProAir Air Vest wins our budget category. But just because it’s light on your pocket doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer you world-class protection in the event of a fall.  

This air vest is designed to be worn with a body protector to ensure you are as safe as you can be. It is lightweight and inflates within 0.1 of a second. When inflated, you can still fully move your arms and legs. You’ll have partial movement of your head due to the neck section

The air vest automatically deflates in 15-20 seconds to reduce chest pressure.  

This air vest isn’t ideal to be worn when riding on a Western saddle. The bottom buckle may be in the way and can get caught on the horn should you fall off your horse. 


  • Comes in 13 colors
  • Available in lots of sizes (Child small to large, adult small to x-large, and medium to x-large wide)
  • Certified by SATRA M38   
  • Comes with two canisters and an Allen key for installation


  • Can’t be worn with a Western saddle
  • Canisters are single-use only   

Point Two Hunter Air Vest (Best for a Western Saddle) 

Point Two Hunter Air Vest

To solve the problem that lower buckles on an air vest can get caught on the horn of a Western saddle, Point Two designed the Hunter Air Vest. It also looks great if you do dressage as the vest features a cleaner, more fashionable silhouette. 

The Hunter uses the same airbag technology as the Point Two ProAir; however, you fasten this air vest with a zip instead of buckles. 

For extra protection on the Point Two air vests, you can consider adding an Equestrian Forcefield Back Protector. It features an EN1621/2 Level 2 certification. This back protector will protect the rider’s spine from compression and impact-related injuries.


  • Available in 4 colors: black, blue, brown, and red 
  • Comes in many sizes (child x-large, adult small to x-large, medium to x-large wide)
  • Certified by SATRA M38  
  • Comes with two canisters, an Allen key, a saddle attachment, and a standard lanyard
  • Lifetime guarantee with regular servicing  


  • Can’t wear a foam body protector underneath  
  • Canisters are single-use only 

Helite Airbag Zip’in 2 (Best X) 

Helite Airbag Zip’in 2

The Helite Airbag Zip’in 2 is ideal for riders in any horse riding discipline as it offers freedom of movement. The style is a fitted cut. This air vest offers more protection in the chest area, and the cartridges create less volume in the vest for a leaner and more comfortable airbag when inflated. 

Wear this air jacket as is or invisibly underneath any Zip’in approved clothing. It’s recommended to not wear the Helite Airbag Zip-in 2 under unapproved clothing as it can impair the functioning of the air vest and exert extra pressure on the rider’s ribcage. 

The air vest inflates in 100 milliseconds and provides optimal protection for your sacrum, pelvis, back, cervical, and thorax. The shape of the air jacket absorbs shock and stabilizes your body, from your head to your tailbone. 


  • Available in many sizes (child large, adult x-small to xx-large)
  • Comes with 1 cartridge, 1 lanyard, 1 saddle strap, 1 Allen key, and a user guide 
  • Waterproof 
  • Lightweight and breathable 


  • Only available in black  
  • Not SATRA certified
  • Canisters are single-use only  

There are other air vest options by Helite. There’s the AirJacket for adults and the AirJacket for kids. Other options include the Airshell Prestige, Airshell Blouson, Airshell Gilet, Airjump, and the Zip’in Airbag.  

Ovation Air Tech Vest (Best Air Cushion Tech) 

Ovation Air Tech Vest

The Ovation Air Tech Vest comes with two CO2 canister options. One is a 65 cc canister for large and x-large air vests, while the 45 cc canister is available for vests in sizes small and medium. 

The Ovation’s CO2 trigger system uses air cushion technology. This reduces the risk of injury should you fall off your horse while riding. 

This air vest is also lightweight, and it can be worn with a traditional body protector underneath for extra protection. 


  • Features air cushion technology 
  • Lightweight 
  • Provides freedom of movement 


  • Only available in black
  • Canisters are single-use only   

Air Vest Equestrian Buyer’s Guide

Air Vests vs Traditional Body Protectors 

Most riders who are hospitalized suffer from severe injuries. Thus, the purpose of air vests and traditional body protectors is to keep horse riders safe and decrease the chances of them sustaining severe injuries. 

Traditional Body Protector

Made from lightweight foam, a traditional body protector protects your ribs, chest, abdomen, and internal organs. They help minimize the impact of a fall, but these can’t prevent compression caused by high-velocity falls. 

