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Hats must fit to be safe, BETA warns riders

Riding hats and body protectors meeting even the highest safety standards are useless if they don’t fit correctly, warns the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).

Personalised fittings are available at more tackshops across the UK – and now Ireland too. The free service is on offer to riders via retailers whose staff have been trained by BETA.

Ill-fitting hats and body protectors are likely to be uncomfortable – perhaps deterring riders from using them at all, says BETA. While safety equipment should be chosen carefully according to the type of riding involved with competitors also considering the various disciplines’ rules.

The number of BETA-trained Irish retailers was boosted by a recent course held the Racing Academy on The Curragh, Co Kildare. Riders visiting these stores can benefit from their experience.

Retailers attending BETA Safety Courses learn about safety standards as well as the garments’ construction, care and application. They are instructed by medical experts in human physiology and riding injuries, as well as undertaking supervised, hands-on tuition in hat and body protector fitting.

Tackshop staff who successfully complete the course receive individually named BETA Safety Certificates to display in-store – indicating to equestrian shoppers that they have been professionally trained.

Irish riders are becoming much more safety conscious, according to retailer Sue Perrott whose Sue Perrott Saddlery is in Mallow, Co Cork. “Attitudes have changed, not only among leisure riders but also on the racing yards.

“Having been trained by BETA, I feel I can fine-tune the fitting of riding hats and body protectors for all types of riders,” said Sue, also a riding instructor who invites customers to ‘ride’ her shop’s life-size saddle horse while trying on body protectors

O’Briens Saddery, with branches in Middleton and Bandon, Co Cork, is a popular port of call for parents seeking their children’s first riding hats.

“It takes special skills to fit riding hats to children while also explaining the process to parents who may not be riders themselves,” said Stephanie O’Brien who attended the recent BETA Safety Course at The Curragh.

“But I can now cope with any questions they wish to ask about anything from adjusting a hat’s harness to choosing the right body protector standard.”

BETA monitors riding hat standards and developed and administers the internationally recognised BETA Body Protector Standard. The association also promotes riding as an enjoyable, healthy leisure activity.

“Thanks to many advances in materials plus innovative manufacturing techniques, a correctly fitted hat or body protector can feel incredibly lightweight and comfortable,” said Claire Williams, BETA’s executive director.

“With an array of colours and styles available, modern equestrian safety gear can be fun and fashionable - and is definitely not boring!”

To locate your local BETA-trained retailer, contact tel +44 (0)1937 587062 email or visit

Who’s feeding your knowledge?

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) is urging horse owners to nominate their favourite feed helpline for a prestigious national award.

The Feed Helpline of the Year is one of a series of 2008 BETA Business Awards, to be presented at the BETA Gala Dinner in February.

The accolade will recognise the service offering the best equine nutritional advice which cuts through the jargon yet is based on sound science.  

“With good hay in short supply, many more owners may be turning to helplines for feeding advice this winter,” said BETA’s executive director Claire Williams.

“We are particularly interested to hear about companies offering constructive, practical feeding advice tailored to individual horses’ and ponies’ needs rather than merely trying to sell their products.

“We’d also like to know about any follow-up information being sent out and how useful this proved to be.”

Private and professional horse owners as well as feed merchants are invited to send in a nomination for the BETA Feed Helpline of the Year Award. Nominations are welcome for company helplines involved with supplements and forages as well as feeds.

Nominations close on 4th January after which a short-list will be drawn up.  The final judging will involve a panel of experts making incognito calls to the most-nominated helplines.

The award is open to national and regional feed companies who offer a free helpline service.

Nominations should be emailed to or posted to Feed Helpline Nominations, BETA, East Wing, Stockeld Park, Wetherby, LS22 4AW. As well as providing the company’s name, please add a brief explanation as to why your favourite feed helpline deserves to win the award.

BETA Conference rises to the challenge

Meeting the challenges facing a fast-moving horse industry was the theme of the 2007 British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) Conference.

