How to Harness a Horse

One Methods:North American harness

Carriages and horses can be seen all over the world, both in the country and in the cities. Knowing how to harness a horse can be a profitable business for a horse owner. You could give hay rides at local events or provide carriages for weddings and other special occasions. Harnessing a horse can be a 2-person job and you can help a horse-owning friend without getting in the way if you know a how to attach a harness. Although it may seem daunting at first, harnessing a horse can be easily learned if you break it down into steps.

North American harness

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    Find the harness parts. These items include a bridle, reins, saddle, breast collar, and breeching.
    • The bridle allows the rider to communicate direction to the horse. The bridle may have a bit (an aluminum mouthpiece) attached and blinkers. Blinkers are square pieces of leather attached to the bridle above the bit and are placed over the horse's eyes to keep its focus forward.
    • The reins are very long straps of leather that reach from the bit to the driver. They are brown in color and not attached to the bridle.
    • The saddle is a strap of padded leather that sits just below the horse's withers. It has rein guides and a girth that wraps around the horse's belly to hold it in place. Also on the saddle are shaft tugs to hold the shafts of the cart.
    • The breast collar is a flat piece of leather attached to the traces. It lays flat against the horse's chest and allows the horse to pull the carriage or implement. Sometimes this part of the harness is a large collar that fits around the wide part of the horse's neck as seen with some draft horse hook ups.
    • The breeching is the harness's braking system and has a wide strap that lays across the horse's hindquarters and smaller straps the lay across the croup. Hold back straps attach to rings on the shaft of the cart. The breeching also has a stuffed crupper that goes underneath the horse's tail.
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    Bridle the horse. Ask the horse to lower its head, and place the bit into the horse's mouth. If the horse won't open his mouth, slide your thumb up past his front teeth to the gap, and gently but firmly leverage his mouth open. If it's cold weather, you should also let the bit heat up in your hands or under your arm before you bridle him.
    • Tighten the noseband gently. Make sure it is 2 finger's width below the horse's prominent cheekbone.
    • Adjust the blinkers so they are not touching the horse's eyes.
    • Fasten the throatlatch. Leave it loose enough that 2 or 3 fingers can fit between it and the horse's neck.
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    Put the breast strap or collar on the horse. If the traces are attached, make sure they are out of the way of the horse's feet. Adjust the position of the breast strap with the neck strap so it falls on the widest part of the horse's chest.
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    Place the saddle on the horse just under the withers.
    • Tighten the girth snugly. Do not over tighten. It is best to wait for the horse to relax and move out before tightening the girth all the way.
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    Place the harness breeching on the horse's back. Move the tail so the breeching can rest smoothly against the horse's hindquarters.
    • Lift the tail, and slide the crupper under the tail. Buckle the crupper in place. Take extra care that the crupper is smooth, clean, and that no hair is trapped under it.
    • Attach the breeching to the saddle with the loin strap.
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    Bring the carriage up behind the horse. Have an attendant hold the head of the horse.
    • Run the shafts through the loops on the saddle.
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    Attach the harness traces to the tree of the carriage.
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    Attach the breeching to the carriage by running the hold back straps through the rings on the shafts. Wrap and buckle it.
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    Run the reins from the carriage through the rein guides to the bit and buckle.
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    Walk the horse a few steps, tighten the girth, and recheck all straps and buckles for proper fitting.

=== Australian harness ===

Image titled Harness a Horse Step 10


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    Harness a single horse from the front first. If you follow this you should get it right every time.
    • Personal habits such as collar (or breast collar) first, considered to bring good luck in coaching days, are acceptable, followed by saddle, girth only, and breeching and then bridle/winkers (so that naughty horses do not rub them; this puts scratches on your patent leather blinds, (showies all know this) and finally attach the reins.
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    To correctly fit the winkers (bridle), the horse’s eye should be in the centre of the winker blind, this should not be pressed close against the eye.
    • Make the throat latch a little tighter than a ridden horse. Or, the top of the bridle may be secured to the horse’s mane; many ponies or pairs of horses can remove their bridles easily by a shake of the head or by rubbing against their pair.
    • Check the throat latch again once your horse is on the move, to ensure that it is not too tight.
    • The noseband helps to stabilise the bridle and keep the winker blinds from bulging out and allowing your horse to glimpse the carriage.
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    Consider use of the bits. Bits are optional but it is prudent to err on the side of caution, a more severe bit used with a light hand is better than to be ‘wanting a pound’ and not having it if your horse takes fright.
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    Use open bridles. Open bridles are allowed at all times except in the show ring (standardbred turnouts excluded).
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    Place the breast collar sitting above the point of the horse’s shoulder, to allow freedom of movement, and below the windpipe, for your horse’s comfort.
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    Let the saddle sit behind the wither. The girth secures in the same position as a ridden girth, firm but not too tight.
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    Carefully fit the crupper under the tail. Lift the tail and ensure that all hair is free of the crupper dock before buckling it. Then lift the crupper back-strap at the croup, above the hips, you should be able to slide your hand sideways (4”/10cm) under this strap.
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    Reach the breeching seat around behind the horse from stifle to stifle. Hang close to that level, halfway between the tail dock and the point of the hock.
    • Breechings are not always used in light jog carts and also some 4-wheeled carriages if these are fitted with brakes.
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    Adjust as required. All of the harness should be on the horse and adjusted for fit before you bring the carriage to the horse.

Putting to

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    Harnessing to the single carriage, reins held in the crook of your elbow, bring up the carriage. Be careful to clear the horse’s rump.
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    Slide the shafts into the tugs. Both traces are attached first and then the breeching straps––these lay under the traces in most carriages, followed by the belly band.
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    Hold the reins as you walk around behind the carriage to get to the other side if you do not have a groom to assist you. You may need to stop the horse from rubbing his bridle off or from moving around, holding the reins will help make this possible.
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    Check again. Each piece of harness is checked again for correct adjustment; there should also be a hand’s width (4”) between the horse’s rump and the breeching seat when the carriage is pulled backwards into draft, the girth should be secure but does not need to be as tight as a riding saddle.
    • Tightening the belly band may depend upon how your carriage rides but generally it should not be too tight or too loose.
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    To unharness reverse the order; loosen belly band, undo breeching straps and then traces off last. Make sure that all straps are released before removing the cart, a forgotten breeching strap, still attached, can mean that you have the cart halfway off and both hands full, a tricky situation that can be dangerous.

Things You'll Need

  • Horse
  • Harness
  • Carriage

Article Info

Categories: Horses