CALDWELL SADDLE BREAST COLLARS
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This picture shows how the shoulder on various styles can curve up or lay straight. This will affect the fit of a breast collar.
The lower, bottom collar; which is the most common (easiest to design and decorate) is only suitable for horses with laid back 45 degree shoulders. Otherwise, this style will drop down, making it necessary to use a neckover strap to raise the outer edge over the outside of the shoulder. Even then, the center usually gets pulled too high and sits on the windpipe and will choke a horse when he extends in full stride. Note also how it is too long in the shoulder for most horses.
The middle is the most common with just a slight lift on the outer ends. Works well for horses with 45 - 55 degree shoulder, such as most older bloodlines, especially cutting breeds.
The top top collar is best for all straight shouldered horses, which is why we offer this design in 4 sizes. All horses are getting straighter shoulders because this comes with speed and we are adding speed to all event horses from barrel racing to reining.
These are our most popular sized breast collars.
Bottom: 14" shoulder, for young horses or small cutting style horses
Middle: 16" shoulder, for most normal sized and aged horses.
Top: 18' shoulder, for most large or warm blood. Also comes in 12" for large ponies
BREAST COLLAR FIT
Many individuals out there are having a real issue with how tightly the breast collar should be fastened and where its center should be placed. Let's start by saying that a breast collar cannot keep a saddle in place, regardless of what you have been told. It cannot keep the saddle on a horses shoulders. If your horse's conformation drops off or dips behind the shoulders; or if your saddle is too narrow in the gullet, falling behind is common; therefore, you have to address your saddle fit and/or your pad. But what you cannot do is tighten the breast collar tugs (the small straight straps attached to the shoulders straps and buckle to the saddle breast collar D's) thinking this will solve your saddle fit problems.
If you tighten the tugs, it will lift the center plate and ring (or D) into the horse's throat. The horse's windpipe is just under the skin where the base of the neck meets the center of the chest.
Feel your own chest to find the hard breast bone in the center, about four inches down from your throat. Do the same to your horse; this is where the center plate of the breast collar should rest. The slack should be taken out of the tiedown strap that goes to the forward small dee attached to your girth between the front legs, there should be no more than a hands width of slack in the tiedown. When there is excess slack, the collar can shift up during a run into the windpipe and cut off the horse's air, equivalent to the center plate being too high into his throat.
A horse acts as a giant bellows, which is why they run so effectively. When he hits full stride, he extends his leading leg and his neck. He inhales on this stride and exhales when he draws his neck and legs in (collects). How can he inhale with a breast collar that is too tight or too high? It can limit the air supply enough to slow his overall speed. I had a gelding, Cimmaron, in 1976 that taught me how much horses were effected by improper breast collar placement. I rode English at that time and used a Polo Strap, which is a straight breast collar that attaches to the sides of the saddle but does not have a tiedown strap. Everytime Cimmaron galloped, he bucked; because my breast collar placement was affecting his breathing, he was going to make it hard on me. When I finally figured it out and removed the offending collar, he was as good as gold. I had a customer, Stan Sullivan, in my shop the other day and he saw me working on this article and told me of an event he and his wife, Cheryl, witnessed on their group ride recently in Arizona. While stopping to water at a shallow creek, one gentleman's horse put his head down to drink while wearing a breast collar that was too tight. The horse passed out, falling over into the creek and nearly drowning. However, breast collars do not have to be too tight to cause problems. I had a good cutting mare, Haidas Cat Can Do, that I was holding by the reins, just after she had shown, my husband, Tom, our trainer, Mack Odom and I were on the way to the barn and stopped to look under a trailer. Cat took that opportunity to put her head down and snatch at the grass under the nearby fence. Suddenly she reared up and fell over, out cold! Lord, I thought she was dead! Mack started laughing and slapping his thigh, "She ain't dead, she just choked herself down. She'll be up in a minute. I've had them do that before."
I recommend that a breast collar be removed or taken loose while a horse is grazing, watering, or even resting. I have included a few pictures of correct and incorrect breast collar placement. If you look at the buckskin in the "wrong" set, you can see how his throat is lapped over the collar. That overlap is his windpipe.