I might have a little bit of a breastplate hoarding problem. I really like the added stability that a breastplate gives and consider it to be pretty standard attire especially for a jumper or eventer. I’ve had a lot of different styles and brands over the years, but currently I’m down to these three:
PS of Sweden High Five breastplate – $180 (list price $195, subtract VAT, add shipping)
At first glance this might not seem like a fair competition, considering the difference in price ranges of each of the contenders and the slightly different styles. But IMO those things are what really make it the perfect way to compare and contrast the different features of each and see which one comes out on top. Granted, breastplates seem like one of things where everyone has different reasons for liking what they like, so these are my personal opinions of each one.
Ovation Sheepskin Padded Elastic breastplate
I’ll be honest, I bought this breastplate specifically because it was the best quality of the “cheap” (ie not Antares) breastplates with navy elastic. It was a 100% superficial purchase. That said, I’ve been fairly happy with Ovation strapgoods in the past and thought it looked sharp, and managed to nab it for a good price barely used.
The quality of the leather is good for something in this price range, as is the elastic. The stitching is tight and even. It doesn’t come with the little snaps to hook it to the saddle dees, which I find slightly irritating when buying any breastplate. SNAPS, it needs to come with snaps! Despite the little white stripes on the elastic I really haven’t had a problem keeping it clean – the navy seems to be good at hiding the dirt. I only have a few complaints with it: 1) The sheepskin is impossible to keep clean in the summer 2) the length of the strap to the girth is waaaaay long. 3) There’s no snap on the girth attachment and although the conway buckle does allow for one to be easily added, since the strap is so long, adding a snap to it just compounds the problem.
I know that the sheepskin on the chest part of this breastplate is meant to be a main feature, but IMO all sheepskin needs to be removeable. I stopped using this breastplate in the summer because it was constantly soaked with sweat and caked with grime, and became a PITA to clean. As for the girth strap, I’m not sure what kind of gargantuanly uniboob’ed creature it’s meant to fit or just how far back they think the girth sits, but I’ve got a whole lot of extra strap there. I had to punch a hole way farther up the the strap, and even then it’s still long. In general the horse size is a bit big on my 16.1h TB, although the girth strap is the only part that is just too big. Despite those things, for the price I think it’s a nice looking, good quality basic breastplate, albeit with room for improvement.
Five Star Tack Signature Breastplate
Design wise, the Five Star is very similar to the Ovation. It’s also a three point, but it has a removeable strap that runs across the top of the wither. In theory I love that strap… something to grab if things ever start to go really wrong! In execution I hate that strap with every fiber of my being. It has hook stud closures on the top, which is what makes it removeable, and my reins constantly get caught on them. The wither strap also means that you have to unhook the crossties and slip the breastplate over the horse’s head to put it on. I like it better in all regards with the wither strap removed, but then there goes the whole perk of having it there in the first place. The straps that hook to the saddle dees also seem really long, I have a lot of excess leather flapping around down there (yet another thing for your reins to get stuck on).
The leather is nice quality English leather and it seems very well made. Unfortunately I have a really hard time keeping the elastic looking clean, though. The brown really shows sweat and the light blue really shows dirt, so together they require pretty constant cleaning. The fit of this breastplate (in cob size) is better than the Ovation, especially the strap that runs to the girth, although it’s borderline too short for him in the shoulder. There also isn’t a girth snap on this one either, and because it has a regular buckle instead of a Conway buckle, I can’t simply add a snap myself. My delicate flower also somehow managed to get a rub at the center of his chest from the leather backing of the O-ring, which is stiff and thick.
Overall this is a beautiful breastplate but there are a lot of things in the basic design that could have been done differently to make it easier and more practical to use. I don’t find it very easy to live with.
PS of Sweden High Five breastplate
When the 5-point craze started I staunchly resisted, not liking the look or really understanding what the point was. But when I saw the High Five I was instantly intrigued. It looked different from all the other 5-points I had seen, and initially I couldn’t tell if I loved it or hated it. It’s no secret that I love PS of Sweden as a company, love their designs, and think they’re the most innovative tack company on the market. But that doesn’t mean I blindly love everything they make – sometimes I have to be convinced.
After a few months of looking at the High Five my curiosity reigned supreme and I decided what the hell – let’s see what all the fuss is about with these 5 points. I got the cob size and spent the first several minutes playing around with all the straps to get the fit right – it’s so adjustable. To my minimalist eye it looked like a lot of leather at first. However it’s really well padded, really well designed, great quality, and sits pretty perfectly on my horse. Initially I had some reservations about the strap running over the shoulder (the main reason I’ve never bought a 5 point before), worrying that it would be restrictive, but I have seen none of that in actual application. Henry gallops and jumps just like normal with no signs of being restricted or rubbed or bothered at all.
I love how stable this design is – I feel like just about anything could happen and my saddle isn’t gonna move. I especially love the fit, and the fact that there is a girth snap (praise jesus finally!), and that there’s no sheepskin to keep clean. The elastic is a narrow dark strap that only directly touches the horse for a few inches, so keeping it clean is easy. Usually I just take a damp rag and wipe any sweat and hair and grime off the padded leather and leave it at that – it’s the lowest maintenance of all my breastplates. Slowly but surely the High Five has won me over and brought me to the 5-point side. I would be very curious to try PS of Sweden’s 3-point design too, which is the only type I haven’t tried, although I um… should probably get rid of some of my other breastplates first.
My only complaint with a 5 point design is that since it has the straps that loop over the girth (which are what make it a 5-point and contribute greatly to its stability) it’s not as easy as snap-snap-snap and it’s on. I’m lazy, I like snap-snap-snap. That’s going to be true of any 5-point design though, it requires a little more effort to get on. I do greatly appreciate that the PS version comes with the dee snaps and a girth snap, so the only thing I have to do is put the girth elastic through the loops. Usually if I’m jumping or riding out I put on the High Five, and if I’m just plodding around I put on the Ovation. Until summer anyway, when the Ovation will go on vacation because of it’s sheepskin. The Five Star lives a lonely solitary life in my trunk.
So how do they fair in the battle?