How to Convert a Standard Breast Collar into a Pulling Collar

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of a pulling collar. While searching YouTube videos, I stumbled upon the ‘Functional Horse Man’ explaining how a pulling collar worked. Wow, that made total sense! I have a standard breast collar which crossed CJ’s shoulder muscles and attached to the saddle’s front rigging rings. I often found sweat marks where the breast collar rubbed against the horse’s shoulder blades after a long ride. Even though CJ didn’t seem to mind it, I thought it looked uncomfortable.

A pulling collar allows the horse’s chest muscles free movement providing full range of motion. The standard breast collar or plate crosses over the horse’s shoulder and restricts the chest muscles, limiting movement. People working cattle or high performance riders prefer the pulling collar. As a trail rider, I use the breast collar to keep my saddle from moving when traversing steep hills, otherwise the breast collar isn’t doing much. Even so, it seemed to me that the pulling collar was comfortable for the horse, which meant a more relaxed ride.

I checked into some on-line stores and found that pulling collars are a little pricey, a bit more than a standard one; however, I already had a breast collar. I did some more searching and stumbled across a comment by Smrobs on She explained how she fashioned an old pair of reins into straps which when fitted to her saddle’s swell and gullet converted her standard breast collar into a pulling collar. What a great idea!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a set of old reins, but I did have an old leather belt which would work. Lucky for me, the belt had two large dee rings. All I needed was a smaller dee to slip through the bigger one. That didn’t seem too hard. I went to Tractor Supply but found their rings were too big, too expensive and they didn’t carry dee rings. I drove over to True Value and also didn’t see any dee rings, but found some machine washers which I thought would work. However, I decided against purchasing them after talking to the man in the hardware section. He explained that the flat machine washers would cut into the leather over time, but a round, solid metal ring would not. The round rings were 0.75 cents each. Now all I needed were some 72” leather shoelaces which I purchased at Walmart for $4.00.

I drove to the stables and made some measurements. Before I cut the belt I wanted to make sure that the strap would be the right length. Once I determined the correct length, I cut the belt and looped each end around a ring. I used a small ring at one end and a large one at the other. I cut each shoelace in half and punched holes in the belt near the rings. Then, I threaded the shoe leather through the holes and wound the remaining shoelace around the belt. I ended up with two leather straps with metal rings at both ends.

I went back to the stables, saddled CJ, and pulled the straps around the saddle’s swell and through the gullet. Then, I feed the smaller ring through the larger and attached my breast collar making sure it wasn’t too tight. Not only did it look more comfortable for CJ, it looked good too. I don’t think anyone would notice that the straps were homemade. I took a ride through the park and my adaptation worked great. The straps might not be the best for high-performance riders and cowboys, but for the simple trail rider, it worked pretty well.

One word of caution; make sure that the rings and leather are strong enough for the job. If you decide to use an old belt like I did make sure the belt is real leather and thick enough to be used on a horse. The same is true of the rings. The last thing you want is for the strap to break, so like all equipment, check it before you saddle up. Also, if you can’t find a piece of leather to use ask your saddle repairman or shoe repairman. They might have a piece of leather that will work and can sew the ends for you.

Thanks to Smrobs and the Functional Horse Man for a great idea.

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2 Responses to How to Convert a Standard Breast Collar into a Pulling Collar

  1. Peter Maxwell says:

    This is something I much value and require, and at the very least, I now know how to properly put on a breast collar. I’m still learning everything I can about horses and the equipment they require, such as breast collars and tack. These recommendations for saddling will come in helpful for me. I’m still having problems identifying between them when it comes to mounting them. By the way, could you recommend some high-end brands? I’ll be receiving some items from tomorrow, and I’d appreciate any fantastic recommendations!

  2. Pat Miran says:

    Hi Peter,

    I agree knowledge of horse equipment is very important. I do a lot of trail riding and find the breast collar helps the saddle from slipping. Thanks for the comment, Pat

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