When it comes to choosing and fitting a breastplate, it can be a mindfield. Tricia Bracegirdle, Senior Specialist Saddle Technician for Childéric Saddles, has a wealth of experience fitting saddles and accessories, so who better to give great advice?
There are basically five types of breastplate with numerous variations of each, these are:
• Elastic Showjumping
Why we use a breastplate?
There are a number of reasons, why riders choose to ride in a breastplate and these range from those riders who do it 'because everyone else does!' (I get this a lot!) through to those riders who like the security and stablity wearing one gives them, as well as those riders who require one to help prevent the saddle slipping back or rotating in an accident.
Fitting your breastplate correctly is imperative, because if you don't, it can cause the saddle to move. If the saddle moves forward, this could be for a variety of reasons:
• Breastplate fitted to tight or not needed
• Horse's morphology – ie: Croup high, big barrell/overweight
• Ill fitting saddle – ie bridging
• Wrong girthing points on saddle – saddle looks fine, until it is girthed up, then it shoots forward
• Wrong girth being used
Why do saddles move backwards?
Again, reasons could include:
• Breastplate fitted too loosely
• Horse's morphology is such that there is nothing to prevent it from going back, ie no barrell with big shoulders
• Ill fitting saddle - too tight
• Wrong girthing points on saddle – too far forward
• Wrong girth being used
An especially important point to consider is that width and fit of a saddle aside, even the best fitting tree/seat will not work with wrong girthing points, breastplates and girths.
So where does it go wrong?
Look at the girth line on this horse. This is the angle the girth must come out of the saddle. The horse has no barrel and the shoulders and muscles in front of the line will push the girth and saddle back. The girth should be built in the saddle on the angle and the breastplate hold it in that position. As a rule of thumb the girth goes from the back of the pecs, to the middle of the back unless there is a barrel preventing it.
If the girth came out of the saddle further forward or more vertically it will move to this position thus changing position of rider and balance of the saddle and ultimately the horse's performance.
This horse will send a saddle backwards. The breastplate is fitted to allow the saddle to sit where the horse's body naturally wants it to be and where the rider needs to be. You can see that the breastplate being used is attached to the girth between the legs and at the sides – NOT on the D's at the top.
It does have some elastic in the sides and it does touch the horse's skin. It should not be hanging between his legs or flopping around his neck. If it is not being used correctly, this makes a pointless exercise. Fitted as shown this saddle will not move backwards.
You can see he has full shoulder movement. Every time he lifts his front end the side straps secure the back of the saddle and helps prevent it pinching behind the shoulder
picture 5 shows how if the breastplate is attached to the D rings, it will pull the saddle down at the front, even if fitted loosely. This will not aid the rider's security in the saddle, nor the poor horse's comfort!
picture 5 picture 6
pictures 5 & 6 also shows that if the attachment between the legs is too loose, the girth will naturally slide back. This will then affect the saddle as in picture 5 and the balance of the saddle. This shows you how a badly fitted breastplate can make a well fitted saddle tight and unbalanced.
Picture 3 shows that with a well-fitted breastplate you can slide a flat hand underneath, yet it fits snuggly against the horse's skin. Any looser the saddle will go back until it can go no further.
Childéric Saddles – Saddles Of Distinction