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Behind the Badge: Body Protector Technology
Body protection is a relatively new technology compared to head protection. It is still rapidly developing and expanding with every passing year. When Charles Owen entered the body protection industry in 1998, the European standards were hot off the presses and CE certified body protectors had recently been introduced. In the last 15 years the technology has come leaps and bounds and is now embodied in the two Charles Owen body protectors currently on the market: the Kontakt 5 and the jL9.
The main goal of the Charles Owen body protectors is to enhance the body’s natural protective mechanisms by adding an extra layer of cushion whilst maintaining agility. The Kontakt 5 and jL9 focus on flexibility, comfort, breathability, and security using the technology developed by Charles Owen.
Gelfoam serves as the base of Charles Owen body protectors. Developed for Charles Owen, this material has revolutionised body protection. Unlike traditional gel, Gelfoam has millions of air bubbles that reduce the weight and increases the impact absorption. Gelfoam is heat activated by the body and as it warms up, it moulds to your body ensuring a comfortable and flexible fit. With the jL9, the elastic is sewn directly on the Gelfoam and strapped over top of the shoulders to guarantee that the Gelfoam stays in place for the lifetime of the body protector. This allows the materials to interface with the body in a natural way rather than forcing the body into rigid protection.
In addition to the Gelfoam developed for Charles Owen, the company created a fit system that allows for the body protector to have interchangeable panels, so riders can choose different sizes based on their build. This allows for a customised fit off the shelf and ensures that the correct front length is obtained to protect the liver and spleen while still maintaining maximum flexibility. The body protector can be finely adjusted by positioning the Velcro panels in different locations to allow for various chest/waist ratios. All Charles Owen body protectors incorporate an elastic belt which snaps in place and keeps the Velcro secure despite dirt or spores which may reduce it effectiveness. In the event of an emergency, the fully removable front and back panels also allow for CPR to be performed without having to move the body.
One of the challenges that arises time and time again with all types of body protectors is keeping the body protector from moving up the body, especially if dragged by the horse over the ground. Charles Owen developed its Spinal Grip to solve the problem for every body shape. Spinal Grip locks the body protector into the base of the spine, stopping vertical movement that causes over shoulder protection to end up around the ears with the exposure of the lumbar vertebrae.
With the body heating up the Gelfoam, ventilation is essential to ensure the wearer stays comfortable and cool. The Charles Owen body protectors are covered in Coolmax fabric which draws the beads of sweat away from the body and creates a cooling system. The body protector has vented holes on both the inside and outside which are covered with mesh. Indeed with a Charles Owen body protector held up to the light you can see straight through it. The Coolmax/fabric cover is removable and can be laundered after a particularly muddy fall and which can extend the life of the body protector.
Although Charles Owen is focused on creating products that protect riders to the highest standard possible, it is important to the company that the body protectors enhance the look of the rider. Both the Kontakt 5 and jL9 are customisable with a variety of colour and piping options and feature a slim line appearance achieved through the tapered shoulders and rounded chest protection panels.
Body protection is still a developing technology and Charles Owen is continually innovating to create a safer more protecting product. Stay tuned to see what the latest development is in Charles Owen body protection!