Research by forward thinking tack manufacturer Fairfax Saddles has shown that breastplates can adversely affect the way a horse jumps. Teaming up with Centaur Biomechanics and ten elite eventers they proved that a breastplate attached to saddle and girth acts like a ‘cage’ restricting the horses shoulder, particularly at peak take-off when the shoulder is in its most forward position.
Analysis showed that the shape of the jump is shortened from take-off to landing and that the horse lands at a steeper angle when wearing a breastplate. This leads to the horses’s legs being ‘camped’ in the landing phase as the joints are forced to flex in an effort to clear the fence.
Not only does this mean that the horse doesn’t jump to his or her full potential but it’s likely to lead to back, limb and joint problems too. And if you consider that this research was carried out in a controlled environment in an indoor school over one jump, you have to wonder how negatively it impacts a horse in more demanding or sticky situations when jumping x-country or out hunting.
Using this research Fairfax have developed a breastplate that won’t interfere with the horse’s jump.
This graphic (above) tracks the horse’s fore and hind limb movement throughout the trajectory of the jump. Without a breastplate, you can see the horse’s jump forms a smooth curve over the fence from take-off to landing.
With a breastplate, the horse’s lead foot makes contact with the ground much closer to the fence and the landing phase of the jump is steeper.
Do you use a breastplate and wouldn’t dream of jumping without one? Or do you think a well fitting saddle shouldn’t slip anyway and prefer to give your horse full freedom of movement without either a breastplate or martingale?