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Horse harness is a device that connects a horse to a vehicle or another type of load.

There are two main categories of horse harness: (1) the "breaststrap" or "breastcollar" design, and (2) the collar and hames design. For light work, such as horse show competition where light carts are used, a harness needs only a breastcollar. It can only be used for lighter hauling, since it places the weight of the load on the sternum of the horse and the nearby windpipe. This is not the heaviest skeletal area; also heavy loads can constrict the windpipe and reduce a horse's air supply.

By contrast, the collar and harness places the weight of the load onto the horse's shoulders, and without any restriction on the air supply. For heavy hauling, the harness must include a horse collar to allow the animal to use its full weight and strength.

Harness components designed for other animals (such as the yoke used with oxen) are not suitable for horses and will not allow the horse to work efficiently.

Putting harness on a horse is called harnessing or harnessing up. Attaching the harness to the load is called putting to (British Isles) or hitching (North America). The order of putting on harness components varies by discipline, but when a horse collar is used, it is usually put on first.

History

Throughout the ancient world, the 'throat-and-girth' harness was used for harnessing horses that pulled carts; this greatly limited a horse's ability to exert itself as it was constantly choked at the neck.[1] A painting on a lacquerware box from the State of Chu, dated to the 4th century BC, shows the first known use of a yoke placed across a horses's chest, with traces connecting to the chariot shaft.[2] The hard yoke across the horse's chest was gradually replaced by a breast strap, which was often depicted in carved reliefs and stamped bricks of tombs from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD).[3] Eventually, the horse collar was invented in China, at least by the 5th century.[4][5]

Parts

horse show competition where light carts are used, a harness needs only a breastcollar. It can only be used for lighter hauling, since it places the weight of the load on the sternum of the horse and the nearby windpipe. This is not the heaviest skeletal area; also heavy loads can constrict the windpipe and reduce a horse's air supply.

By contrast, the collar and harness places the weight of the load onto the horse's shoulders, and without any restriction on the air supply. For heavy hauling, the harness must include a horse collar to allow the animal to use its full weight and strength.

Harness components designed for other animals (such as the yoke used with oxen) are not suitable for horses and will not allow the horse to work efficiently.

Putting harness on a horse is called harnessing or harnessing up. Attaching the harness to the load is called putting to (British Isles) or hitching (North America). The order of putting on harness components varies by discipline, but when a horse collar is used, it is usually put on first.

Throughout the ancient world, the 'throat-and-girth' harness was used for harnessing horses that pulled carts; this greatly limited a horse's ability to exert itself as it was constantly choked at the neck.[1] A painting on a lacquerware box from the State of Chu, dated to the 4th century BC, shows the first known use of a yoke placed across a horses's chest, with traces connecting to the chariot shaft.[2] The hard yoke across the horse's chest was gradually replaced by a breast strap, which was often depicted in carved reliefs and stamped bricks of tombs from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD).[3] Eventually, the horse collar was invented in China, at least by the 5th century.[4][5]

Parts

Complete breastcollar harness and bridle, laid out

Parts of the harness include:[6]

  • A collar to allow the horse to push against the harness with its shoulders and chest. Two main alternative arrangements (with some intermediate types):
    • A horse collar (or full collar). A padded loop fitting closely around the horse's neck, pointed at the top to fit the crest of the neck. Used for heavier pulling, especially when used without a swingletree or whippletree.
    • A breastcollar. A padded strap running around the chest from side to side. Used for light work, or for somewhat heavier work it is used together with a swingletree evenly on each step without rubbing.
  • Hames (if a full collar

    Parts of the harness include:[6]

    • A collar to allow the horse to push against the harness with its shoulders and chest. Two main alternative arrangements (with some intermediate types):
      • A horse collar (or full collar). A padded loop fitting closely around the horse's neck, pointed at the top to fit the crest of the neck. Used for heavier pulling, especially when used without a swingletree or whippletree.
      • A breastcollar. A padded strap running around the chest from side to side. Used for light work, or for somewhat heavier work it is used together with a swingletree evenly on each step without rubbing.
    • Hames (if a full collar is used). Two metal or wooden strips which take the full force of the pull, padded by the collar.
    • Breeching driving have a breastcollar instead of a horse collar and are made with strong but refined-looking leather throughout, usually black and highly polished. In draft horse showing and combined driving, horse collars are seen, but harness leather is still highly polished and well-finished.

