Breastcollars - Don't Ride off without one!
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way not once, but twice.
Growing up learning English riding techniques I never used a breastcollar, let alone consider using one since all I did was flatwork.
My first slap in the face story starts with a horse, a western saddle and some Jehovah's Witnesses. Sounds like the start to a bad joke, right?
It was a beautiful afternoon, we had one of the horses at the time out, saddled up, ready to go riding. This horse liked to inflate her belly like a balloon while being cinched up so it was a process. As we were getting this horse ready the witnesses pull in the driveway.
As a friend of ours attempted to mount up, the saddle slipped sideways, the horse spooked. The saddle then slipped all the way under her belly and she was off like a rocket!
The witnesses are still trying to spread their word as I prepare to catch this horse that has taken off down the road bucking and freaking out. I have to say the witnesses didn’t miss a beat in their speech. I was learning my first lesson about breastcollars.
The lesson? A breastcollar would have prevented this.
OK, maybe not the poor timing of the Jehovah's Witnesses' untimely stop, but definitely could have prevented the damage the saddle sustained and the trauma to the horse and rider.
You’d think that I would’ve learned my lesson? Sometimes it takes me a couple of times.
This next story solidifies the reasons you just don’t saddle up without a breastcollar. No matter what you do with your horse in a saddle, a breastcollar should be part of the routine. It's not just for special occasions.
I was going to work with one of my horses, a mutton withered little mare. I saddled her up, thought we were only going to be doing work in the arena, no need to put on that breastcollar.
We were warming up on the lunge, working on her manners when suddenly the saddle slipped. It happened so fast there was no stopping or preventing the saddle from sliding any further. In moments it was under her belly, she stuck her foot through one of the irons and ripped off the whole stirrup hanger with one good yank.
Of course I was in tears, this was my Evolutionary Saddle!!
I got her to stop, settle and was able to remove the beat up saddle from underneath her and began to assess the damage both to her and the stirrup hanger.
This was the lesson that taught me never again without a breastcollar. Not for any reason will any saddle I put on a horse will go without a breastcollar. A saddle that fits your horse is an investment and a treasure, keeping it, the horse and you safe is top priority. A breastcollar will provide safety for all.
Learn from my mistakes!!
Preventing wrecks while riding.
You’re riding all of a sudden, a turkey or deer jumps out. Your horse jumps sideways and your saddle slips hard to one side.
I don’t think that you can call yourself a trail rider until your horse spooks once at something. When your saddle slips it can cause a number of things to flood your mind. The last thing you should be thinking of is whether your saddle will end up underneath your horse.
With a breastcollar, your saddle will only go so far. Giving you a chance to dismount and get your horse under control, reset your saddle and safely continue the ride.
I’ve seen this happen to others, it has happened to myself, no one is immune especially if you ride a lot and different horses. These close calls or near misses are only 'near' anything because of the breastcollar.
Proper fit of your breastcollar - How to and why it is effective.
Depending on the breastcollar you will attach it to your saddle in one of a couple of positions and then to the girth/cinch. You likely will need a wither strap since many breastcollars can end up impeding the shoulder’s movement. A wither strap will help keep the arms of the breastcollar in the appropriate position for your horse's comfort and functionality of the breastcollar.
After your breastcollar is put on, you should be able to pull the center of the breastcollar away from their chest about the width of two to three fingers. Any more and the breastcollar won’t be as effective, any less and it will impede the movement of the horse.
If your breast collar would fit if it just could have those arms sit a little higher, then likely you need a wither strap. They are available separately, but many times they come with the breastcollar. They come in all shapes and sizes as well.
Once you get started using one regularly you’ll get better at adjusting them and it will become routine to have a breastcollar, until you and your horse would feel naked if you didn’t have a breastcollar.
Sometimes a breastcollar is too big, no amount of adjusting, adding holes and other means to make it fit work. This isn’t a safe combination and will compromise your safety. You’ll be better off selling the ill-fitting one you have and investing in one that fits appropriately.