Heck YES!! While some may think it’s just another piece of equipment to deal with, for me it affords peace of mind.
Let me tell you why.
It turned out to be a beautiful morning after a night of pouring rain. My nine year old daughter and I tacked up our horses and started the Old Dominion 50-mile ride. This was back in the 1970’s, long before “endurance” riding tights, “endurance” helmets and “endurance” tack.
To make a long story short – we came around a bend, my saddle slipped to the right, I lost my balance and yes, fell off "Nutmeg", my lovely mare. My Kiefer saddle slipped under Nutmeg’s belly and off she flew, careening through the woods scared to death. Somehow, she went over a cliff and ended up in the river.
We all survived the ordeal, though not unscathed. Nutmeg survived with stitches and bruises as did I. My daughter was picked up by another rider who agreed to sponsor and my daughter finished the 50 and buckled. The only non-survival was my saddle lost to the river.
To me, a breast collar, properly fitted, would have saved Nutmeg the trauma and terror of a saddle attacking her belly and is, in my opinion, a really good safety device. To this day I NEVER ride without one whether competing, training in the hills, on the flat, or in the arena.
There are many different styles of breast collars designed for different disciplines. The most important thing however, no matter the type you choose, is the fit.
Fitting Your Breast Collar
The three-piece breast collar, most often used by endurance riders attaches to the saddle via two straps. These attachment straps should be adjusted first so that the center ring sits in the middle of the horse’s chest. There should be a deep “V” formed by the arms of the breast collar. These arms should fall above the point of the shoulders so they don’t interfere with the horse’s stride.
A horse backs away from pressure so that if not adjusted to above the point of the shoulder the horse will shorten its stride. Freedom of movement in the shoulder area will allow the horse to lengthen its stride.
(Note: The attachment straps can be attached to either the upper or lower d-rings of the saddle. However, I do recommend using the lower d-rings on a treeless saddle. When you consider climbing a hill and the attachment straps are holding the saddle from slipping back and the attachment straps are attached to the upper d-ring there is also a downward pressure toward the wither. This is somewhat negligible with a treed saddle but an important consideration when using a treeless saddle.)
The neck strap on the three-point breast collar can be adjusted to lift the arms off the point of the shoulder. However be careful not to have it too tight over the wither. (I use a fleece cover over the neck strap when I use my high-withered horse so she is more comfortable.)
Once the attachment straps and arms are fitted the center strap should be fitted. A well-fitted center strap should be comfortable snug and centered to stabilize the breast collar, keeping it from bouncing up and down when your horse moves. You will want to attach your strap to the front d-ring of your girth/cinch.
So there you have it. Breast collars are an important piece of safety equipment for your horse and for your peace of mind.