A Glossary Of Harness Parts & Related Terms

  • Apron, Driving Apron, Lap Robe, Knee Rug
  • The use of a driving apron today is a carryover from the days when it was needed to protect clothing from being soiled by the reins or dirt thrown up by the horse’s feet. The apron is made to fasten around the waist, is cut long enough to almost reach the feet, and is wide enough to tuck in well when seated. In summer it may be a cotton or linen material. In the winter, a heavier material, such as wool, adds warmth.

  • Backstrap, Turnback (to fold back)
  • The backstrap connects the crupper to a Dee on the back of the saddle. It usually has a slot for a hip strap and can be adjusted for best placement of the hip strap and the crupper. The crupper may be either buckled, or sewn solid into the backstrap. Also see Crupper.

  • Backpad
  • single harnes with Neck Collar 1
    See Saddle.

  • Bellyband
  • A bellyband is usually considered to be a strap that passes around an animal’s belly, and is used to keep the shafts of a vehicle securely in position.

    The bellyband may be either a short strap, ending with a buckle on each end, or it may have a buckle and long billet on each end. The short bellyband is buckled to shaft tugs having a billet as part of the tug. The billets of the longer bellyband are used with open tugs and are wrapped around the shafts before being buckled back into themselves. This bellyband is also referred to as shaft wraps, wrap straps, and tie downs.

    There is considerable confusion of this term. Besides confusion between the short and shaft wrap style of bellyband, some references list a bellyband to be synonymous with the girth. This is particularly easy to understand since most bellybands are loosely fixed to the girth with one or two keepers.

    For better clarity, I suggest using (girth with a) bellyband to identify the shorter bellyband and (girth with) shaft wraps to identify the version with long billets.

  • Billet, Point, Tongue
  • A billet seems to be the term given to the strap end or point, punched with holds, which is fastened into a buckle.

  • Breast Plate
  • The Breast Collar
    Breast Plate is used by some to describe a breast collar. It is also used to describe a false martingale. I would totally avoid the used of this term to avoid this confusion.
    Also see False Martingale and Collars.

  • Breeching
  • The breeching is a wide strap that passes around the hindquarters of a horse in harness. It is part of the apparatus that allows the horse to stop or reverse an attached vehicle. The breeching is held in position by a hip or loin strap, running over the rump. The breeching should hang nearly horizontal, resting about where the rump begins to curve into the leg. If too high, it tends to ride up towards the tail. If too low, it inhibits freedom of leg motion. The breeching should be adjusted such that there is room for about four fingers (the width of a hand) to pass between the rear of the horse and the breeching, when the horse is in draft.

  • Breeching Dee, Footman’s Loop
  • A breeching Dee is a bracket of “D” shape that is fastened to the underside of each shaft. Breeching straps are passed through the breeching Dee before they are wrapped around the shafts.

  • Breeching Straps, Holdback Straps, Quarter Straps
  • Breeching straps are straps that run from the ring on the breeching to the shafts. They usually pass through a breeching Dee or footman’s loop on the shaft before being wrapped around the shaft. They are used to stop forward motion of a carriage when the horse stops, thus, also commonly called holdback straps. Breeching or holdback straps also cause a carriage to reverse direction when a horse backs up.

    I have seen the term quarter strap confusingly used synonymously for both a hip strap and the breeching strap. I prefer to reserve the use of this term for a strap similar to a breeching strap that connects the ring of the breeching to a ring on the end of the choke strap of a neck yoke style pair harness. This strap passes under the rear quarter of the belly of the animal and usually includes a snap and Conway buckle for attachment and adjustment, respectively.

  • Choke Strap
  • A choke strap is defined, like a false martingale, as a strap that runs between the front legs of the horse, from the bellyband to the collar. However, I think it is used more frequently to describe a similar strap on a draft horse harness. On the draft harness, this strap is usually terminated with a snap that is used to connect to a neck yoke, and indirectly, to the collar.

  • Collars: Neck, Full, or Round, and Breast
  • The Bridle and Neck Collar (in use)
    A collar is the portion of a harness that is fitted around a horse’s shoulders or chest. Pressure of the horse against the collar is transmitted into forward motion of a vehicle or some other object. Collars may be one of two general forms: a neck collar or breast collar.

