Given that my trusty hunt horse still has no shoes and isn’t in any shape to start hunting when the season opens next weekend, I’m coming to terms with taking my OTTB, Freedom, out on his first hunt. He’s been a star at the hunter paces that we’ve done, but I’ve yet to gallop him in a herd of horses in a situation where being first isn’t the primary goal. As I’ve contemplated my strategies for surviving the hunt, I’ve been very reassured to learn that many upper level event riders — Ian Stark, William Fox-Pitt, Philip Dutton — consider neck straps to be standard operating equipment.
I’d never heard of a neck strap. Yes, I’ve been known to grab my breastplate in a few shaky moments, but the disadvantage is that it keeps your hands too close to the pommel of your saddle. A neck strap sits higher up on your horse’s neck, making it an ideal aid for jumping when you don’t want to catch your horse in the mouth and a handful of mane doesn’t cut it.
While neck straps may be standard operating equipment in Europe, they aren’t generally seen in tack stores or catalogs in the US.
Some people make them using an old stirrup leather. I tried it, and while it’s effective, I found it to be too wide to hold comfortably. Others suggest using a martingale yoke. That is the right width, but I worry about yoke coming off over the horse’s head while out hunting.
Probably the best solution I’ve heard is to use a single rein — not to wide, and I find an old rubber rein, it should be easy to hold. Will it make a real difference? Sometimes just feeling more secure is all the difference you need.