How to Harness a Horse

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Harness a single horse from the front first.,
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.,
Consider use of the bits.,
Use open bridles.,
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.,
Carefully fit the crupper under the tail.,
Reach the breeching seat around behind the horse from stifle to stifle.,
Adjust as required.,
Harnessing to the single carriage, reins held in the crook of your elbow, bring up the carriage.,
Slide the shafts into the tugs.,
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.,
Check again.,
To unharness reverse the order; loosen belly band, undo breeching straps and then traces off last.

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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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.

, 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.

, Open bridles are allowed at all times except in the show ring (standardbred turnouts excluded).

,, The girth secures in the same position as a ridden girth, firm but not too tight.

, 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.

, 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.

, All of the harness should be on the horse and adjusted for fit before you bring the carriage to the horse.

, Be careful to clear the horse’s rump.

, Both traces are attached first and then the breeching straps––these lay under the traces in most carriages, followed by the belly band.

, You may need to stop the horse from rubbing his bridle off or from moving around, holding the reins will help make this possible.

, 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.

, 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.

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