    A neck collar may also be referred to as a round, or full collar. A neck collar is a padded fixture that completely encircles a horse’s neck, resting against his shoulder. Neck collars have a groove that accommodates hames, to which the traces are attached. A neck collar is usually used for formal vehicles and for vehicles having a heavy draft.

    A breast collar is a wide strap placed around the horse’s chest, or breast, rather than around his neck. The traces are fastened directly (either buckled or sewn) to breast collars. A breast collar is not suitable for pulling heavy loads because the weight of the vehicle is localized rather than distributed over the whole of the shoulder area. Breast collars are more appropriately used with informal vehicles, having a light draft, such as two wheeled carts. A singletree must be used with a breast collar. Shoulder soreness is likely to occur from normal shoulder motion against a breast collar if solid trace attachments are permitted.

  • Come – Get
  • Come and Get are verbal cues that may be used to assist a driving horse in turning. Come would signal a right turn and Get would be used to turn left. Initially, most people find it difficult to remember which command is used for which direction. It may be easier if one thinks of it from the driver’s point of view, normally sitting on the right side of a carriage. In this case, think Come, turn right towards me, and Get, left, get away from me.
    Also see Gee – Haw.

  • Coupling Rein
  • A coupling rein is the shorter of a pair-horse driving rein. It runs from the inside bit of one horse to the draft rein of the opposite horse. The two reins connect over the hindquarters of the horse with an adjustable buckle.

    Two dictionary references also describe a checkrein to match the definition of a coupling rein. However, I would reserve use of the term checkrein to be synonymous with bearing rein to reduce confusion of terms.
    Also see Checkrein under Bridle.

  • Crupper
  • A crupper is the harness piece that secures the saddle from the rear. The purpose of the crupper is to prevent the saddle from being pushed forward along a horse’s back, as is most likely to happen when no breeching is used or when a checkrein is in play.

    There is some confusion in the use of this term. Generally, today, crupper seems to be used specifically to refer to the soft, smooth (linseed filled) tailpiece that fits under the horse’s tail. However, there is also considerable use of crupper being used to refer to the complete assembly consisting of the backstrap and the tailpiece, and maybe even including the hip strap.
    Since each part of this assembly is individually and adequately named, I suggest we continue to use crupper to refer to the padded tailpiece.

  • Dee, “D”
  • gloria austin
    A Dee is a metal fitting, usually “D” shaped, through which various parts of a harness pass.

  • Doubletree, Evener
  • A doubletree is a bar used to harness two horses to a carriage or other vehicle. In the case of a carriage, the double tree is usually fastened to the pole with a center pivot. Singletrees are fastened to each end of the doubletree, again with a pivot connection. The traces of each horse are then hooked to one of the singletrees. The pivot connections allow for a balancing, or evening, of the pull of each horse. Also see Whiffletree

  • Draft Rein
  • A draft rein is the longer of the pair-horse driving reins. It runs straight from the hand to the outside bit of the appropriate horse. (Left rein to left horse and right rein to right horse.)
    Also see Coupling Rein.

  • False Martingale, Breast Plate, Choke Strap
  • A false martingale is a strap that runs between the front legs of the horse, from the girth to the collar. According to Kellogg, “They do little except to keep the collar from riding up too high on the chest and are mainly for decoration – certainly they are not a necessary part of the light single-horse driving harness.” Also see Martingale and Choke Strap.

  • Footman’s Loop
  • See Breeching Dee

  • Gee – Haw
  • Gee and Haw are verbal cues that may be used to assist an equine in turning. Gee would signal a right turn and Haw would be used to turn left. There is no really easy way to remember which term represent right and which represents left. However simple associations might help some. First think of Haw as being the shorter form, “Ha”. Then think of the shorter words going together and the longer words belonging together. It is now easier to remember that Ha (Haw) is left and Gee is right! Some might also prefer to associate right with Gee because right has the letter “g” in it. Gee and Haw might be more frequently used among draft horse people while Come and Get are more likely to be used with carriage horses. Also see Come – Get.

