Talking Tack.  When to use or choose neck strap, a breastplate and/or a martingale.

Talking Tack. When to use or choose neck strap, a breastplate and/or a martingale.

February 15, 2023

Neck Straps, Breastplates, Martingales.. what are they and when would I use them? 

A breastplate is defined as a set of straps attached to the front of a saddle, which pass across the horse's chest and prevent the saddle slipping backward.

A martingale is designed to control a horse's head carriage and act as an additional form of control besides, for example, the bit. It prevents a horse from throwing its head so high that the rider gets hit in the face by the horse's poll or upper neck.

A neck strap is traditionally used around the horse's neck to offer a security aid for the rider to hold.

However a Click & Connect Neck Strap  is safer than a traditional neck strap and can act; as a breastplate - when the straps are connected to the girth of the saddle.  The Click & Connect Neck Strap can also remove the need for a martingale as the horse is more comfortable and better balanced and so no longer throws it's head up. Additionally, with the Ultimate Set, you can also use the Click & Connect Neck Strap with a breastplate or breastplate with martingale attachment. 


Why can't I use a breastplate as a neck strap? 

Most breastplate designs have a strap that runs across the horse's crest and therefore it would be logical to grab this as your 'neck strap' for security.  

However, the positioning of this strap is typically too close to the saddle to where your hands would naturally grab in an emergency, give the rein over a fence or use to rebalance the horse.

If you were successful in grabbing this, the effect is limited compared to using a Click & Connect Neck Strap.  This leather has to be loose to accommodate shoulder movement and therefore you don't get the instant secure feel from a neck strap.  You also don't get the advantage of enticing your horse to lift up from the base of the neck and lighten his forehand - instead he can lean onto his shoulders. 


Why would I use a Click & Connect Neck Strap instead of a breastplate?

The key issues with hunting and five-point breastplates is that they have a strap between the horse’s front legs.  

If this breastplate or indeed a martingale strap, is too tight it;

  • risks restricting shoulder movement therefore leaves the horse less able to express his movement to the full;
  • risks restricting shoulder movement for him to jump as cleanly as possible, risking penalties or even falls
  • risks discomfort causing the horse to throw his head up in resistance (and hence the martingale attachment then being fitted to counter this).

If this breastplate or martingale strap is too loose it;

  • risks a horse catching his foot or stud, causing penalty, injury or worse.

If this breastplate or martingale strap is correctly fitted;

  • risks to the handler or rider as they tack up/untack as they have to bend under the horse to release it.

Using a Click & Connect Neck Strap as a breastplate solves these issues improving safety, partnership and performance. 


How do I use my Click & Connect Neck Strap as a breastplate?

Simply attach the long connectors to the girth.

This helps keep the girth in place;

  • without restricting the shoulder;
  • without the risk of the horse catching his leg in the strap;
  • with the benefit of the quick release clip at the base of the neck so it’s easy to connect – just unclip under the neck and on the girth and take off with your saddle.  There’s no need to take it over his head or reach between his front legs.
  • The connectors also give a sensation on his shoulder to help him feel more confident and improve his shoulder placement and balance so there's also less likelihood of the horse needing a martingale. 


Can I use my Click & Connect Neck Strap with a breastplate? 



Yes.  The Ultimate Set includes short connectors that effectively sit the neck strap about a hands' width in front of the breastplate strap.  

However, for the reasons noted above regarding the restriction and risks associated with five-point and hunting breastplates, we'd encourage use with anatomical breastplates instead (such as a racing breastplate) where there is no strap between the front legs.  

That said, if the guidelines in your sport include use of a hunting or five-point breastplate then attachment to that is possible too. 

We do also offer a connector to convert your neck strap into a breastplate, but still utilising the comfort ring to allow for quick release for improved safety. 

For enhanced safety clip the;

  1. Short connectors to the top ring. The neck strap now can’t fall forward, rotate or be caught in the horse’s leg.

For enhanced safety, partnership AND performance

  1. Clip to lower ring of a 5-point breastplate. This gives you enhanced safety and also believed to give the horse a long-line of shoulder support helping his confidence, straightness and shoulder control.  (Run fingers along the line from the neck strap to the girth)



Can I use my neck strap with a martingale?

Although we've noticed that horses often no longer need a martingale when they are ridden with a Click & Connect Neck Strap connected to the girth, you can still use your martingale in conjunction with our neck strap. 

Because the neck strap on a martingale itself isn't attached the the saddle except between the front legs (and therefore risks falling forward and endangering the horse), we'd advise using a breastplate with a martingale attachment. 

Or if you're adding to your neck strap, buy a breastplate converter and a martingale attachment to safely join your neck strap and martingale at the comfort ring for improved safety.


Can I not just use a stirrup leather as my neck strap? 

On your prize possession? Your beautiful horse? It isn't very smart.  Equally, it isn't very sensible.  Modern stirrup leathers are often reinforced with webbing and won't break easily should the horse get trapped in it.  Equally, the width of stirrup leathers often means they aren't easy to hold in your reins.  While we do have stunt riders using our neck straps at 'liberty' (they don't have a saddle on to connect it to), our Liberty Neck Straps are safer because;

  • There's a break point built in to the leather
  • Quick release comfort ring at the base
  • Reduced rotation/better balance due to the comfort ring base
  • No loose leather for a rein to get caught in.
  • Slimline to hold with your reins
  • Top quality, supple leather for horse and rider comfort and longevity

Now we hope you're equipped to buy the best tack for your horse's needs.  Whether you rider at liberty, or event internationally, we believe the Click & Connect Neck Strap is; What every rider needs; What every horse deserves.




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