Harnessing a Draft Horse

Written By Rachel Novak

We’re in sugaring season here in New England, which means fresh maple syrup, and perhaps a more frequent sighting of draft horses helping to haul the equipment or sap that comes with sugaring. Just by looking at the diagrams above, it is clear that the harnessing system is fairly complicated. This complex harnessing system is there to ensure safety, productivity and proper training. When speaking with a local harness horse trainer he says that the harnesses for draft horses are very complicated and it is important to keep them clean.
Let’s visit the basics of a horse harness. They are a type of tack, typically for a horse, and are designed to help pull heavy loads. We tend to see these horse-drawn vehicles hauling equipment on the farm such as plows, wagons or sleighs. With two main types of horse harnesses being breast straps and breast collars it’s important to know the different to ensure the safety of your horse and your load. Breastcollar harnesses are typically used for light work, light carts as seen with standardbred horse racing, or light hauls. This type of harness delegates the weight of the load to the sternum of the horse and near the windpipe. For heavier loads, it’s important that the weight is delegated to the strongest part of the horse, or you can put the safety of your horse in jeopardy. That’s when the breastcollar harness comes in. The collar harness places the weight onto the horses shoulders. This is very important because if a load is too heavy and a breast strap is being used, the horse’s windpipes can be damaged and this restricts air supply. By allowing the horse to pull a load using its shoulders, you ensure your horses are going to stay safe and also optimize their energy when carrying heavy loads.
Parts of The Harness
Hames: Is a metal or wooden strip that take the full force of the pull. The hames is used in a breast collar harness.

Breeching: Is the strap around the horse’s haunches. This part of the harness allows it to set back and slow whatever is being hauled. The breeching is typically hooked to the shafts or pole of the load.

Traces: The straps or chains that take the pull from the breast collar (or hames) to the load.

Harness Saddle: Is a small piece that acts as a support of the harness which is located on the horse’s back.

Girth: Is a strap that goes around the belly of the horse and attaches to the harness saddle.

Crupper: Is a soft padded loop that is placed under the horses tail. This is important because it keeps the harness from slipping forward.

Tugs: Are loops attached to the back band to hold up the shaft of a wagon or wheeled-vehicle.

Terrets: Are metal loops on the saddle and collar to support the reins.

Harness Rings and snaps: Are iron pieces used to hold various Harness parts together. The rings are usually between about three-quarter inch and three inches.Your snaps are connected to various leather harness straps to harness rings.

Take a more in depth look at safety tips to avoid injury. (hyper link: https://dochammill.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Preventing-Wrecks-with-Driving-HorsesAugust1.pdf)

There are many different kinds of pulling horses, and many different kinds of harnesses. From racing horses who carry a very light-weight cart to large draft horses who pull thousands of pounds, they all need the proper harnesses and equipment to make sure the horse and the driver stay safe. The equipment must work and fit properly to ensure productivity and safety.