Let’s Discuss: Neck straps

Not too long ago, amidst some random equestrian googling (side conversation: am I the only one who does this?), I came across an interesting little ditty featuring the prodigious William Fox Pitt touting neck straps.

As one of the many (I assume) that falls prey to jumping anxiety from time to time, I’ll gladly add something to my mount’s attire to make the experience safer. It wouldn’t hurt of course if the addition of a bit of leather around my horse’s neck also increased the size of my jumping balls. (Which are scientifically proven to be a smaller, much less impressive size than my dressaging balls, but yet still prove to be massive compared to my trail riding balls. There’s a difference.)

A time when I had bigger balls. Kind of. Actually I remember being terrified walking that course.

A time when I had bigger balls. Kind of. Actually I remember being terrified walking that course.

My original assumption regarding neck straps was that they came in two forms- a leftover stirrup leather, or a belt. The C4 belts seem to be growing in popularity recently in the eventing world, and little wonder- we eventers go ballistic over anything that can be customized to our cross country colors.

It turns out though that there are a variety of neck straps on the market though- ranging from colorful nylon versions akin to the C4 belts, to thick stirrup-leather styles, and more. The type that appeals to me most is the Nunn Finer version, but I may just be falling prey to the clever product description. Because who doesn’t need an Oh Shit strap?

Grab strap

So, blogosphere- I want to know- how many of you follow WFP’s lead and don your horse’s neck with some extra hardware? Have any of you found the neck strap to be useful, or otherwise? Is this just a cross country thing, or does it translate to showjumping or even flatting as well? Comment with your thoughts!

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31 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Neck straps

  1. I ALWAYS jump with my neck strap. If I’m terrified I make sure to grab it since my nerves translate to pulling (I’ll never be able to ride with just a neck rope, Dee just ignores me pulling on the strap). I’ve also gotten good at hooking my fingers through if I get left behind so I don’t pull on her mouth.

    Mine is just an old flat rein. I wanted leather but I wanted something thin enough that I could hold onto it and the reins without feeling like I’ve got too much in my hands. Mine’s been customized, it’s got a plate that says “Holy Shit”. I figure if you’re going to use it, you might as well own it. It gets comments every where I go 🙂

      • I use it any time I’m jumping. So it’s been out at and giggled at doing the 1.0-1.1m at a gold jumper show, I use it during stadium and XC. I use it during lessons and clinics. Basically if we are jumping anything (aside from a fallen log on the trail) it will be on

  2. I have the Nunn Finer leather oh shit strap, ends secured with a strip of tape in our colors of course because #coolkids. It’s nice and thin and unobtrusive. I only use it on XC. I’ve only grabbed it once (because I really felt like pulling and I knew I shouldn’t, so I hooked my fingers in the strap instead) but I like having it there, just in case. You never know when it might save your butt!

  3. I think the idea of a neck strap is awesome! I personally use my breast plate in the place of a neckstrap, but its nice not just over fences, but if I hack out and I have a sneaking suspicion that Justin is about to do something stupid I can grab onto that without him sensing my tension as much. It’s also great for trot sets. Just slip a finger/hand onto my breastplate and then I know if he jumps around (which isn’t uncommon) I won’t loose my balance and accidentally pull on his mouth while I’m in two-point.

    I love the look of the C4’s as neck straps, but it does worry me that the buckle is plastic – I just wonder what the breaking point of that is? I just would hate to really have an Oh Shit moment snatch onto that and it snap, but I haven’t actually heart of it happening, just a curiosity.

  4. I always use a neck strap…I love my thin C4 belt to use as one…the thicker one is ok, but a bit bulky for my taste though I love the thicker one for flatting because like another commenter said, I use it to hook a finger if I start feeling the urge to pull on my horse when I shouldnt. If you decide to try a C4 belt, use my 10% off discount code 🙂 – KJTG2488

  5. I’ve used a neck strap (I disassembled an old standing martingale and used the neck strap from that) when working on lengthenings at the trot. I had a tendency to lose my balance backwards (Well, still do. Maybe I should break it back out!), and couldn’t manage to keep my hands steady while trying to sit the damn things. Grabbing the strap steadied my hands and also kind of helped my horse half halt off his honkingly huge shoulders.

  6. I ride annie in my bridge breastplate now which serves as a pretty stable oh shit strap. Houston gets a old rein around the neck. I prefer thinner straps to thick style ones.

  7. My trainer requires neck straps for jumping actually haha. I get by with the strap on my martingale and would probably remove the running attachment piece to use the same strap should I not need the martingale itself. The C4 belts are cute but I’ve seen them snap when shit hits the fan. Kinda… Not the desired outcome lol.

  8. Oh man I have an Opinion about this. I have a Nunn Finer leather neck strap. I think it looks adorable on Murray with his nametag on it, and the brass tag helps us distinguish it from the 47 other neck straps at our barn when our trainer instituted an “everyone jumps with a neck strap” rule (that was then poorly enforced). I like my neck strap because I can adjust it to the right place on Murray’s neck for a reasonable auto release and then just move my hands up to it or loop one finger in when I feel like I might end up snatching at his face instead. It’s perfect for us.

    Regarding the use of neck straps in general I am one hundred percent on the WFP side of things. When I took my first jump lesson on Murray with Yves Sauvignon he told me to grab mane early on in the lesson. Originally I balked — I wasn’t really hitting Murray in the mouth, so why? But then I decided that since Yves is about 500x the rider I am I would just do what he says, and I’ve honestly never looked back. I hear a lot of people being told to grab mane (by Yves and others) who just don’t. And I’ve heard some of those same people say “I’ve never once grabbed mane/neck strap, even when I was told to.” And I’m just like: WHY?! Why are you ignoring, and REJECTING, a tool that can make you a better rider (in part at least by not yanking on your horse’s mouth in the air, but also by encouraging an automatic response of your hands to move forward and/or down over fences)? Is it a pride thing? Is it a vanity thing? Do you think you don’t need it? Because I’m pretty sure when a 3* rider is telling you to do it, it’s because you need to. It’s one of those little things that makes me k-razy.

    Oops… many words. You lit an opinion fire under my ass!

  9. I’ve never used one, but love the idea of having something to grab on instead of grabbing the reins. There might be one in my future too!
    Oh- and at that price I think the Nunn Finer one is totally worth it!

  10. I use an old stirrup leather and it works great. Riding lots of young TBs means riding with a neck strap almost always (and every time for jumping/hacking). I really like them for even doing simple things like trots sets in two point using the neck strap to stabilize when the going gets tough! FWIW, you can order the Nunn Finer neck strap from Bartville Harness for cheaper! A friend of mine has a plate on her neck strap that just says “oh shit!” — so awesome.

  11. So I’m sure this is partly because I’m a hunter, but I’ve never used a neck strap. I also don’t grab mane. Ever. Mostly this is because of my specific issues (which are being top heavy and not stretching up enough). I don’t need anything to encourage me to drop down more on my horse’s neck at this point in my riding, lol

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