      Carriage or van harness

      A combined driving team in carriage harness

      Lighter weight but strong harness similar to show harness, used for pulling passenger vehicles such as buggies or carts, or other lighter loads. The traces attach either to the shafts of the vehicle or to the vehicle itself, and the harness may have either a horse collar or a breastcollar.

      Racing harness

      Racing harness

      The racing harness, like the show harness, is a breastcollar harness. Horses are hitched to a very lightweight two-wheeled cart, called a sulky. Most race harnesses incorporate a running martingale and an overcheck. Sometimes harness racing horses are raced with an "open" bridle, one that does not have blinkers. Specialized equipment, called pacing hobbles, are added to the harness of race horses who pace in order to help them maintain their gait.[7][better source needed]

      Cart or wagon harness

      Harness for pulling heavier vehicles always has a horse collar. The traces are often made of chain and attach to loops on the shafts of the vehicle. A chain attached to the shafts may be passed over the saddle to carry their weight.[8] Reins are of rope or leather, depending on region of the world.

      Plow harness

      Plow Harness

      Similar to cart harness but without breeching, used for dragged loads such as plows, harrows, canal boats or logs. This style is also used on the leaders in a team of animals pulling a vehicle. The traces attach to a whippletree behind the horse and this then pulls the load (or in larger teams may attach to further whippletrees).

      There are two main plow harness types: the New England D-Ring and the Western harness. The New England D-Ring makes use of a metal D shaped ring that allows for a ninety degree angle to be maintained at the junction of the front trace and the hames regardless of the height of the implement being pulled. The Western harness does not provide this flexibility but has other useful characteristics such as a strap that runs from the britchen to the collar which stops the pull from riding up and hitting the horses in the face when descending a steep incline.

      See also

      References

      1. ^ Needham (1986), Volume 4, Part 2, 305.
      2. ^ Needham (1986), Volume 4, Part 2, 310.
      3. ^ Needham (1986), Volume 4, Part 2, 308–312.
      4. ^ Needham (1986), Volume 4, Part 2, 319–323.
      5. ^ Needham (1986), Volume 4, Part 2, 22–23.
      6. Lighter weight but strong harness similar to show harness, used for pulling passenger vehicles such as buggies or carts, or other lighter loads. The traces attach either to the shafts of the vehicle or to the vehicle itself, and the harness may have either a horse collar or a breastcollar.

        Racing harness

        sulky. Most race harnesses incorporate a running martingale and an overcheck. Sometimes harness racing horses are raced with an "open" bridle, one that does not have blinkers. Specialized equipment, called pacing hobbles, are added to the harness of race horses who pace in order to help them maintain their gait.[7][better source needed]

        Cart or wagon harness

        Harness for pulling heavier vehicles always has a horse collar. The traces are often made of chain and attach to loops on the shafts of the vehicle. A chain attached to the shafts may be passed over the saddle to carry their weight.[8] Reins are of rope or leather, depending on region of the world.

        Plow harness

        horse collar. The traces are often made of chain and attach to loops on the shafts of the vehicle. A chain attached to the shafts may be passed over the saddle to carry their weight.[8] Reins are of rope or leather, depending on region of the world.

        Plow harness

        <

        Similar to cart harness but without breeching, used for dragged loads such as plows, harrows, canal boats or logs. This style is also used on the leaders in a team of animals pulling a vehicle. The traces attach to a whippletree behind the horse and this then pulls the load (or in larger teams may attach to further whippletrees).

        There are two main plow harness types: the New England D-Ring and the Western harness. The New England D-Ring makes use of a metal D shaped ring that allows for a ninety degree angle to be maintained at the junction of the front trace and the hames regardless of the height of the implement being pulled. The Western harness does not provide this flexibility but has other useful characteristics such as a strap that runs from the britchen to the collar which stops the pull from riding up and hitting the horses in the face when descending a steep incline.

        See also