508-298-8504        Training & Outfitting for the Sport of Carriage Driving
Harness Types
- Breast Collar
- Single
- Gig
- Pair
- Tandem
- Four
- Draft
- Full Collar
- Coaching
Breast Collar

Breast collar harness is available for just about any harness you may need. The term "breast collar harness" refers simply to the type of collar that is used to draw the carriage. It is use for single, pair, tandem, and four-in-hand driving, as well as for several other configurations.

The breast collar is made of a wide strap of leather often padded or folded over. This strap is hung across the horse's breast and around the shoulders supported by two neck straps. The main supporting neck strap should be padded, although often times is not. When a pair is harnessed in breast collars they should be put to a carriage with a suspended pole. In the rare occasion that they are used with a drop pole they pole must have a neck yolk. A special collar pad for bearing weight should be placed under the neck strap.

Breast collar harness is probably the most popular style in modern carriage driving. There are several reasons for this.

Price: The most common denominator is usually the dollar. A breast collar harness can cost $100-$1,000 less than its full collar counter part.
Versatility: Unlike a full collar, a breast collar will fit most horses with in a given size range. Breast collars are also acceptable to use on almost all except the most formal or very heavy vehicles.
Weight & Size: A breast collar is usually lighter and smaller than the full collar. This makes harnessing and un-harnessing easier, especially on large horses.

Most common breast collar harness applications:

  • Single horses put to:
  • Meadowbrooks
  • Road Carts
  • Dog Carts (two and four wheeled)
  • Gigs (not as formal as a full collar)
  • Phaetons (not as formal as a full collar)
  • Pairs or Four-in-hands put to:
  • Marathon vehicles
  • Waggonettes
  • Phaetons (not as formal as a full collar)
  • Dog Carts
  • Light or informal Breaks

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To simply say that a harness is a "single" harness can describe any number of harnesses. Most commonly when you order a single harness, the maker will send you a standard four-wheel breast collar style harness.

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Gig harness was developed as the name implies, for the use of gig carriages. The main defining factor that makes a Gig harness is the back pad, also know as the Gig pad.

Wider than the pad designed for a four wheel vehicle, the Gig pad spreads weight over a greater area of the back. It also has a continuous backband that stretches from one shaft tug, through a channel in the saddle to the other shaft tug. This band is not fixed on the saddle, but instead slides from side to side. This allows the horse to maintain its own balance even while the carriage is rolling over uneven or pitched ground.

It has been argued that all horses put to any two wheel vehicle should have this type of harness. Three factors keep this from being a common occurrence. Many who use Meadowbrooks or Road carts are buying equipment on small budgets, and the Gig pad can ad cost to the harness. In other cases people feel that the extra size and generally formal look of a Gig harness is too much for the simple country look of a Meadowbrook or Road cart. Most commonly the buyer was unaware of the benefits or even the options of a Gig type pad.

If you are planning to drive in cross country or marathon type situations with a two wheeled vehicle you would be wise to order your harness with a Gig pad.

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Pair harness comes in both Breast collar and Full collar styles. Unlike its single counterpart, the trace buckles on a pair harness land behind the horses shoulder, directly in line with the saddle. These then buckle into the backband of the saddle, which is fixed to the saddle about 1 inch below the rein terrets. A secondary girth, called the check girth or bellyband, is buckled into the collar at this same junction to keep the arrangement from flopping around while in use. From the saddle runs a turnback or backstrap leading to the crupper fastened around the dock of the horses tail. The breeching is supported by a forked hip strap that runs through the backstrap. Frequently the breeching straps will buckle into the collar along with the traces.

In very simple harness turnouts the pair harness simply consists of the collar with a false martingale, and tugs that buckle into the saddle; the saddle; a turnback also known as a back strap; and trace carriers. Such a turnout is preferred when the horses are drawing a phaeton or other such high class owner driven carriage. This method of harnessing allows those on the ground to admire the quality of the horse, as there is not much extra strapping to interfere with the view of the animal. Some drivers will also tell you that the reduced amount of strapping allows the horses to move more freely. While the horses can brake the carriage with just their collars, it is recommended that one does not drive a carriage without brakes to horses harness this way. In shows held in accordance with American Driving Society rules the turnout must have either breaks or breeching.

