Types of Horse Breastplate
A horse breastplate is an essential piece of equipment for riding. An arrangement of leather straps, it is intended to prevent the harness or saddle from sliding backwards, and is most helpful on those horses that have a flat ribcage and large shoulders. It is important for safety, particularly in cross country, as should the rider's billets or girth break, he or she will have adequate time to stop and dismount before the saddle slips off the horse's back.
Polo breastplate being used for jumping.
There are various types of breastplate, including hunting breastplates, polo breastplates and breast girth breastplates. Whilst all are designed to stop the saddle from slipping, there are subtle differences in the design of each. This is because they all serve slightly different functions.
The Hunting Breastplate
The hunting breastplate is the most common style, and is the classic choice for English riding, as well as campdrafting (an Australian sport involving a horse and rider working cattle). It is commonly worn by endurance horses, show hunters, fox hunters, show jumpers and eventers. Occasionally, it's seen in in flat racing, as well as steeplechase.
This breastplate has a yoke (which consists of a wither and neck strap); a breast strap at the bottom of the yoke which runs through the horse's legs and attaches to its girth; and two straps at the top of the yoke which are fixed to a saddle's D-rings. The size of the yoke and the length of the straps can be easily adjusted. The primary aim of the hunting horse breastplate is to prevent the saddle from slipping during riding but it has other purposes too. For example, it is useful for attaching a Market Harborough (similar to a running martingale), which is clipped onto a ring at the chest.
The Polo Horse Breastplate
A polo horse breastplate consists of a chest strap, which is buckled to one billet of the saddle and runs around the horse's chest. It then attaches to the first billet on the other side. The breastplate also has a wither strap, which can be used to adjust the height, preventing it from sliding down too far. Polo breastplates are often made of leather or strong elastic, and occasionally webbing. The difference between this breastplate and the traditional hunting breastplate is that it's a lot more secure, attaching to the front billet of the saddle. It is used often in eventing due to the security it brings to the rider, as well as polo and various other jumping disciplines.
The Breast Girth Breastplate
Constructed from strong elastic, the breast girth plate is far less restrictive on the horse's shoulders, which means that they're better able to pick up their front legs in order to complete jumps. Naturally, this makes a breast girth breastplate ideal for show-jumping and eventing. It runs from either the D-rings of the saddle, or is attached to a loop that runs around the saddle's stirrup bars.