How to Harness a Horse

if you're reading this then we are dating A horse harness allows the horse to pull either a cart or carriages. To harness a horse, first put the collar around the horse’s head or the breast strap around the chest. Put the saddle and breeching around the horse’s body, and fasten the crupper around the tail. Then, place the bridle over your horse’s head and connect the reins. After everything is secured, hook the horse up to a cart or carriage. Once you understand each piece of the harness and master the assembly process, you can easily harness your horse and get driving!

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EditSteps

EditFastening the Collar and Harness

  1. Use a collar if your horse is pulling a heavy carriage. The collar is padded to help your horse pull heavy carts like passenger carriages. Gently put the collar over the top of the horse’s head. The collar should sit at the base of the horse’s neck where it meets their body.[1]
    Harness a Horse Step 1 Version 5.jpg
    • You can put the collar on upside down if your horse has a large head or sensitive ears. After the collar is around the horse, twist it around to the correct position.
    • The collar should fit snug across the horse’s shoulder blades.
    • The horse pulls the cart by pushing its shoulder blades into the collar.
  2. Use a breast strap if you are driving a lighter cart. The breast strap is a wide leather band that fits around the horse’s chest. Slide the breast strap around your horse’s head and bring it around the chest. To hold the breast strap in place, strap the neckpiece and martingale to the girth. Fasten the buckle so the neckpiece sits securely and comfortably in the center of the horse’s chest.[2]
    Harness a Horse Step 2 Version 5.jpg
    • The martingale is a strap on the breast strap that helps control the horse’s head.
    • The horse pulls the cart by pushing their chest into the breast strap.
    • If the breast strap sits too high, it can push into the horse’s windpipe and cause breathing troubles.
    • If the breast strap sits too low, it may get in the way of the horse’s leg movements.
  3. Buckle the traces to the collar or breast strap on both sides of the horse. On the collar or breast strap, there is a leather strap and buckle used to attach the traces. Insert 1 end of the traces and fasten it with the buckle, then attach the traces to the other side.[3]
    Harness a Horse Step 3 Version 5.jpg
    • The traces are what the horse pulls the cart with.
  4. Place the saddle and breeching around the horse’s body. Put the saddle on your horse so sits just behind the withers (base of the neck above the shoulders). Secure the saddle strap around the horse behind its front legs. Place the end with the breeching around the back end of your horse. Then, gently pull the horse’s tail above the breeching.[4]
    Harness a Horse Step 4 Version 5.jpg
    • The saddle is made from leather straps and doesn’t look like a riding saddle.
    • The saddle and breeching also have small leather straps that sit across the horse’s back called ornaments. You can simply slide them apart across the saddle area.
    • Attached to the saddle are leather loops called tugs, which hold the shafts of your cart in place.
    • The breeching works as the brakes of the cart or carriage.
  5. Fasten the crupper around the horse’s tail. The crupper is a padded leather loop that goes around the horse’s tail to keep the saddle in place. Loop the crupper around the horse’s tail, and fasten the buckle to secure it in place.[5]
    Harness a Horse Step 5 Version 5.jpg
    • Your crupper should not be too tight that it raises up the horse’s tail or pulls back on the saddle.

EditAttaching the Traces, Bridle, and Reins

  1. Attach the girth around your horse’s body to keep the saddle in place. On the saddle are leather straps called the girth (or the belly band). Feed the leather strap into the buckle, and secure it so the girth is tight. You should be able to fit your fingers underneath the strap.
    Harness a Horse Step 6 Version 5.jpg
    • The girth stops the shafts from going backward if the cart or carriage gets unbalanced.
  2. Run the traces behind the girth. Take the leather straps of the traces, and place each of them behind the leather straps of the belly band. They should sit on top of the saddle’s leather strap (behind the horse’s front legs).
    Harness a Horse Step 7 Version 5.jpg
  3. Place the bridle around your horse’s head and the bit in their mouth. The bridle will easily fit over their head. Then, place the bit inside the horse’s mouth so their tongue lies underneath. Attach the curb chain to the hook on both sides of the bit so the bridle stays put on their head.[6]
    Harness a Horse Step 8 Version 5.jpg
    • The bit is a slightly curved metal piece that sits in the horse’s mouth. This helps control the horse. Connected to the bit is a curb chain and 2 rings for the reins.
  4. Connect the reins to the bridle and the saddle. After the bit and curb chain are in place, strap the reins to both of the rings on the bit. You can use the lower loop for more control over the horse. Run the reins through the rein tariffs on the harness and buckle up the ends.[7]
    Harness a Horse Step 9 Version 5.jpg
    • More control of the horse is helpful if you are driving on roads with traffic, for example.
    • The rein tariffs keep the reins straight and tangle-free.
  5. Check each strap to make sure it fits securely and comfortably. Inspect each buckle and ring to ensure each strap is properly fastened. They should fit snugly around the horse, and you should be able to fit your fingers underneath.
    Harness a Horse Step 10 Version 5.jpg
    • Tighten or loosen the straps as needed.

EditHitching to Carts and Carriages

  1. Roll the cart towards the horse and push the shafts through both togs. The horse should be familiar with the cart before you try hooking it up. The shafts are the ends of the cart that attach to the harness of the horse. The togs are small leather loops in the straps of the girth. Insert the end of the shaft into the loop of the tog on both the left and right side of the horse.[8]
    Harness a Horse Step 11 Version 4.jpg
  2. Attach the traces to the hooks on the swivel tree. The trace hook is a swirly hook at the end of the swivel tree. Line up the hole in the leather strap of the traces with the pointed end of the trace hooks, and push it around the hook until it reaches the base. Do this for both traces.[9]
    Harness a Horse Step 12 Version 4.jpg
    • The swivel tree balances out horse’s movements.
  3. Buckle the breeching around the shaft to attach the cart or carriage. There are metal loops on the shaft to secure the breeching. Loop the leather straps of the breeching around the shaft at these metal hooks, and feed the leather strap through the loop a 2-3 times before you buckle it.[10]
    Harness a Horse Step 13 Version 4.jpg
    • The breeching controls the stopping of the cart and prevents it from running into the horse.
  4. Ensure the shaft is properly placed by checking the belly band. The girth or the belly band helps hold the shafts in place. Lift up on the shafts to make sure they are properly placed inside the togs and the belly band is securely holding the shafts.[11]
    Harness a Horse Step 14 Version 4.jpg
    • Without the belly band, the entire cart or carriage could flip over.
  5. Walk your horse feet to check the straps and buckles. To make sure everything is properly fastened and the horse is comfortable, check your harness after you let your horse walk a few feet.
    Harness a Horse Step 15 Version 4.jpg
    • Tighten or loosen the straps as needed.

EditTips

  • Make sure all your pieces are untangled before you attempt to harness your horse.
  • Take your time as you learn how to harness a horse. It will take a bit of practice to get the trick of it and to adjust the straps for your particular horse.

EditWarnings

  • Tie up your horse before you attempt to harness it for the first time.

EditSources and Citations

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