A couple weeks ago I was scrolling through my facebook feed when my eyes caught on an article from Heels Down titled “Belly Bands are a Dumb Trend”. Meant to be attention-grabbing, obviously, and I suppose it worked because I stopped scrolling. It was a very confusing title to me because 1. I had no idea they were a “trend” 2. I tend to disagree with the idea that they’re dumb. I own one, after all.
So I opened the article and the gist was that people use belly bands because they’re trying to hide spur marks, and if you’re such a bad rider that you leave spur marks, maybe you should work on your horsemanship. This just compounded how perplexed I was. I agree with the latter part, but strongly disagree with the former.
I mean, first of all… have you seen a belly band? It’s literally this hideous chonk of black elastic that is, quite frankly, a freaking upper body workout to even put on. There’s nothing semi-attractive about it, nor does it make you look cool. It looks like a dang hernia belt. Or a girdle. People DO look at you more closely, to try to judge why you’re using it. You’re not standing out in a good way. If they’re trendy then I guess I’ve totally missed that boat, because I don’t know a single person that uses one without reason or just to look cool. It doesn’t, and it’s a PITA.
My real problem with the article started here:
“Some may even be prone to rubs from riders’ boots or girth-fit alone. But there are options out there for managing a problem like this. Most of them come down to proper education and horsemanship.”
See, I do own a belly band, and have used it with great success. I have a horse who gets extremely sensitive skin in the summer, and just about anything will give him a rub. Like his halter. Or a saddle pad. Or my leg touching him. Or looking at him funny. The horse was getting rubs and I wasn’t even wearing spurs. Let me repeat: not wearing spurs. But I do ride him for long periods, he does sweat a lot, and those two things create the perfect environment for skin irritation.
I tried to use one of those spur pads with the extended sides and he got rubs from the edges of the pad. Congratulations, now he had MORE rubs. I tried wearing two other different pairs of boots to see if that would make any difference, but no dice. I tried slathering the area in Vaseline before rides to reduce friction (yes, I voluntarily made my horse more slippery). I had the vet look at his skin, I treated it with products, and always carefully bathed all the sweat off. None of that fixed it. So I bought him sheepskin pads, picked up a cheap used belly band to put over top, and voila – my problems were totally solved. The existing rubs healed, and he didn’t get any more. Once we got past the sweatiest grossest parts of the summer I was able to stop using the belly band and it’s been hanging in the tack room since. Will I need it again next summer? I’d be thrilled if I don’t, but probably. We’ll see. If I do, I won’t hesitate to reach for it. So, given all that, I am very interested to hear what other options exist (according to this author) for managing a horse like this, particularly those pertaining to my alleged lack of horsemanship.
The article goes on to say that a belly band is a quick fix solution, and maybe you need to learn how to make your horse be more forward and light off your leg.
If I get my horse any more forward and light off my leg, he will take up permanent residence somewhere in the stratosphere. That animal is so sensitive I have to be really tactful and deliberate about how I use my leg. I’ve spent years working on getting him to accept the leg and allow me to actually use it appropriately. Trust me, I ain’t squeezing his guts out the whole ride. But you DO have to put your leg on a horse and be able to ride with your leg as an active aid… I can’t just ride around with my leg off his sides as a solution to prevent rubs.
Are there people out there using belly bands to cover something up? Of that I have no doubt. Truth is, people can misuse even the most innocuous pieces of equipment (like sponges. people have literally abused horses with sponges.). If you’re using a belly band to prevent a particularly severe spur from leaving a mark so you can skate around the blood rule then you’re not that bright in the first place, because a belly band dulls the effect of a spur. If that’s your intended usage you may as well take the dumb-looking elastic girdle off and use a duller spur. I do agree that they should not be legal in competition for any sport (they already aren’t legal for some competitions) – I have never used mine in the show ring and would never want to, because see above comments about how freaking ugly it is. Taking it off for one day or just for your class shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re using it for legitimate purposes.
But I do think it’s incredibly small-minded, and if I’m being honest, a bit ignorant, to lambaste the product and all the people who use it just because there are a few people who also misuse it. Particularly when it’s a product that’s intentionally designed to protect a horse’s skin. By that logic there must be something wrong with all my sheepskin pads, too. Digging deeper into the article, it seems like what the author truly has a problem with is the misuse of spurs, and we can absolutely find common ground there. Shoot, the only spurs I even own are those teeny tiny little roller balls, and given my history on this blog I think it’s pretty clear that I would never defend rider-induced blood on a horse. What I just can’t get behind is the leap from “abuse of spur” to “belly bands are dumb” and roll them up in the same conclusion: people who use belly bands have bad horsemanship. That’s the point at which I admittedly get lost. And yes, I definitely have a real problem with someone questioning my horsemanship because I use a product that has actually worked to make my horse more comfortable.
Anyone else ever used a belly band? Do you think they’re covering up a bad rider or a lack of horsemanship, or is there a legitimate use? Where do you stand?