Continuing to Teach Old Dog New Tricks
|September 21, 2015||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
We are in agreement.
One does not learn how to drive in harness from Youtube.
Or the internet. Or from forums. Or from random 4-H manuals posted out of New Hampshire.
However, suppose that one actually has driving experience. A lot of it actually for a California girl – driving doesn’t seem as widely popular here as it does back east, which also sucks for finding good used vehicles and harness – but the devil is in the details, specifically how to go from this:
Here’s a generic doubles hook up of what I’m used to.
So we are on the same page when I describe stuff, here’s a legend.
There’s a central shaft. A chain connects the front of the shaft to the front of the horse’s harness, usually by a simple clip on the harness that clips to the chain coming off the shaft. The clip somehow (details vary) links to the breeching around the horse’s butt – sometimes underneath, sometimes around the side. When the horses STOPS, the shaft moves FORWARD which pulls the breeching forward, which the horses braces against, stopping the shaft’s (and vehicle’s) forward movement.
Now let’s talk about a single horse.
There’s TWO shafts and there’s nothing attached to the front of the horse at all!!!! Instead the breeching attaches to the shafts on either side. Which sounds rather simple, except there’s no chains or clips – just a long shaft and a long strap of leather coming off of the harness that somehow, magically, attach.
Which brings us to my “problem 1” that everyone seems to gloss over in the “I’m going to do a detailed explanation of how to harness up a single horse”.
HOW THE HECK DOES THE BREECHING STRAPS ATTACH TO THE STRAPS?????
“Wrap it”. Do a “simple figure 8 wrap”. WTF does that MEAN??????????
So I’ve been guessing at it.
I know how it’s suppose to function, and based on function I know how it’s suppose to be adjusted – that sweet spot between too much play in the harness when the horse is switching between pulling (green) and stopping (red), and too little freedom so that the horse feels the breeching pulling even while fully engaged going forward in the tugs.
So, the video and still shots of us driving in January are proof of a little SWAG (scientific wild ass guessing).
SWAG should never be part of your driving repertoire. Which is why I was immensely relieved to FINALLY find a diagram that explained the (yes, very simple) wrap and where it’s suppose to go on the cart.
YES! OK. On to the second problem.
My harness has shaft tie down straps. Simply, the are straps at the girth that wrap around the shafts so that the shafts can’t bounce up (which could happen depending on terrain, speed etc even if the cart is sized and balanced well enough that it shouldn’t).
Apparently it’s so simple that once again everyone neglects to mention exactly how one goes about using these straps.
I still haven’t seen a good picture – but finally found a description that was clear enough that I won’t be totally embarrassed to post driving pictures here.
The last piece of missing information – how far back should Farley be in the shafts (end of shaft should be at the point of the shoulder) – was the easiest to find.
Having taken care of the major glaring issues, I took some pics of Farley with cart to show some driving friends to see if there were any major red flags to start driving on the trail and to start trot work.
My Dear Reader probably has just one question at this point. WHY didn’t I just ask my friends in the first place?????
1. Because all of them are long distance and no one could actually help me in person.
2. I believe in putting forth some effort to answer my own questions and solve my own problems before some *else* has to show me that the bit is on upside down, and the new fancy endurance saddle is *on backwards*.
The cart doesn’t fit Farley perfectly (mostly a function of it being an easy entry cart. It’s just really difficult to get them to fit a full horse properly) but it’s good enough to keep going for now, and definitely good enough to start trotting.
On Wednesday a friend and I are celebrating the Autumn equinox by going for a drive on the trail (Farley’s first) and then having lunch.
I’m looking to upgrade my harness before the cart. It’s a perfectly good, functional harness. However now that I know that this driving thing is *really* going to happen, I want something that isn’t leather and is a little more deluxe in the horse comfort department.
Pinch me I’m dreaming, this little 100 mile Tevis horse ain’t done learning tricks yet!
So exciting! 🙂
I’ve never seen tie-down straps before, I think I’ve mostly seen them as a false belly-band integrated with the shaft loops/tugs (I should say that I don’t drive, but I’ve harnessed up with friends a lot).
Your feelings of changing from pairs to single are perhaps like my feelings of curiosity and confusion working out how the pairs harness works, having only worked with single harness (mostly Zilco)! Thanks for the cool explanation of pairs harness 🙂
Interesting to see that your harness doesn’t have rein rings on the breastplate’s wither strap, but your shaft ends don’t stick out much so shouldn’t be a problem unless she grazes but something to watch for I guess.
From my non-expert experience of the breeching attachment to the shafts, I’ve seen several different wrapping/configuration arrangements depending on length of strap and shaft set-up. It looks like your shafts don’t have any little slots/brackets to attach through? Your functional appreciation of everything is much more useful than any random and rigid rules, but I definitely agree that having an experienced mentor there in person is hard to beat!
