Katherine Abel reviews the Tapestry Neck Strap, by Spursuader, for Retired Racehorse. She also blogs at Backyard Sporthorse.
My event horse has a history. She’s 16 years old now, give or take, and she’s only been consistently rideable for about a year. She’d leap and lurch and freak out so often that it was just expected with every ride. If I didn’t end up with grass in my teeth, it was a good day. That said, I still have no idea why “Gee, Nacho will look great with a roached mane” ever crossed my mind. But, it did, and impulsively I roached it — a decision which deprived me of my familiar, and oft-used, emergency handhold. Oops. On the plus side, at least, it suited her.
Concerned that I might get into trouble over fences with nothing to grab, I experimented with neck straps. Stirrup leathers have traditionally been recomissioned by riding schools as neck straps, so I gave that a swing first. That was completely unsuccessful. No matter what I did to try to keep the excess leather from flapping around, it always ended up flapping. Plus, stirrup leathers felt clumsy and sloppy in practice. Slippage was also a problem. I had a moment of panic once when my stirrup leather neck strap ended up around Nacho’s head and sent her spinning.
I also used a martingale and a breastplate that had pieces of leather which crossed over the top of the neck. The problem with those was the placement — I don’t usually release over fences with my hands anchored to the withers. In an emergency, it’s just not where I think to grab. Once, in spite of planning to latch on to the martingale loop if Nacho took a big jump over a ditch, I clung to her crest when I got left in the backseat. How effective is THAT, really?
So, needless to say, I actually was in the market for a real neck strap when I tried this one out. Before I even put it on my horses I was impressed with the thought that was put into the seemingly simple device. First of all, it had KEEPERS to prevent flappage of the loose end. What a concept. Stirrup leathers certainly lack those!
It also had a small dee-ring attached to the main loop of leather which the instructions described as a loop to braid mane into in order to keep the strap in place. I thought that was a pretty nifty idea, even though it obviously would not work in Nacho’s roached mane, it could certainly be braided into Bonnie’s mane. Also, an elastic gusset gave flexibility and security to the neck strap. It looked like a high quality piece of tack, something that had a purpose — it was definitely not a recommissioned stirrup leather.
In practice, the “real” neck strap served its purpose, quietly staying in place, available when needed. It was very adjustable, and the elastic gusset allowed it to be tightened enough to not slide on Nacho’s neck even though it could not be braided into her mane. I jumped a couple of times and attempted to grab it, even though I didn’t have any scary jumps. It was easy to grab, though maybe slightly too thick (the leather is about 1″ wide) to hold easily with the reins. When I put it on Bonnie, I utilized the dee ring and anchored the strap in her mane. I don’t jump Bonnie, but it was nice to see the strap there, staying in place and fitting her comfortably.
I’m a big fan of protecting my horses’ mouths. Everybody should be. Not every jump is going to be perfect, and anyone who rides regularly has been left or has hit a bad spot every now and then. It’s great to have something to grab when jumps (or riding in general! hah!) don’t go as planned. Overall, I was impressed with this unassuming piece of tack. It looks classy and is very functional — designed thoughtfully for its purpose. The only minor detail that I would change is to slightly decrease the thickness of the leather used in the strap in order to make it that much easier to hold. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to try out the neck strap, and I have no reservations in recommending it to other riders.
The Tapestry Neck Strap is available from Spursuader and tack shops nationwide.