  • Girth
  • Charles Kellogg
    A girth is a band or strap placed around the belly of a horse for securing a saddle, etc. Related terms are:
    Girth & Wrap Straps, Shaft Wraps, or Tie Down Straps
    Girth with Sliding Bellyband, Double Girth, Surcingle
    Also see Bellyband

  • Gloves
  • Although gloves are a required accessory in the show ring, many experts feel they are a daily necessity. They must be russet (natural) or brown in color to prevent dyes of any other color from staining the hands. They should be well fitting, and of a soft, pliable leather such as deer or goat skin. Size is important, but somewhat of a personal determination. Some claim gloves should initially be a size large than normal. Although they must transmit a good feel of the reins, if too tight, gloves can be restrictive and hinder the desired hand control and feel.

  • Hip Strap, Loin Strap, Quarter Strap
  • The hip strap is a strap that is used to support the breeching. It goes over the hips of the horse, passing through a loop in the backstrap before buckling into the breeching on each side of the horse. Each end of the hip strap is usually split into two billets.

    I would avoid the use of quarter strap in reference to this harness part to reduce confusion. Also see quarter straps as mentioned under breeching straps.

  • Holdback Strap
  • Attachment of the Breeching or Holdback Strap
    See Breeching Straps

  • Hames
  • Hames are curved steel arms that are fitted into a groove on a neck collar. They are held together, at the top and bottom, by leather straps (hame straps) or some other such fixtures (kidney links, etc.). Either fixed or flexible terrets are usually included near the top of each hame to guide the reins. The traces are indirectly connected to an eye towards the lower end of the hames. This distributes the draft or pull of the traces, uniformly along the horse’s shoulder.

  • Hame Straps
  • Hames straps are leather straps that connect the hames together at the top and bottom. In some more formal turnouts, metal fasteners (kidney links) are used at the bottom of the hames, in place of a hame strap.

  • Lazy Straps
  • Lazy straps are leather straps that connect to the rings in the end of the breeching. They are used to support the traces, usually of a pair harness.

  • Martingale
  • A martingale is a strap that runs between the front legs of the horse, from the bellyband to the bridle. It is used to keep the horse from throwing his head up, or possibly from carrying it too high. However, most pleasure driving people feel that the martingale is no substitute for proper training, and should be dispensed with as soon as possible.
    Also see False Martingale.

  • Near Side
    The near side is the left side of a horse. The term may have originated from the fact that a wagoner usually walked on the left side of his team. Thus, the left side of the horse was always nearest to his side. Also see Off Side.

  • Neck Strap
  • tom ryder 2
    The neck strap is the support for a breast collar. It goes over the neck, attaching to the breast collar with buckles (usually two per side) for adjustment. The neck strap usually includes either fixed or flexible rein turrets to guide the reins to the bit.

  • Neck Yoke
  • A neck yoke is a bar (usually wooden) fastened to the collars of a pair of horses. It has a wide leather collar or ring fixed around its center to support the pole of the vehicle to which they are harnessed. A tapered metal fitting (tongue) on the end of the pole is inserted into the neck yoke collar. It is through this neck yoke connection that the vehicle is steered, stopped, and reversed.

    The “crab” type of pole head, used with pole straps or chains, replaces the neck yoke on some more formal vehicles.

  • Neck Yoke Straps
  • Neck yoke straps are strong leather straps that connect the ends of a neck yoke to the collar of each horse in a pair.

  • Off Side
  • The off side of a horse is his right side. Also see Near Side.

  • Pole, Tongue
  • A pole is (usually) a wood member that runs between a pair of horses, from the front axle of a carriage to the head of the horses. The pole is attached to the front of the horses and serves as a lever to steer and stop the vehicle.

    Although tongue is sometimes used to refer to the complete pole, it might be better used to refer to the tapered metal fitting on the end of a pole (also pole end cap) that is inserted into a neck yoke. Also see Neck Yoke and Pole Crab.

  • Pole Chain
  • A pole chain is a metal chain used to connect a horse, in double harness, to the front end of a vehicle’s pole. The pole will have been fitted with a pole crab. Pole chains are typically seen on “servant driven” types of vehicles.

  • Pole Crab
  • A pole crab may refer to different metal ends used to fasten horses to the pole. Some accept pole pieces (leather straps) and some are made for pole chains.

