What’s the Best Breast Collar for a Mini?
An opinion by Pat Weeks
Breast collars are the most popular option for minis when they will only be used for light cart driving. If you don’t intend to use your mini to do draft work, then you may prefer the cost and ease of use of a simple breast collar, rather than a neck collar.
There are basically three options for breast collars: straight, curved, or deep V. The unique anatomy of a miniature horse, donkey or mule makes this an important decision. Minis generally have short necks, in comparison to their bodies – some shorter than others. Their windpipe is just barely above their shoulder joint, in height. This puts a mini owner in a dilemma when trying to fit a breast collar. We often have to choose whether to place it high, and risk interfering with their breathing, or place it low and interfere with the movement of the shoulder. There often is no middle ground where the breast collar can ideally fit.
I marked the outline of my 32” mini’s shoulder joint, and the approximate windpipe area at the very base of the neck in this photo.
A harness and driving expert once told me that if you have to choose between the two evils, choose to place it high, rather than low. If its too high, the worst that will happen is your mini will lose air, stop, and refuse to continue. This will typically happen while pulling uphill, because the breast collar will ride up due to the change in the line of draft. What could happen if you place the breast collar low, over the shoulder joint, is the pony soon becomes sore from constant pressure on his shoulder joint with each step. Or worse, his cart could hit an obstacle at speed and seriously damage his shoulder.
In this photo you can see that the best adjustment I could achieve with a straight breast collar covered the mark for his windpipe and also did not completely clear his shoulder joint. If all you are going to ask this pony to do is trot around in a flat arena for a short period of time, this breast collar might be fine.
Since I was not happy with having to choose to interfere with either the windpipe or the shoulder joint, I chose to outfit my minis with deep V breast collars. I tried a regular curved breast collar, but the curve was not drastic enough for my stubby-necked minis. For larger ponies and full sized horses, a curved breast collar might be just right, and almost certainly better than a straight one.
You can see in this photo that the Deluxe Deep V collar from Comfy Fit clears both the windpipe area and the shoulder joint, while also providing a fairly wide surface for the pony to lean into to pull.
One important suggestion that I would add about breast collars on minis is that you should always use a false martingale to tie the bottom of the breast collar to the girth to keep it from riding up the pony’s neck when pulling uphill. You’ll need to adjust it so that it’s tight enough to engage and keep the breast collar from riding up, but loose enough that it isn’t pulling the girth forward into the mini’s elbows.
Of all the upgrades I’ve made to my harnesses over the years, the Comfy Fit Deluxe Deep V breast collar is the one that I’m the most pleased with and gives me the most bang for my buck.
One thought on “What’s the Best Breast Collar for a Mini?”
Thank you for this info. I have found that fitting the little guy’s is definitely a problem, and showing the anatomical structures that would be affected speaks to my Kineseology background. Form and Function have to be exact in this case. The Function has to fit the Anatomy, and the areas that are contraindicated for proper fitting. But we still run into problems in the show ring, as most of the judges want pretty, and pretty doesn’t always correct fitting equipment. As Equestrian professionals as a whole, should always strive for equipment that is safe and correct for the anatomy of the animal, and not because of what the show ring wants to see, because its pretty. So, I may break the mold in the show pen, and show my mini’s in the Deluxe Deep ‘V” breast collar, instead of a straight collar, that I know will injure my horse.