What are the important items in terms of safe harness fit? Collars allow the horse to pull the vehicle forward with its shoulders.
It is important that the collar fit relative to the shoulder: Collars should neither obscure the movement of the forelimbs nor impinge upon the trachea.
If a full collar is used, it should be the proper size and fit well – it should rest on the shoulders and not be pinching the neck.
The force of draft is distributed across the shoulders so these types of collars are used commonly with heavier vehicles and vehicles that have a fixed trace attachment (lack a single tree).
In contrast, Breast Collars were originally designed for use on lighter vehicles that have a single tree, since the shoulder and the collar slide relative to each other and since the collar distributes the force of draft across a narrower area.
There are period collar designs that do not fall into either of these to groups (for further information, please check out: J.
Spruytte, Early Harness Systems, Hyperion Books (December, 1990).
When in doubt, remember, collars should neither obscure the movement of the forelimbs nor impinge upon the trachea. Breeching acts as the brakes for the vehicle when the horse takes the weight of the vehicle upon its haunches.
It is important that breeching fits relative to the haunches.
The breeching should not sweep the hind legs from the horse/pony when in use, and it should not slide up under the dock when not in use.
It should also be tight enough to act as a breaking mechanism (about a hands breadth of space is recommended).
For singles, there are other braking systems such as wrap straps, tug stops, or thimbles.
For multiples, the collar maybe fastened to the pole via a pole strap or yoke.
These are safe systems as well as long as they are sufficiently tight and the vehicle is sufficiently light.
When braking or backing modern vehicles, the horse’s rump should never touch the dash of the vehicle.
For a quick and dirty method of assessing the braking ability of a harness, ask the driver to back.
If the horse does not have enough reverse leverage to back readily on good ground they do not have enough braking power based on harnessing.
For some period vehicles there is evidence that having the dash press on the rump was part of the braking mechanism.
As long as the horse has been trained and there is adequate hock clearance, this method may be appropriate. Blinders/Blinkers/Winkers serve a dual purpose.
They were initially used on multiples to protect the wheelers in particular from being hit in the eye with a lash directed at the leaders.
They have the additional benefit of blocking the horse’s view of distractions such as the whip sailing over his/her head or the vehicle coming from behind.
If used, the eye should be centered within the blinder.
The cheek pieces should be tight to the sides of the horse’s face so there is no gap and the horse can not see between his cheek and the blinders.
The blinders should not press against the eyes – if they do try re-bending the wire in the bridle to correct the problem. Saddle/back pad serves as the attachment point for portions of the harness and may be involved in draft, braking, or none of the above.
It rests behind the withers in roughly the same place as a ridden saddle.
The girth may not need to be as tight as on a riding saddle.
The gullet of the harness saddle should not press on the horse’s spine.
Two wheeled vehicles will place more weight on the back pad than four wheeled.
If used with a 2 wheeled vehicle, the saddle should be wide enough to carry the additional weight.
The Back strap helps keep the saddle from sliding forward and helps keeps the crupper flush against the horse’s dock.
It should be tight enough that both roles are fulfilled but not so tight that is places undue stress on the tail. Bridle fit: It is extremely important that bridles stay on hitched horses.
At the same time, hitched horse have access to lots of stuff to rub on, thus a snug fit is imperative and driving bridles may fit tighter than riding bridles.
The Crown piece is frequently rigid on driving bridles to maintain blinder position.
This characteristic makes it easier to slip the bridle off particularly if little pony ears are the only thing holding it on.
As a result many drivers keep the Throat latch tighter than you would on a riding bridle.
As long as it is not impinging on the trachea, this snugness is not a problem.
Other solutions include braiding the bridle into the mane or forelock or adding a gullet strap that runs between the nose band and throat latch. The Nose band may serve the purpose of maintaining blinder position if it runs through the cheek pieces.
It may be involved in keeping the mouth closed or in keeping the bridle on the horse depending on design.
In any case, nosebands should fit snugly but not inhibit breathing much like on a ridden bridle.
Some bridles do not include nosebands.
As long as the bridle stays on the horse’s head, the cheek pieces do not gap, and the driver has adequate control, this arrangement may be acceptable.
Some drivers use drop, flash or figure-eight nose bands.
This arrangement may also be acceptable also long as it does not inhibit breathing.
The combination of a drop nose band and a leverage bit may indicate a problem. Bits should fit correctly in horse’s mouth and bit fit is similar to ridden disciplines.
If the bit is too low, the horse can get its tongue over a bit.
Leverage bits with adjustable rein settings are common.
Reins in the bottom slot may be indicative of a problem Snaffles may be used as well.
Some checks fasten on the main bit.
Others fasten to a bridoon used as a check bit. Condition – Harnesses should not show evidence of excessive wear or cracking.
Pay special attention to where the reins attach to the bit, any straps made of lighter weight leather than the rest of the harness, breeching straps, wrap straps, and pole straps.
Buckles should not show evidence of wear. What are the important items in terms of vehicle fit and safety? It is safest to inspect unhitched vehicles.
If someone brings a homemade vehicle that you are unfamiliar with, ask if they have hitched and driven it at home before the event, with this horse. Wheels should be firm with all hub bolts present.
Spoke fit is tricky and may be beyond woodworkers skilled in other areas.
Spokes that are loose in the hub may indicate a problem.
The expression “kicking the tires” probably refers to spoke fit.
To check, push sideways on wood spoke wheels. If the wood wheel flexes, then the joints aren’t tight enough. Look for dry rot in the joints as this can contribute to laxity. Metal tires should fit snugly against the felloe (rim) and should not be loose. Solid rubber tires should not be loose in the metal tire channel. The rubber should be supple and not dried out. The rubber tire channel should fit snuggly against the wood felloe (rim) and should not be loose.
Solid rubber tires have one or two wires down the center.
The tire rubber is cut slightly longer than the diameter of the wheel. The tires are wrapped around the metal tire channel and the rubber is pulled back from the wire. The wire is twisted together and the rubber edges are released. This set up puts the rubber tire under slight tension allowing it to resist nicks and stresses. The tire edges (seam) should be tight and not have a gap. There should be no large chunks of rubber missing from the tire. The inner tire wire should NEVER be exposed.
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