A very important, but rarely mentioned component of our equipment is our harness. Without a harness we wouldn’t be able to attach our horses to the carriages, so I thought in this blog I would discuss the types of harnesses we use and variations that are available.
Like every thing in this game there are options. Different styles for different types of vehicle, options of materials depending on the desired use, completely different set ups, for various breeds of horses. What I am going to focus on is what we use.
This diagram will hopefully help you to make sense of what follows.
The breastplate or collar, is where the traces attach. The traces run back to the swingle bars on the carriage, which is effectively the part that pulls the carriage forward.
The saddle (only necessary for a single) holds the tugs, which is what the shafts sit in and also has rein guides.
The crupper and breeching are the brakes. These pull into the horses really strong bum muscles, to slow forward momentum, although all of my carriages have foot brakes applied by the driver, so I use that instead of relying on breeching, making the workload lighter on the horse. The breeching on a single harness attaches to the shafts, whereas on a pairs harness, it attaches to the the breastplate, or front of the traces.
When there is a single horse, the carriage needs to have ‘shafts’. These are strong skinny, shaped pieces of wood or metal, that run along either side of the horse. These shafts sit in the tugs, which are on the ‘saddle’- the bit on the horses back, similar to where a riding saddle sits.
When there is a pair of horses, the carriage needs to have a ‘pole’ this is a single straight piece of wood or metal, that comes out from the centre of the front axel. It can be either fixed or ‘floating’ but it attaches to the horses breastplate.
Specific types of harness that we use
Each of our horses are different sizes, so we have found it easiest for each horse to have their own harness, to suit their personal requirements.
Calvin wears a Zilco Tedex. Zilco is the brand, Tedex is the model. Zilco is a good quality brand that produces an array of equipment for horses, with a lot of focus on competition driving and riding. The Tedex model is a simple, easy but elegant, hard wearing harness, that can be used with a single horse, in either a 2 or 4 wheeler carriage. It is of webbing construction, meaning very easy care, lightweight and comfortable for the horse. Plenty of adjustments to make it fit a range of horses. Calvin’s bridle has full binkers (the bit around his eyes) as that is the style he prefers. Really it is a nice ‘entry level’ harness, but we have found Calvin is incredibly comfortable in it, so have stuck with it.
When I purchased Nibbles and Tabby, they came with their pairs harness. It is a PVC material, and was made by a local saddler. It is easy to adjust, but can only be used for a pair of horses, as it doesn’t have tugs to hold the shafts. The bridles with this harness have a dolly vardon style eye piece, which allows greater sideways vision to the horse, but blocks backward vision (so they can’t see the carriage following them).
When it came time to kit the Clydesdales out, we were pondering what type of harness to get them. We would love a full set of leather harness for them, and one day they will get them, but draught horses grow until they are 8. The leather harness you may see on Clydesdales at shows are different styles again. They have collars, which negate the need for breastplates, and enable them to pull heavier loads. However collars need to be fitted correctly, and as the Clydesdales are still growing we needed an adjustable harness that would grow with them, and be suitable for training.
Back to the Zilco catalog we went and found our ‘Webz’ harnesses. The beauty of these, are that they can be used either as pairs or singles, just by changing a few straps. They are quite complicated to put on, but so versatile and adjustable. Being PVC makes them easy to clean, very hardwearing, and with many adjustments they can accomodate the changing shape of growing horses.
There are so many variations and options associated with harness, and there are always things to learn. I hope you have found this useful and informative. Please don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions if there is anything you would like to know about harness. If I don’t know the answer, I will gladly try to find it for you. If you join us on a No Frills Ride, you can see some of this and how it works for yourself!