  • Pole Strap, Pole Piece
  • A pole strap is a leather strap used to connect a horse, in double harness, to the front end of a pole. Pole straps are typically seen on “owner driven” types of vehicles.

  • “Putting to”
  • “Putting to” is a term used to define the process of connecting a horse to a vehicle.

  • Quarter Straps
  • I have seen the term quarter strap confusingly used synonymously for both a hip strap and the breeching strap. I prefer to reserve the use of this term for a strap similar to a breeching strap that connects the ring of the breeching to a ring on the end of the choke strap of a neck yoke style pair harness. This strap passes under the rear quarter of the belly of the animal and usually includes a snap and Conway buckle for attachment and adjustment, respectively.

  • Reins, Lines, Ribbons
  • A Breast Collar (in use)
    Reins are straps fastened to a bit and are used to direct and control a horse. Reins are sometimes used synonymously with lines. However it has been my experience that lines and ribbons are often used by people having a stronger draft horse background. In one reference, lines were listed for direction and control – reins were used to refer to “check reins”.

    Driving reins for both black and brown harness (or at least the hand pieces of the driving reins) are made of brown or russet (natural) leather. Brown reins are used in preference to black reins to prevent the black dye from staining the hands, gloves, and clothing.

    A buckle for coupling the hand piece ends together is usually included on one of the reins. A loop of leather is sewn to this buckle and is hooked over the little finger of the left hand to keep the reins off the floor of the vehicle.
    The size of the coupling buckle should be small enough that the associated billet is weak and will easily break if stressed. In case of an accident, it is preferred that the reins come uncoupled rather than see something, or someone, be dragged.

  • Saddle, Pad or Backpad
  • A saddle is a well-built, padded leather assembly, placed on the horse’s back. It acts as the central harness anchor, having a checkrein hook at the front, a backstrap Dee at the rear, and includes rein terrets. Billets at the ends of each side panel are buckled into a girth to hold the saddle in place on the horse’s back. Most saddles made today generally include some patent leather.

    One of the main functions of a saddle is to support the shafts in a single harness. The saddle should, therefore, be well stuffed on each side panel to prevent it from resting on the horse’s spine. Many references mention a back band for carrying the shaft tugs. They also speak of it as a separate harness part which passes through slits in the saddle’s seat and lining. Today’s saddles generally include the function of the back band as an integral part of the saddle assembly. It appears as a second set of billets, slightly higher than the girth billets. The shaft tugs are buckled to each of this second set of billets.

    A Pad or Backpad is usually used to refer to the smaller lightweight “saddle” of a pair harness. It can be lighter because no (shaft) weight is borne through it to the horses’ backs.

  • Singletree, Whiffletree, Whippletree, Swivel tree, Swingle tree
  • A Singletree is a pivoting (wooden) bar on a vehicle to which the traces are attached. The singletree transmits the pull of the horse and harness to the vehicle. It allows the harness to have more mobility at the shoulders of the horse than does a solid trace attachment. It must be use with a breast collar to prevent shoulders soreness. Also see Whiffletree

  • Shafts, Thills, Fills
  • Shaft Tugs
    Shafts are the two, shaped, traditionally wooden pieces that extend from the front of a carriage. The horse is harnessed between them, providing steering and forward motion to the vehicle, usually through a single tree mounted on a crossbar between the shafts. In addition, shafts stop the vehicle, and transmit the reverse motion when backing up. On a two wheeler, shafts also provide balance for the vehicle.

    The use of fills, rather than shafts, appears to be a misnomer, or at best, an upstate New York colloquialism. It may have originated from a mispronunciation of thills? I would avoid the use of fills and the confusion it might cause elsewhere.

  • Shaft Loops, Shaft Tugs
  • See Tugs

  • Shaft Stops
  • Shaft stops are metal fittings, placed on the shafts at the location of the shaft tugs. They give the shaft tugs a solid surface to rest or push against and are used to prevent the tugs from freely sliding back on the shafts. They are used in conjunction with shaft wraps and are a necessity to create the braking force if breeching is not used.

