How to harness a horse

Before you learn how to harness a horse, you need to know what the parts of  the harness are for.

Full collar or full neck collar

The collar is padded and oval in shape, which fits around the horse’s neck and chest.

The widest part of the collar should be placed over the horse’s head first, and then turned around so that it sits correctly.

Neck collars are available in different sizes.

It is important to use the correct size collar.

You should be able to place a hand between the horse’s windpipe and the bottom of the neck collar.

This type of collar is used for heavy pulling.

Breast collar

A breast collar is a lot lighter than the full collar.

It's a padded strap running around the chest from side to side.

It should sit above the points of shoulder but free from the windpipe.

Hames (if full collar is used)

Two metal or wooden strips that take the full force of the pull, padded by the collar.


Metal loops on the saddle and collar to support the reins.


The traces are attached to strong buckles at each end of the breast collar or hames.

False martingale

A false martingale can be a feature of a harness running from between the front legs, from the centre of the collar to the bellyband, to hold the collar in position and prevent it rising upwards and obstructing the windpipe.

Driving saddle

A piece of harness that lies on the horse’s back and helps balance the load.

The saddle should sit just below the withers without placing any pressure on the spine.

On top of the saddle, two terrets can be found where the reins pass.

Over check/ bearing reins

Some harnesses may have an over check to assist in holding a desired head position and prevent the horse from eating grass.

They hook to the saddle, pass up through the headpiece, and finally clip on to the bridoon snaffle.


Long leather straps which run from the bit to the driver’s hands, in order to guide and control the horse.


A soft padded loop, which is placed under the base of the tail and attached to a D ring at the rear of the saddle, preventing the harness from slipping forward.


A strap that passes around the horse’s quarters allowing the horse to slow the vehicle by taking the weight of the vehicle on his quarters, when travelling downhill or reversing.

Different types of horse harness – Harness driving

Show harness driving

Shire horse in driving harness

Draft horse harness driving

Combined driving

Van or carriage - horse harness

How to harness a horse

Pony racing  - harness driving

Plough horse harness

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Saddle slips forwards or backwards

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Equine aids

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Cleaning the saddle

Cleaning the bridle – Taking the bridle apart – Putting the bridle back together – Oiling the bridle

Saddling up a horse – Numnahs ans saddle cloths