What is it?
A balance strap is a leather strap about 10in long. It has clips on each end, which attach to the D-rings of the saddle.
How does it work?
The rider can choose to hold the strap or just slip a finger or thumb through it to help keep the hand still and maintaining the contact. It is also useful for a young or sharp horse. The rider can keep a more upright position in the saddle and does
not have to lean forward to hold the balance strap, as can be the case with a traditional neckstrap.
Who uses them?
Ulla not only recommends balance straps to her pupils — she even competed at the Olympics with one.
“It is very important that the hand is kept still; this is much nicer for the horse,” says Ulla. “These straps help the horse and rider feel the benefits of a steady contact.”
Pammy Hutton has used balance straps at Talland Equestrian Centre for many years, and Anna Ross-Davies has one on her grand prix ride Liebling.
Are they ‘legal’ for dressage?
Yes. They are permitted in tests of all levels, according to British Dressage — and they can be very useful for young horse classes and where neckstraps are not permitted.
How do I get one?
They cost from £8.50 to £20. Try Martin Wilkinson Saddlers (tel: 01727 821020) or Inch’s Saddlery (tel: 01635 297090) www.inchs.com