A hip strap, also called a rump strap, is a short, wide strap of heavy leather with two to eight large bells attached (most commonly four bells). The bells themselves are sometimes large crotals (sleigh bells) with a traditional petal design.
Hip strap with petal bells, ca. 1920-1940. The largest bells are about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The brown-leather strap is about 16 inches long and 2 inches wide. Note the narrow keeper strap and buckle in the middle of the main bell strap.
More often, however, the bells are distinctive Swedish-style bells such as the ones below.
Hip strap with six traditional Swedish bells. The replacement strap at the bottom is as close to the original (top) as possible, including borders of decorative stamping along each long edge. Bell sizes range from 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 inches across.
The hip strap lies across the horse's back or rump and under the back strap of the horse's harness. (The back strap is the strap that runs along the horse's spine from the harness saddle or back pad to the hip-drop assembly or crupper.) A small "keeper" riveted to the middle of the hip strap buckles over the back strap to keep the bells from falling off.
Hip strap with four traditional Swedish bells. The largest bell is about 3 inches in diameter. The black-leather strap is about 16 inches long and 2 1/4 inches wide.
The main bell strap is lined with another piece of leather to protect the horse from the pounding of the bells. Oblong loops of leather are slipped on to hold the layers of leather together during use. The ends of the main and lining straps are also riveted together at each end to complete the assembly.
Side view of the same bells. The four loops of leather on either side of the middle bells hold the main strap and its leather lining together.
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