I really love the look of a breast collar on a horse and I would love to get Duchess one once I've got a saddle and bridle for her. Is there any actual purpose for them or are they mainly just for looks?
From what I know they are actually used to help keep the saddle from slipping back like if you are going up a lot of steep hills or mountains. I ride on predominantly flat roads and I use one I love them too
Charlene is right. They are primarily used to prevent a saddle from slipping back when going up steep hills. It's also used to keep a saddle in place when pulling a calf to the fire. They are used, too, by most cross country English horses.
I like the looks as well but more and more, cutters are realizing that the problem with a breast collar is that they are impeding their horse's shoulder movement when working a cow. Some riders have gone to a pulling collar that attaches to the swells of a Western saddle instead of the "D" rings and allows a horse's shoulders to move more freely.
Yep, it is just to add a bit more stability to the saddle. I personally feel naked when my horse doesn't have one. If you are not doing anything but trail riding or maybe some lower level shows, pretty much any kind would work well for you. I have the pulling type because they work better for the kind of cow work I do. When pulling bigger cattle, my horses don't get pinched across the point of their shoulder and they can pull more efficiently because they are not constricted in their movement.
Plus, if fitted correctly, it can help keep a saddle from sliding down on the side of the horse. Like if you had a loose girth and the horse spooked and jumped sideways. I have seen a couple of trail riders have that happen and one horse ended up with the saddle completely under his belly, I honestly believe that would have been prevented with a properly fitting breast collar.
Mine is kind of improvised from a regular breast collar but it works.