The grab strap is the English tack equivalent of the Western saddle horn. Its original purpose was as a panic strap, especially when schooling young horses. But it’s coming to have a lot of other uses and is now often left on a saddle at all times, even in the show ring.
A long flash noseband or several wraps of baling twine can work in a pinch. But if you’re going to install a grab strap on your saddle fulltime, we suggest a rounded strap that will be kinder to your hands and easier to snap onto than a flat strap. The length should allow it to round up above the withers so it’s easy to reach. It should be neither so short as to be taut across the withers or so long as to flop.
Here are some of the many uses we’ve found for a grab strap:
• Security. You may want to ride on a long rein to encourage your horse to relax but still be on the alert for an unexpected shy or buck. Hooking a thumb in the grab strap gives reassurance when you drop the reins.
• Mounting. A place to grab can be useful, especially with a horse that is braided or has a roached mane.
• Lengthened trot. If you lose some stability during trot extensions, you can hook a thumb in the grab strap to steady your seat without clutching the reins and hitting the horse in the mouth.
• Stablize hands. If your hands tend to be too busy overall, it can be a useful exercise to hook the thumbs through the grab strap and back out to the reins. You can then gauge the effect that quieter hands will have on your horse.
• Longeing riders. When longeing a rider, a grab strap is a good intermediate step between holding the reins and using no reins at all, especially for young children and beginners.
• Parking extra straps. You can hook all kinds of straps on a grab strap more easily than just the D rings, especially for storage after riding. If you longe in side reins, the grab strap is convenient for hooking the straps before you need them on the bit. If you use sliding side reins, the grab strap is essential.
• Stashing stuff. The grab strap gives you a place to put stuff other than your pockets. You can wedge your gloves or a rub rag under the grab strap before you mount. You can even hook on a sugar pocket or tiny wallet you need to carry.