Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tack Time: Talking About Breastplates

I use breastplates pretty much every time I ride. It's not just because I'm a tack 'ho (even though I am) or because my saddles slide around (they really don't, much). It's because in the event of a horse acting like a horse, I am left with something to hang on to that is not the horse's mouth. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

There are plenty of different configurations available to use. I'll run through a list of those I own and use most commonly and the advantages of each.

As modeled by Cuna
First up: my horse sized Nunn Finer Hunting breastplate in havana and brass.

This is my go-to, standard, everyday-use, do-everything breastplate. I added clips to the straps by the withers and I'd love to do the same to the girth loop. It adjusts in 3 different places (withers, neck on both sides, strap between the legs) and has fit everything I put it on, from a haflinger pony to giant warmbloods and draft crosses.

It's utilitarian looking, very sturdy, and does the job I want it to do. I've taken it on trails, in the jumping ring, on cross country, and of course, on extensive hacks. The leather broke in beautifully and even though I've had it for several years now, it still polishes up well for the show ring.

Too boring for you? Never fear!

My next addition to the hoard was this Five Star Tack signature elastic breastplate. (Just looked at the new price. Yikes!!)

Mine is the older style that don't have a grab strap across the top, so it hasn't gotten a lot of use, given my purpose in having a breastcollar in the first place. Nevertheless, it's nice quality leather and it's an eye catching piece. On Cuna, whose giant withers keep his saddle from ever moving, it's just a decoration, but it does look nice.

The function is identical to the hunting breastplate. A drawback encountered by this style is that if you use this breastplate to actually keep the saddle from sliding back, pressure points will be created right around the horse's withers. Very uncomfortable.

I will say that in general, I'm not wild about elastic on breastplates. Since I have them for those "oh crap" moments like spooking and unexpectedly giant jumps, I don't want them to give. I want them to hold when I need them and hang uselessly otherwise. Plus, I think elastic wears out faster and is much harder to clean than just leather.

Courage and the jumper breastplate
But two breastplates are never enough!

I used this breastplate to justify a small shopping spree on facebook. After all, it was only $20.

It's basically this model of breastplate, although the link is definitely to a higher quality item. Known as a jumper breastplate, it attaches to the girth on both sides and has a grab strap that goes over the neck. It's kind of a pain to adjust if you're switching between different sized horses. I just used it on Courage, and after the initial adjustment, it was fine.

What I like about this model is that it's easy for sensitive horses to wear. I have known several princesses (Cuna actually not included) who got very fussy because the girth loop of the hunting style breastplates would pinch their skin and hair. I also used this style when Cuna got a cut inside his foreleg and I was trying to keep from rubbing it.

Properly adjusted, it doesn't seem to restrict shoulder action or have any ill effects.

As modeled by Gunner
Then there is the super modern and popular five point breastplate. I don't actually own one, which is a little bit horrifying. They are cool and trendy in eventing and the jumper ring and I have to admit, they do a pretty rocking job of keeping the saddle exactly where you want it.

That said, they are hard to adjust and a PITA to put on every single day. Even me, the tack-loving 'ho who was short on rides this summer thought it was a little bit ridiculous.

If you have a horse that is unduly bothered by a slipping saddle, this piece is a godsend. If you're just trend matching, seriously, find something easier to put on and clean. This isn't worth it.

Stock image from bitofbritain.com
That leaves one other major style: the three point breastplate. Omg! I don't have one of these, but I would love to. They match the convenience of the jumper breastplate with the stability of the hunting breastplate and completely sidestep the PITA factor of the five point. They have the ever-so-useful grab strap available to hang on to and don't look all cluttered up or distracting.

They are pretty new on the market in the US, but they've been around in Europe for a while. The few reviews I've heard of them are glowing and positive and I can't wait to get my grabby little hands on one.

So there you go. Breastplates are commonly used to keep saddles in place during athletic attempts and to hang on to during said athletics. There are a variety of styles available to fit all budgets and lifestyles.


  1. Huge, HUGE thumbs up for the 3-point.

    Interesting - what you refer to as a jumper breastplate, I've always called a polo breastplate and called the breastplate that goes from D-ring to D-ring (under the neck with no other connection to the saddle) a jumper breastplate. I don't really get the point of going D-ring to D-ring only - seemed pretty ineffective to me. Maybe that's why they're now calling the polo, a jumper breastplate...

    1. I completely left out the D to D configuration because it's so self-evidently useless. Like... a horsey necklace? I don't know why people even bother.

  2. Thank you for this post! It cleared a few things up for me! Now to dig through my tack room and see what other treasures I can uncover!

  3. My five point has clips so it takes me literally two seconds to throw it over Bobby's head once he's saddled and just clip to D, girth, and between his legs. The hunting breastplate I had before is now buried at the bottom of one of my trunks because it did nothing to hold my saddle in place, but it was nice to grab, like you said!

  4. I3m belatedly catching up on your blog, congrats on Courage he looks & sounds like a sweetheart. I hope you have lots of fun together while Cuna is healing and afterwards too!
    Hope barefoot Cuna is thriving in the field. :)

  5. I always used a breastplate like your Nunn Finer when I fox hunted. As I moved more into the hunters, I ditched it. They're not "in style" (which is stupid imo) for hunters and I use a standing martingale primarily as a grab strap or the occasional correction for Simon.

  6. I like my Tory hunting breastplate just fine, but what I really want is a Five Star Bridge breastplate -- I guess it's a three-point breastplate. Five Star quality, of course ... and bonus? Matches Apollo's jump bridle. :)

  7. my five point is super easy to put on as well-the trick is to have clips at the girth (the part between their legs) and the D-rings.

    I have the HDR 5 point and its a super excellent breastplate for the value. Only around $80, and if you wait for some sales you can get it around $70.

  8. I love my FB $20 breastplate, even though I'm not using it much right now. I might break it out for Zephyr's next jumping lesson.

    I've never had an elastic breastplate and have avoided them because it just seems like the elastic would get gross right away. Thanks for confirming that suspicion!

  9. I have a basic breastplate with standing that hasn't even gotten use yet seeing as I'm too lazy to put new holes in it, mostly because I don't get a lot of movement with my current mount's tack, so a standing is enough. That 3 point looks pretty nice too.

  10. I use an elastic one (not nearly as cute as yours!) mostly to help prevent saddle slip (not that we have much, but I just like having it there since we do hills regularly). Plus the ring in the middle is handy for a running martingale attachment. =) I use an old stirrup leather as a neck strap.

  11. Love my Nunn Finer Hunting Breastplate!

  12. I have this: http://www.doversaddlery.com/circuit-breastplate/p/X1-0934/ and really like it cause there is a martingale attachment :)

    Great post on all the options :)

  13. I love my nunn fiber hunt breastplate. The leather quality is great and I can easily attach a running or standing if needed.

    I want a 5 point but I know I'll never use it or want to clean it. My breast plate makes the best grab strap. I feel as though the fact that a breastplate is attached at the dees makes it a more secure "oh cr**" strap.


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