A packed house at Cheltenham Racecourse on 15th October heard how making equestrianism accessible to more people was crucial to the industry’s growth and prosperity.

BETA also brought together experts in consumer and commercial law, merchandising and the internet to inspire and inform delegates who included leading players in equestrian manufacturing, distribution and retailing.           

Keynote speaker Clare Balding gave a personal insight into her life as Britain’s favourite TV equestrian sports and horse-racing presenter.

The former champion amateur jockey also revealed how she had diverted from a career in eventing to read English at Cambridge – at the suggestion of the sport’s doyen Lucinda Green.

Emphasising how riding can benefit many sectors of society, Clare suggested “using riding lessons as an incentive to improve fitness and weight loss.

“Ethnic groups are under-tapped by equestrian sport,” she said. “Enjoyment of horses is not exclusive to the white, middle classes.”

Clare told the BETA Conference that she would like to see more people watching live equestrian sport, and in particular going racing.

“Eventing has marketed itself very well, and probably doesn’t realise how lucky it is with Zara [Phillips], she ticks every box.

“Eventing, polo and point-to-pointing have retained a ‘picnic culture’ where everyone can turn up in the car, with the dogs, and have fun. They don’t have to dress up to enjoy it,” said Clare.

“Racing, however, faces a challenge because people don’t know what to wear and don’t know how to behave. It’s up to equestrian sport to make people feel comfortable.

“Racing can also learn from other equestrian sports in that people need to be able to get close to the horse.”

The challenge of ensuring that the equestrian industry capitalises fully on London 2012 was addressed by Tim Hadaway, facilities consultant from the British Equestrian Federation.

The much talked-about Olympic legacy is perhaps even more relevant before the Games as afterwards, stressed Tim: “The run-up to 2012 will open up equestrian sport to a whole new audience.”

He went on to issue an invitation to BETA members to visit Greenwich, “the site that will put equestrian sport at the heart of the Games.”

Tim also explained how spin-off equestrian events and facilities were planned both in the capital and other regions of the UK. “A new audience means conversion into participants, equalling new customers for the equestrian trade.”

Other speakers at the 2007 BETA Conference, which also incorporated a trade exhibition and the BETA AGM, were Jo Robinson from web creators Tebays, Phil Anderson, sales director of Mars Horsecare, and Rebecca Hewitt of Darbys Solicitors.

Jenny Fitzpatrick (left), equine advisor for TopSpec Equine in the south-west, collects the BETA Best Stand Award from Claire Williams, executive director of BETA.

TopSpec scoops best stand at equine event

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) presented its Best Stand Award to TopSpec Equine during the Westcountry Equine Event at the Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet on 20/21 October.

BETA, the body that promotes professionalism among equestrian retailers and manufacturers, was also busy throughout the event advising visitors on safety and shopping issues.

“Many horse owners came here seeking feeding advice, so it was most timely that an independent panel of judges awarded TopSpec Equine the BETA Best Stand Award,” said BETA’s executive director Claire Williams.

The Yorkshire based firm is a BETA Member company and current holder of the BETA Feed Helpline of the Year Award.  

BETA’s mechanical horse BETA RoboCob was a huge hit at the Westcountry Equine Event, enabling hundreds of visitors to test their riding skills.

The life-sized, computer operated equine, who wears standard saddlery, responds to the rider’s hand and leg aids and has five ‘gears’ – walk to gallop. He appeals to beginners who would like to try trot and canter through to experienced riders seeking to hone their positions at difference paces.

BETA RoboCob will be appearing on the BETA stand at the Devon & Cornwall Christmas Equine Fair at the Westpoint Centre, Exeter, on 1/2 December.

Everyone is welcome to ride, in return for a donation to the Riding for the Disabled (RDA), with BETA providing and fitting riding hats.

Contact BETA on 01937 587062
or visit