Rider wins £100k grant to bring flexible equestrian ‘body armour’ to market

  • A rider whose life was saved in a bad fall by her safety equipment has secured a £100,000 investment for the “innovative” body protector she has designed.

    Finnish Esmerelda Bright, a former international showjumper, is the founder of Armaros, which has developed flexible “body armour” for riders, and has secured the backing from the British Design Fund.

    Esmerelda said her life was saved by the body protector she was wearing at the time of her rotational showjumping fall in 2007, but that like other riders, she felt existing equipment was rigid and uncomfortable, and could affect balance. Having looked into the issue among equestrians, she found many riders were put off wearing body protectors by the same issues.

    “I had always found body protectors to be very uncomfortable, but my accident really hit home to me the importance of wearing one,” she said.

    “When I started asking fellow riders about their experiences, I quickly found that most riders don’t wear one because they find them incredibly stiff and restrictive. That was a lightbulb moment for me.”

    Esmerelda looked into possible solutions as she was taking part in a design course backed by the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. She worked with engineers to create a material using “biomimicry” design, inspired by natural structures.

    “The result is the creation of a material technology that is flexible yet incredibly supportive, inspired by the human spine,” an Armaros spokesman said.

    Esmerelda added that it is important the design is accessible and suitable for mass manufacture, so as many people as possible can use it.

    “After many iterations, we have managed to engineer a product that works with existing manufacturing techniques and which also has potential for many other markets,” she said. “I’m excited to have the backing of the British Design Fund and their support in bringing our design to market.”

    It is hoped the product will be on the market within a year, following extensive safety testing. It will be aimed at riders, although the hope is to expand into other sports and industries such as defence.

    British Design Fund CEO Damon Bonser said: “The investment committee were really impressed by Esmeralda’s strong knowledge of the equestrian sector, which makes up a large percentage of Armaros’ initial market.

    “We were also impressed by her determination to succeed. Armaros has huge potential to scale and a clear and compelling purpose. We look forward to working closely with Esmeralda and the team, to bring the product to market and start saving lives.”

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