Airbag vest prevents injuries to equestrians

Few people think of horseback riding as a dangerous sport, but at least 13 riders have been killed in the sport of eventing over the last four years. This inflatable body vest attempts to prevent serious injuries, by cushioning the body from major blows.

Eventing is sort of like the motocross of equestrian sports, held on a cross-country course with plenty of fixed fences to jump. Unlike in show jumping, the fences don't fall if the horse hits them, so the horse can easily stumble and fall over on top of its rider.

Two companies make the air vests, Hit Air from Japan and a British company called Point Two Air Jackets. A short cord extending from the bottom of the vest is attached to the saddle, and when you jerk the cord far enough it will trigger a small gas canister that inflates the vest in less than a quarter of a second.

Several professional riders credit the vests with saving them from serious injury or death, and most top competitors now use them. They cost around $400-700 each, but can be reused with a new gas canister.

New York Times, via Geeky Gadgets

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