Enjoy your drive!!! 🙂
It’s hard to see but there is a foot mans loop on the underside of the shaft that the wrap is anchored on.
There is one local friend that used to do combined driving who has seen the harness on Farley in person, although before I got a cart. She’s like me – busy with her own job and horses so it just hasn’t worked out that either her or her husband were around when I was hitched to give me feedback but I’m hoping it works out. She had also commented on the lack of rings on the Breast collar. I’ve never seen or worked with harness with them so it’s either a singles thing, or something on newer harness (most of my harness experience is pre 1900s). I can see where it would be useful! As a work around I’m using an over check rein which I’ve been told has gone out of fashion now, but it helps me prevent her from getting her head too low and potentially tangling as a result. Have already been very grateful for it more then once while ground driving on the trail (no cart) and she tripped and stumbled. It’s loose enough she can use her head and neck for balance and can stretch, but isn’t likely to jerk the lines out of my hands etc.
For the record the other hard thing go figure out was how the tugs ran to the back…..between the horse, the shafts, and everything tying the shafts to the horse it was not intuitive whether the tugs ran on the outside, inside, or through the whole mess!
I’m looking forward to the drive tomorrow. It will be so nice to have a second safety person there. What a luxury.
Ah, I see the breeching loops on the shafts now! 😉
Good plan with the overcheck. I’d only seen overchecks on show hackneys for headset which is completely different, but handy to hear about what you’ve said about stumbling too.
I’ve seen the breastcollar terrets/rein rings on teams/pairs harness too. However lighter harness used for racing and light show harness seems to skip them (like for viceroy turnout classes) but they don’t have breeching either, which gives me the idea that it’s for light loads (and on the flat). Your breastplate is quite fine so it might be something like that? For lots of helpful comparison pairs/team and single harness parts pics see: http://www.zilcoharness.com/driving-catalogue-vol4.htm (their Empathy collar is nice). There are a bloody lot of straps, right? And they all do something different…
Most of the driving I’ve been involved with has been pleasure driving and endurance driving, which means things are a lot more ‘functional’ than pretty perhaps? Lol!
The breast collar on this rig is DEFINITELY not functional IMO!!! I’m really afraid she’s going to make herself sore and if I had already found a smuckers harness for the right price and size (very similar to zilco models) I would be doing some alterations including padding the breast strap and saddle on this harness. I think you are right and in general this harness is probably made for arena type, very light cart driving……but what cracks me up is the shaft tie downs which typically are only needed for more rugged terrain or going up hill.
I know eventually I’m going to have to go to a meadowbrook cart like what most people were using in the pictures you sent me. Easy entry carts, at least ones like mine, just aren’t that suited for “endurance driving” even though they are so EASY. Although hopefully I can make it work for a while longer (at least until Farley is retired from endurance). The bright side is that I have everything I need for endurance so at least I’m only doing the whole buy/upgrade thing for ONE sport and should be able to sell enough tack as as I go along for my upgrades.
I also need to see if there’s an endurance type driving club near me. I think that could be really fun.
Yes, the tie-downs are a confusing addition!
Well, I always tell people wanting to start in endurance riding to use what they have for a bit until they work out what they actually need, so you’ve got that sorted! 🙂
Endurance driving is awesome!!!
very cool, though all that strapping looks like a convoluted puzzle to me! I am glad Farley is liking her new job, I really think they like new experiences, just like us.
She still loves endurance but is SO BORED WITH CONDITIONING. I think in addition to the driving (which I agree, she seems to enjoy) I’m going to also try and do some of those fun local horse club type trail classes. Easier with a baby too!
[…] to the stable. Details I couldn’t be bothered to research (like what I wrote about in my previous driving post) suddenly became priorities and I nailed down the what and the how and even learned the proper […]
Love this! Go Farley the wonderhorse! I really need to get my cart repaired. It’s been sitting broken for a year now while I dealt with the PTSD of the cart wreck last year. I repaired my harness over the winter, but I just haven’t done the cart yet. You’re motivating me to get back out there…
The diagrams and photos in this post are fantastic. I had/have a lot of the same problems. Definitely saving this post to refer back to later. You do such a great job addressing tricky things and breaking them down to be more easily understood.
Liz – when you are ready I can pass along some of diagrams and manuals I found really helpful that helped me figure out simple things like how the tugs/traces should pass through the various wraps and where/when/why (and how) to use locking versus none locking wraps on the shafts.
I’ve never had a cart wreck but based on your experience catching a hub is now something I’m REALLY nervous about. :/