  • Shaft Wraps, Wraps Straps, and Tie Downs
  • Shaft wraps refer to a bellyband having a buckle and long billet on each end. They pass under the belly of the horse and are wrapped around each shaft when open tugs are used. Shaft wraps are used to prevent the shaft from rising when a horse is working against the breeching, or in the case of a two wheeler, going up hill, or improperly balanced, etc. Shaft wraps can also be used to help secure the location of the tugs to the shaft, especially when no breeching is being used. Shaft wraps are usually loosely held to a girth with either one or two keepers.
    Also see Bellyband and Shaft Stops.

  • Spares Kit
  • A spares kit is a recommended assembly of spare parts and tools that may be carried on a horse drawn vehicle to assist with a break down or accident. They are usually contained in some form of rolled carrier or other containment.

  • Tailpiece
  • The tailpiece is a soft, smooth, linseed filled tube of leather that fits under the horse’s tail. It is either sewn or buckled into the back trap. It is frequently referred to as the crupper.
    Also see Crupper.

  • Team
  • A team is usually considered to be two or more animals working together, especially pulling a vehicle or agricultural equipment. However, the Pennsylvania Amish consider their single horse and carriage to be a team!

  • Terrets
  • single harnes with Neck Collar 1
    Terrets are metal rings attached to the harness saddle, hames, or neck strap. They serve as rein guides. Some may be flexible and others may be solid or fixed.

  • Traces
  • Traces are straps connecting a breast collar, or hames on a neck collar, to some device, usually the singletree on a vehicle. They transmit the push of the animal against the collar into a pulling of the vehicle. In leather harnesses, traces may vary from one to several pieces of leather sewn together. In some cases, a layer of synthetic material may be included in the sandwich. Traces in some draft harness are simply chains, covered to protect the animal from chaffing.
    Leather traces are usually buckled into the breast collar or the hames (indirectly through hame tugs) where they can be adjusted for length. If the trace is permanently fixed to the collar or hames, adjustment is made at the singletree by selecting one of usually three slots made in the trace ends. This method of adjustment is not as elegant looking as with buckle-in traces.

  • Trace Carrier
  • Trace carrier is a term used to describe a loose strap that goes around a shaft, about half way between the shaft tug and the singletree. The trace passes through this strap to reduce excessive movement during use.

  • Tugs, Shaft Tugs, Shaft Loops, Hame or Trace Tugs, Up Tugs
  • Shaft Tugs
    Strictly speaking, a tug is a short leather strap or loop used for hard pulling. There are many tugs in a horse harness. Most notably is the shaft tug or shaft loop.

    A shaft tug is a buckle fitted loop that is attached to the saddle to support the shafts of a single horse drawn vehicle. Open tugs are used with most two wheeled vehicles. One school of thought is that, when properly balanced, the shafts ride freely in the tugs so they don’t transmit the jogging motion of the horse to the cart. Equally popular, but slight contradictory, is the use of shaft wraps. They are use to prevent the shafts from floating, and rising when a horse is going up hill, working against the breeching, etc.

    French or Tilbury tugs are other types of shaft tugs that might be used on more formal 4-wheeled vehicles. They hold the shafts securely, without additional wrapping.

    Hame or trace tugs are short buckle-fitted straps, used to attach the traces to the hames.

    Up tugs are similarly, short straps ending with buckles for holding parts of the harness “up” in places, such as on the breast collar and the breeching.

  • Turnout
  • Turnout is the term used to describe the complete horse drawn assembly. It includes the driver’s clothing and appointments, in addition to the horse, harness, and vehicle.

  • Whip 1
  • Open tug and billet with Bellyband

    Open tug and billet with Bellyband


    The whip is a hand held aid, used for correction and cueing rather than encouragement or punishment. It may very in length and type, depending on it’s used. However, it is often felt that a whip should have a lash long enough to be able to reach the shoulder of the horse in harness.

    The whip is normally held at its balance point in the right hand, pointing forward and to the left (some say towards the left ear of your horse). The whip is positioned about 45o above the horizontal and about 45o to the left from, the body of the horse.
    Some allow their whip to gradually drift to a position parallel to their body (perpendicular to the horse). This practice is frowned upon as it rudely dangles the lash of the whip in the faces of passengers, pedestrians, or other passers-by.

