Breast Collars: Adjusting for a Proper Fit

Breast Collars: Adjusting for a Proper Fit

Does your horse need a breast collar? Perhaps, depending on your activity. A breast collar helps keep your saddle in place, if it’s properly adjusted.

ranch horse competitor in chinks rides buckskin horse wearing T-style breast collar (Credit: Journal)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By John Snyder with Andrea Caudill

Breast collars come in all designs – tooled leather, painted, beaded, mohair, leopard print. But they’re not just a pretty piece of tack. They stabilize your saddle.

Horse Breast Collar Purpose

The breast collar works in harmony with your cinches to add stability to your saddle. Obviously, this stuff doesn’t take the place of a well-fitting saddle, that’s paramount regardless, but if you’ve got extraneous forces acting on that saddle – whether that’s a rider, you’re roping, or the horse is doing some kind of athletic maneuvers, like going uphill on a trail ride or when competing in cow horse, that breast collar helps your saddle stay put and not slide back.

Western Breast Collar Styles

There are different styles of breast collars. Probably the most common is the traditional three-piece T-style. There are also pulling collars and yoke collars, which are pretty popular. Then, there are plenty of people who use the older-style tripping collar, just the single piece, and that can be effective as well.

The best one to use depends on what you’re doing. Regardless, it’s critical that it fits appropriately. To me, the fit is more important than the style.
When the breast collar is adjusted appropriately, it is snug enough to provide stability, but it also has to fit the horse so it doesn’t obstruct movement.

This is the biggest thing for me: I don’t want it to impede the horse.

How to Attach and Properly Fit a Breast Collar

The style and the make of a breast collar is going to determine how you adjust it, based on the horse you’re riding.

A breast collar will fit and work better on a broad-chested mature horse versus a 2-year-old colt. A mature horse, as a general rule, is bigger and can carry or wear a cinch or breast collar and it doesn’t impede their movement.

But a breast collar that is just hanging down has no function. Get your hole punch out and adjust it properly.

To fit the most common T-style breast collar, I want to make sure the top part of the T is above the point of the horse’s shoulders. If it sags below the point of the shoulder, it’s way too big.

Then I want to make sure the vertical part of the T is snug enough that it’s going to provide stability so the saddle doesn’t slide back. I don’t want this part of the breast collar just hanging there.

Depending on the build and size of the horse, you can adjust that breast collar either to the rigging of your saddle, or if there are breast collar D-rings built into the saddle, they hold the breast collar up and prevent it from impeding the horse’s shoulder. That just depends on the style of saddle you have.

If your saddle doesn’t have D-rings, attach the breast collar to the cinch rings. Again, be careful that your breast collar isn’t too low over the point of the shoulder. If it is too low, you might need a different style of breast collar – like a pulling collar – or you can attach a strap of leather to the breast collar and run that leather strap over the horse’s neck to pick the breast collar up a little higher. I’ve had a number of students buy a leather dog collar, attach it to the breast collar and loop it over the horse’s neck to prevent the breast collar from sagging.

About the Source: John Snyder

Colorado State University’s ranch horse coach John Snyder received his bachelor’s degree in equine science and agricultural business from Colorado State University in 2005 and his master’s in integrated resource management in 2009. During his career, John has worked for John and Josh Lyons, the legendary King Ranch and was most recently the sales fitting manager for the Best Remuda-winning Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas. John joined Colorado State University in 2014 as an instructor in the equine science program.

Colorado State University was the first land-grant university to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in equine sciences and now boasts more than 400 undergraduates in the program. Its ranch horse team competes successfully regionally and nationally in stock horse events while educating students and promoting the equine industry.

To learn more about their program, contact colostateranchhorseteam@gmail.com.