|Posted on March 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM|
A harness is comprised of many different parts, that are all there to do a job.
5. Crupper Strap
9. Wrap Straps
10. Shaft Stop(brass fitting on cart)
15. Breastcollar Buckles
21.Footman Loops(brass fitting on the cart)
The vehicle attaches to the back saddle(1) which is the main component of the harness. The saddle is a wide, stiff strap of leather with a “tree” inside, padded underneath that sits over the horses back. The saddle is fitted with terrets(2) on either side, which is where the lines(3) run through. In the center is the waterhook(4) which is used as an anchor for a check rein.(note the horse in diagram 3 is not wearing a checkrein) Directly behind that is where the crupper strap(5) attaches. The vehicle is steered when the horse pushes either right or left into the saddle. When pulling a two wheeled vehicle the horse is also supporting the front end of the vehicle, for the comfort of the horse the saddle needs to be wide enough to evenly distribute this weight. A larger animal/vehicle requires a wider saddle. A slightly narrower saddle is preferred in the breed ring and is also better for ventilation of the back. A good compromise needs to be met between good distribution of force, cooling of the horse and good looks. A “fine” harness would be look great for a shorter time in the breed ring, while a somewhat wider saddle for cross country driving more appropriate. When pulling a four wheel vehicle the horse is only bearing the weight of the shafts(6) and the saddle can be narrower without harm.
The saddle is held on by the girth(7). The girth should be plain leather so that it can get a bit slippery when the horse sweats to prevent chafing. The saddle needs to grip, girth needs to be slightly slippery.
When hitching to a single horse vehicle there are two types of shaft tugs used. These are the English or open tug and the French tug. This harness shows an English tug(8). English tugs are used with wrap straps(9) that are wound around the shafts of the cart. This pulls the shafts in and down. Generally taking the strap behind the shaft and back of the tug, up over the shaft, and then crossing the front of the tug, under the shaft to the front of the tug, back over the shaft and down to the buckle. The shaft stop(10) on the cart is sitting right behind the tug. Do up one side first and then the other. The girth should be snug but not tight. French tugs have billet straps that hold down the shafts and attach to a shaft girth. The French tug is pushed right close to the front of the shaft stop and is tightened and buckled into the billet on each side. A third type of tug called a “Tilbury” similar to French tugs, are used on four wheel vehicles. The level of the shafts is adjusted by moving the tug up or down on its billet attached to the saddle. Straight shafts should be level or tip slight up following the line of the breast collar(11).
The horse gets the vehicle in motion with either a neck collar or breastcollar. The breastcollar is the most common type used; it is a wide strap of leather that encircles the chest of the horse. Many breast collars have buckles at their ends where the traces attach for ease of adjustment. A breast collar creates a sawing motion, therefore it is important that it attaches freely to the singletree(12) on the cart and not be restricted in anyway. The neck strap(13) controls the height of the breast collar or the “point of draught”. The point of draught in the vertical center point of the draught force. This is important; it needs to be low enough to not interfere with the windpipe but not below the point of the shoulder where it interferes with the action of the front limbs. Many horses showing in the breed ring wear martingales, these attach to the center of the girth at the front, come up between the front legs where the lines run through them. It is important to always have rein stops on your lines when using a martingale so that your buckle doesn’t get caught inside the ring of the martingale causing an unpleasant result. A false martingale is also used outside of the show ring- it can be helpful in minimizing the side to side movement of the breast collar or forward separation that occurs when stopping. (Note the horse in diagram 3 is not wearing a martingale or rein stops).
Traces(14) are adjusted by the breastcollar buckles(15) or by choosing one of the holes on the end of them. Shaft tips(16) should be at the point of the shoulder when the horse is in draught. If you find your traces too short there are trace extenders available, never hook a horse too close.
Often in the breed ring, the breeching(17) which act as the brakes are left off of a fine harness appointment. While working on flat ground for short periods of time this isn’t harmful however if you will be driving your horse on ground that is not flat you will need to have breeching on. Generally the braking system consists of breeching and holdback straps(18). The breeching is a wide strap which connects to the cart by the holdback straps. When the vehicle pushes forward the brunt of the force is put on the two straps and thus the breeching seat. The breastcollar and traces get the vehicle moving forward; the breeching and holdback straps get it stopped. When the breeching is left off in the showring, the back saddle and the shaftstops take the brunt of the force; this is only acceptable on flat ground. The breeching should sit below the point of the buttocks, this is important as breeching sitting too high can ride up when slowing down and put a lot of force at the base of the tail. This kind of force up high may cause a horse to panic and kick or try to run. Breeching set too low will interfere with the movement of the hind legs. The breeching is adjusted by the loin strap billets which fit into either two or four buckles or uptugs on the breeching. The loinstrap(19) should sit at the highest point of the croup; there is a slot through the crupper strap(20) to hold it in place.
The holdback straps are attached to the breeching through rings at the end of the breeching seat. These holdback straps attach to the vehicle at the footman loops(21) and wrap around the shafts. The holdbacks are adjustable by how you wrap around the shafts and what hole you use on the billet. Ideally you should adjust to have a clearance of four fingers between the breeching seat and the buttocks while in draught.
The crupper strap runs from the D staple on the back of the saddle, down the center of the spine, holding the loin strap over the high point of the croup and then slits to two sections. Attached to these two sections is a smooth, tube like loop called a dock(22). The dock fits under the base of the tail and helps to hold the crupper strap in place. Many cruppers have two billets where it splits in two and you can make adjustments at the dock. Use these buckles first to adjust the loin strap(23), if more adjustment is needed then move to the adjustment available on the forward part of the crupper strap. The crupper is there to hold the harness in place but does not need to be extremely tight and will cause discomfort if it is. Always keep the dock on your harness clean as it comes in contact with an extremely sensitive area on your horse and can easily chafe them.
That’s a brief overview of harnessing. Next up I will address whips, safety and bits.