  • Whip 2
  • A whip is also the name given to a person who drives a horse drawn carriage.

  • Whip Socket
  • A whip socket is either a wooden or metal fixture, usually mounted on the dash of a vehicle, for holding a whip.

  • Whiffletree, Whippletree
  • Open tug with Shaft Wrap

    Open tug with Shaft Wrap


    Whiffletree seems to be the prefer spelling of these two terms. There is also some indication that the plural of these terms is used to refer to the multiple hitching of a pair, as with a doubletree and two whiffletrees, or a set of whiffletrees.
    Also see doubletree and singletree

  • Whoa
  • Whoa is the term normally used to command an animal to stop motion (either forward or backward). It should be used consistently and exclusively for that purpose and should be given in an unmistakably firm tone of voice, definitely different from that voice used to calm or sooth an animal.

    Whoa should not be used to slow a horse’s speed. Something like “easy”, “slow”, or the command for the next slower gate, “walk”, should be used for such downward transitions.

    Whoa should not be used to stop fidgeting – to get the animal to settle down. “Stand”, “freeze” or something similar, should be the command used when quiet standing is desired.

    One might loosely look at it this way: If you haven’t previously given a horse a command to move (Walk), then you probably shouldn’t be asking him to stop (Whoa). You probably want to be using a different command!

    Whoa is pronounced (wo), not ‘hoe’ or ‘ho’. A hoe is the tool used to cultivate your garden. Multiple ho’s are what Santa Claus says, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” If you wish to “walk the walk”, then I suggest you “learn to talk the talk!” Sorry, I will get off my soapbox now! 

    Bridle

  • Bits
  • Liverpool
  • A few bits
    The Liverpool bit is one of the most traditional curbed driving bits. It, or one of its variations, is adequate for most applications. Reins may be attached to a Liverpool in one of several (up to 5) positions, giving a successively greater degree of leverage on the curb. Most Liverpool bits also have a smooth and rough side to the bit. Rotating the bit to the rough side can provide additional control. However, it has been said that if a horse must be used with one of the more severe curb positions, he has not been properly trained!

    Liverpool bits may come with either a fixed cheek or a swivel cheek. It is the feeling of some that a swivel cheek bit allows for potential pinching of the lips.

  • Snaffle
  • A snaffle bit may be used if a curb bit is not desired. It is entirely in keeping with less formal turnouts, according to Ryder. A jointed driving snaffle, as used by many Amish, may be adequate for the some ordinary driving purposed. However, most driving experts prefer a double ring, broken snaffle, usually referred to as a Wilson Snaffle.

  • Check bit, Bridoon
  • A check bit is a secondary bit, use solely with a checkrein. An over check bit is a slender, straight, or maybe slightly mullen mouthed, bit. A bridoon is similar, but a jointed bit. Check bits should be held in place with thin carrying straps, attached to the upper buckles of the check pieces.

  • Blinders, Blinds, Blinkers, Winkers (English)
  • Blinders are the two flaps on a bridle that cover a horse’s eyes. They are used to reduce his peripheral vision, thus limiting his ability to see objects at his sides and behind him. Care should be taken that the eyes are located in the vertical center of the blinder, and the blinders don’t touch the horse’s eyelashes.

    The blinders are sewn to cheek pieces at the sides of the face, and to straps joined together in the middle of the face. The piece on the face then continues and is attached to a buckle in the center of the crown piece. These straps are usually a covering for support wires that allow the blinders to be held at a desired distance from the horse’s face. This assembly is sometimes referred to as a Blinker or Winker Stay.

    Blinders may have several shapes, such as Square, Dee, Round, or Hatchet. Square (with rounded corners) or Dee shapes are typically used on a pleasure driving harness with a two wheeled vehicle.

  • Brow band
  • The Bridle
    The brow band is a strap that runs across the forehead, above the eyes, and in front of the ears. It may be embellished with some sort of metal decoration that matches the rest of the harness hardware. The brow band usually ends with a rosette that is attached to the crown piece. The combined length of the crown piece and brow band must be such that the ears are free from chaffing.