Body protectors reduce penetrating injuries to the torso, which is where rib fractures occur. Plus, they also protect you from abrasions, bruising, and cuts. 

The effectiveness of body protectors has been mostly observed by riders who participate in cross country riding in comparison to those who ride on the flat or do stadium jumping. 

Air Vests

On the other hand, air vests are designed to reduce what’s called “crush” injuries to the torso when a horse falls on top of them or when a rider falls off a horse. 

These dramatic falls are sometimes called rotational falls, which usually happen when the weight of the horse lands on the rider who is in a twisted position. This piece of safety tack offers some direct spinal protection and injuries involving severe torsion, extension, and flexion. 

In cross country events, traditional body protectors are a requirement, and they are allowed in most other riding disciplines. Currently, no event or discipline requires riders to wear an air vest (or air jacket). 

Many professional riders do wear air vests in addition to their traditional body protectors as a secondary layer of protection.

If cross country horse riders want to wear an air vest, they still need to wear a body protector as well. Thus, an air vest can be worn over an SEI-certified body protector or a BETA Level 3 protector. 

The air vest isn’t seen as a replacement for the body protector, but it adds additional protection.   

Why You Need an Air Vest for Horse Riding 

The data on how effective air vests are in the equestrian world isn’t available yet since the technology is still new. 

In Australia, researchers reviewed cross-country falls during 2015-2017 and found that riders with air vests sustained fewer injuries compared to those who didn’t wear an air jacket.   

Anecdotal evidence from riders suggests that there are safety benefits to wearing air vests. 

The vest you choose should be tested to meet the air vest standard of SATRA M38:Issue 3 February 2015 from the independent testing organization SATRA technology. 

Not all air vests are tested according to this SATRA standard. 

However, don’t discount other air jackets. The manufacturers do plenty of their own testing and sometimes via independent researchers, and you can usually see the results published on their website.  

How Does an Air Vest Work

The principle on which air vests work is the same even though the designs are different. The air jackets have a lanyard or cord that the rider attaches to a special strap, which is attached to the stirrup bars of an English saddle. On a Western saddle, attach the lanyard to a D-ring that’s bolted or riveted securely to the saddle tree.

When the rider falls off the horse and parts with their saddle, the pull on the lanyard triggers an activation device. This device punctures the air canister and then the vest inflates before the rider hits the ground.

An air vest inflates in between 0.18-0.2 seconds; however, this depends on the brand and type of air vest. For the rider, this feels immediate.   

The air vest features specific inflation areas – around the neck, thorax, and torso – to reduce the impact and force exerted on a rider’s body when they fall.   

When to Wear an Air Vest 

Wear an air vest when you want additional protection above what a traditional body protector offers. If you are a new rider, an air jacket is recommended. 

Also wear one when you work with young horses, ones that are flighty and prone to bucking, or when backing a horse.  


Ensure your air vest fits well because this helps guarantee the safety gear can do its job to protect you. 

The top of the air jacket should reach the top of your sternum and the base of your neck. The front of the air vest should reach two-fingers width below your ribcage. With the air vest on, make sure you can bend at the waist; the air jacket shouldn’t touch your hip bone. 

With the air vest on, make two fists between your chest and the vest because this ensures there is enough room for the air vest to deploy. If the air vest fits snugly, it could break your ribs or rupture your lungs when deploying. 

For the back length, sit on the saddle. Ensure there’s a hand’s width between the bottom of your air vest and the cantle.  

How to Care for Your Air Vest

To ensure your air vest continues to function properly, store it in a climate-controlled tack room. The CO2 canisters are heat-sensitive. They should also not be exposed to unnecessary bumping that could damage their seals or puncture them.

Remove dirt with a dry brush, and then wipe the air vest with a damp cloth. Hang the vest to air out indoors and this will reduce any odors.

After a fall and the deployment of the air vest, inspect the safety gear for marks and tears. If you find marks or tears, the air vest should be sent to be serviced to ensure all the mechanisms still work properly. 

Ater 6 inflations or every year (whichever comes first), the air vest should be serviced by the manufacturer. 

Service includes a wash of the vest body, checking the pressure tolerance of the airbags, examining the mechanism where the canisters fit and replacing any worn parts. 

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