Body protectors in dressage tests??
Clearly if the rider has a medical condition, including spinal issues then it’s a no brainer, of course. If the horse is young and / or has been unpredictable in his work either at competition or at home then if wearing a body protector is also understandable and probably a good idea, especially with a nervous rider.
There are no jumps in dressage but that doesn’t make it risk free by any means; horses can spook, rear, buck, whip round and bronk without a pole in sight!!!
There is a balance that needs to be considered. Wearing a body protector over a jacket does look a little cumbersome and is practically ‘partially limiting’ for the rider to flow with the horse’s movement. Wearing anything extra around the body and riding in the same way is bound to raise the rider’s centre of gravity, making him/her more ‘top heavy’. This will most probably be detrimental to the horse’s way of going. A dressage test is after all a performance and needs to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible to get the best marks.
Conversely, if by wearing a body protector the rider is far more relaxed and rides with a deeper seat enabling and promoting a better connection with the horse then the centre of gravity will drop and the performance will be enhanced. Lighter ‘air bags’ are probably a better option to the hard shell variety.
If you have no medical reason for wearing one just protecting yourself from unpredictable behavior from your horse at competitions, then get yourself recorded riding a test at home (in a calm safe environment) both with and without your body protector. See if the quality of work differs. Assess your posture, the effectiveness of your aids and the consistency of the connection and roundness in both tests.
Then with this knowledge, it’s totally your personal preference whether or not you wear one, weighing up all the considerations.
Judges always judge the horse and the horse’s way of going in the test. There are either one or two marks for the rider so this is where you’ll see how effective the judge thought you were as a rider in the test.
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