  • Checkrein, Bearing Rein, Over Check, Side Check
  • A checkrein is a short rein, running from a separate check or bridoon bit, to a hook on the harness saddle. It is used to prevent a horse from lowering his head. It may be one of two types: an over check or a side check.
    An over check is a single rein running from the saddle, passing through a slot in the crown piece. It is split on the face of the horse before going to each side of the bit.

    A side check is two reins coming from the saddle, one on each side of the horse’s head, passing through carriers on the sides of the crown piece before continuing to the bit.

    Over checks are not allowed in most ADS sanctioned events. However, they are acceptable, even required, in some breed shows. Although side checks are accepted by ADS, most people train to drive without the need or use of a checkrein.

  • Curb Chain
  • Slide1
    A curb chain is fastened under a horse’s chin, from one side of a curb bit (Liverpool type) to the other side. It is used to cause leverage on the horse’s jaw in proportion to the pull of the reins. It is usually twisted flat. If not, more severe curb action will be created. A curb chain should have about two fingers of space between the chain and the horse’s chin. This would allow the shanks of the bit to be rotated to an angle of about 45o with the line of the face before the curb action becomes effective.

  • Cheek Pieces
  • Cheek pieces may be plain or more typically, support blinders. The upper end is buckled to the crown piece. The lower end consists of a buckle and billet for attaching the bit. Cheek pieces may have boxed keeps of a tooled design or plain keepers.

  • Crown Piece
  • The crown piece is a strap that goes over the top (crown) of the horse’s head, fitting comfortably behind the ears. It usually ends with two billets on each side, one for attaching the cheek pieces, and the other for the throatlatch. The crown piece may also have Dees sewn on each side to support side checkreins.

  • Face Drop
  • The face drop is purely a decorative piece that sits on the forehead of the horse and is attached to the center buckle on the crown piece.

  • Noseband
  • The noseband holds the cheek pieces close to the horse’s head to assure he has no rear vision past the blinders. It may also help to keep the mouth shut, depending on its length and position. The noseband is joined by a buckle beneath the jaw, on the left side of a single harness. In some cases, the noseband might be joined on both sides of the jaw. The height of a noseband may sometimes be varied by being connected with separate carrying straps, fastened to the upper buckles of the cheek pieces. The noseband, or at least some variation the noseband, is often called a cavesson on a riding bridle.

  • Throatlatch
  • The throatlatch is a strap that passes under the throat of the horse and buckles to billets at each side of the crown piece. The throatlatch should be fastened tight enough to prevent the horse from throwing or rubbing the bridle off. A free space of about the width of two fingers may be a good starting point for proper adjustment.


  • Bibliography
  • On the Box Seat, by Tom Ryder, 1983
    Driving the Horse in Harness, by Charles Kellogg, 1978, (past editor of the Whip)
    A Guide to Driving Horses, by Sallie Walrond, 1975
    Breaking & Training the Driving Horse, by Doris Ganton, 1972
    Official Driving Handbook (CCA), Edited by Tom Ryder
    Teach Your Horse to Drive, video by Mary Ruth Marks.
    Smucker’s Harness Catalog
    Bowman’s Harness Catalog
    Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1986)
    MS Encarta Word English Dictionary (1999)
    Various articles from the Driving Digest Magazine
    Various other reprints
    Gloria Austin, Continental Acres, Weirsdale, Florida
    Bill Remely, Walnut Hill, Pittsford, NY
    Jonni Jewel, CDL, Dallas, Texas
    Dianna Taplin, CDL, Soldonta, Alaska
    Don Grentzinger, NDS, Brockport, NY

  • Footnotes
  • 1 Driving the Horse in Harness, by Charles Kellogg, pages 44-51
    2 On the Box Seat, by Tom Ryder, page 25
    3 Harnessing & Hitching the Single Carriage Horse, by W. Craig Kellogg, DDM Reprints

    This was written to help reduce some of the confusion that exists in the multiple nomenclatures of various harness parts.

    It is a consolidation of names and descriptions copied, paraphrased, or edited from a variety of sources.

    The ultimate description of these terms is slanted towards a single, lightweight driving horse, harnessed according to ADS guidelines.

    Compiled by Bob Brunsdon in February 2001

    Revised by Gloria Austin in 2011