Fitting Your Curb Strap and Breast Collar
Improving your horse showing performance with your barrel horse might be simpler than you think.
August 24, 2016
Trainer and breeder Bill Myers has seen a lot of competition arenas through the years, hauling from his Myers Training Stables in St. Onge, South Dakota, which he owns and operates with his wife, Deb. They’ve trained and campaigned horses in several events, from cutting to racing and barrel racing. Their legendary stallion, Frenchmans Guy, has sired earners of more than $9 million, largely in barrel racing competition.
Bill and Deb have spent many years starting young stock and coaching riders. Many problems that Bill sees in barrel racing performances often stem from two simple tack problems: curb strap fit and breast collar fit. Using these tips, take a closer look at your rig before your next go.
Before you start tacking up, it’s important to safely tie your horse’s lead rope. Download AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Lead Rope ebook and keep you and your horse safe each time you ride!
No. 1: Curb Strap Fit
People often have a curb strap too loose. The old “two fingers” rule - making the curb strap loose enough for two fingers to fit between it and the horse’s chin - can make a strap too loose.
When my rein pulls on the bit, the strap doesn’t allow the bit to turn over too much, and it doesn’t cause a pinch in the horse’s skin between the corner of the mouth and the curb strap.
If the curb strap is adjusted too long, then it will create a pinch in the skin at the corner of the horse’s mouth. But you do have to have the curb strap snug enough so that the bit stays in place and works properly, and so the strap isn’t pinching the horse’s skin.
No. 2: Breast Collar Fit
The breast collar needs to be tight enough that it keeps the saddle up, sitting on the withers where the saddle is designed to sit. A lot of people don’t have the breast collar snug enough; it shouldn’t hang down below the point of the horse’s shoulder.
What usually happens is that people will saddle the horse and have the breast collar too loose. I don’t think they realize it, a lot of times, because it’ll look all right and the saddle will be in the right position when they first saddle the horse.
As they ride, the saddle moves back, out of position. That tightens up the breast collar again, but the saddle is too far back and the rider’s weight is too far back, more toward the horse’s kidneys.
In addition to fitting your tack correctly, you should always safely tie your horse. Check out AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Lead Rope ebook and start practicing a simple knot that will keep you safe while saddling.
When a horse is running and performing, your weight distribution has a lot to do with how he works and where he goes underneath you. There’s an area on the low part of the withers where the saddle is designed to sit. If your saddle sits too far back, it will put pressure on the back where it shouldn’t.
When the breast collar is fitted correctly, the saddle isn’t going to move out of position as I ride, even if I loosen the cinch.