Pair reins: Pair reins differ greatly from single reins. The near (left if viewed from the box) rein controls the near side of the bit on both horses, and similarly for the off (right if viewed from the box). This is accomplished with a coupling rein. In the case of the near rein, there is one rein that runs from the near side of the near horses bit, through his terrets and into the driver's hand. Approximately 1/3 of the way up the length of rein from the last terret to the end of that rein are a series of holes punched in this continuous rein. A second rein is buckled into one of these holes from the bottom of the continuous rein. This shorter rein is then run through the terrets of the near horse, but upon leaving the collar terret it stretches over to the near side of the off horse's bit.

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The wheeler's harness for a tandem is nearly the same as the Gig harness. There are three exceptions to this. The saddle gains Tandem terrets. The tandem terret can consist of two separate rings, one on top of the other making a figure eight. Another type of Tandem terret is a large ring horizontally bisected by a bar that has a spinner on it, allow the top rein free motion. The bridle of the wheeler gains rosette type terrets or roger rings on both sides of the bridle. The trace buckles have rings welded in place to accept the traces of the leader or the leader bar. For harnesses that lack this ring, one can use Tandem keys, that slide over the tongue of the trace buckle.

The leader harness consists of a collar, pad, backstrap traces and trace bearers. The back pad differs from those of single or pair harness in that there are no billets to accept tugs of any description. Instead there is a strap sewn to the saddle just below the terret. The strap parallels the pad until it is terminated by being sewn onto the girth billet. The traces are passed from the collar through the opening that is created that strap.

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Four-in-hand harness is in essence two pair harness, with some minor modifications. The wheeler harness gains a rein terret in the middle of the saddle for each horse. The bridles of the wheel horses also have a terret or a roger ring. In one arrangement the terret is part of the outside rosette on the brow band. A Roger Ring is a separate ring that shares a buckle with the throat latch.

The leaders of a four-in-hand never wear breeching, as they have no way to stop or slow the carriage. The leader traces are long than those that would be used to draw a carriage. The traces often terminate in a cock eye or a dee ring, to be fastened to the leader bars by a metal scroll or snap shackle.

The reins of the leaders are fashioned in the same way as wheeler reins, however after the coupling buckles the rein is more than twice the length of a wheeler rein. Upon the rein passing through the saddle of the leader is passed through the roger ring on the corresponding wheeler's bridle, then through the center terret on the saddle of the same wheeler, and finally to the driver's hand.

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Draft harness includes farm, logging and commercial harness. Most draft harness comes with a full collar because the horses are required to pull very heavy loads. Draft harness can be very simple and utilitarian in cases of work type harness. In commercial harness there can be a great deal of ornamentation.

The fit of draft harness has a bit more leeway.

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Full Collar

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Index of Articles
Stand 5 Tips to Teach Your Horse to Stand Take a Walk! Long and Low Building a Half-Halt Teaching Your Horse to Move off the Whip Legging Up for the Season Reinback Tips and Tricks Long Lining Cavaletti Find the Vertical
About The CAA Driver Proficiency Program The Rein Board More Exercises at the Reinboard Driving from the Left Hand Drive By the Seat of Your Pants! Follow the Leader (Reins)
Tracking Time Marathon Checklist What does CDE Groom do? Turnout Tips & Strategies PART 1 Turnout PART 2 Carriage Types Safety, Care, & Maintenance Measurements & Weights 5 Tips for Harness Safety Harness Types Collar Types Color Cleaning & Conditioning Polishing Tips Measuring Guidelines A Bit on Bits A Bit Confused (Glory Bits) Understanding the Curb Selecting a Whip Tipperary Vest Fitting Guide Hat/Helmet Measuring How to Measure for Gloves Metric/English Conversion Downloadable Guides