The traces are attached to the hames in the manner already indicated, or by other means. Perhaps the best, because the most convenient, is the French plan, in which a piece like a hammer-head is fixed to each hame, and at the end of the trace is a slot or loop which passes sideways over the projection, so that when pulled straight it is firmly retained. This contrivance allows the trace to play easily, and the traces can be readily disengaged from the hames, so that a horse can be released from the traces by one person without leaving the animal's head.
Chafed shoulders should be carefully guarded against in all horses, but in young ones more particularly, as it may make them jib, or so badly scar the skin as to render it liable to become raw very quickly. The horse must either be rested and astringent lotions applied, or the collar must be eased at the chafed part, if this is limited, or the animal may be worked in a breast-strap or collar. The latter is sometimes used continuously, but the only advantage it possesses is that it fits every horse; otherwise it is not so good as the collar.
When the shoulder is chafed in a particular part on a journey, and there is no opportunity for having the collar altered, an opening may be made in the lining and some of the stuffing removed over the part. Or if it is unadvisable to damage the collar in this way, a piece of cloth folded to make a pad may be tied on the collar immediately above the injured place, so as to relieve it from pressure; this, however, is a very temporary expedient.
The traces should be of equal length, otherwise traction will be more on one shoulder than the other, to the injury of that which sustains most pressure. Traces for gentlemen's carriage horses usually have a large buckle not far from the collar, with the view of shortening them; but this is rarely necessary, unless the same traces are used with various-sized horses, and they might be dispensed with, if there is a chain at the carriage end of the trace, the links of which can be put over a hook in the carriage.
The pad or saddle sustains the weight of the shafts by means of the tugs attached to it. For four-wheeled carriage horses it may be very light, as although it has to undergo some strain when the carriage is descending a hill if the horse has no breeching, or the vehicle is not furnished with a drag, yet this does not much affect the animal's back. The tugs ought to be of a proper length, so as to suspend the shafts at a proper height, which again depends upon the bend of the latter. If the traces are too long, the carriage is drawn by the tugs instead of by the traces, and this generally makes the horse uneasy; while if they are too short the pad and tugs are pushed forward, and the crupper is rendered too tight.
For heavy draught horses, the saddle should be large, so as to ensure ample length and width of bearing surface, and be also well stuffed. These horses are much more liable to sore backs than light harness horses, because they receive less attention, and also because of the harder work they undergo, and the stuffing and lining of the saddles being allowed to become hard and lumpy.
The breeching is generally worn in single harness, but it is really only required when the carriage is heavy, to assist in backing it or in going down hill; when it is short, so as to prevent the front part of the vehicle coming forward on the horse, which might have a dangerous result. If a kicking strap is also worn, then the breeching must be longer; the strap should be sufficiently loose to permit the horse to trot without chafing his back, and it ought to be fastened to the shaft so that it lies two inches beyond the hip bones.
The crupper keeps the pad in its proper place, and is also necessary if a kicking strap is worn. Many horses, however, never like it, and often protest against its use by kicking. The part which passes beneath the tail should be smooth, and be kept very clean; it ought to be thick, linseed being recommended to stuff it with. The crupper is put on before the pad is put in its place, and great care should be taken to keep all hairs from between it and the under surface of the tail.
The bridle does not call for much notice. As "the instrument for guiding, restraining, and stopping a horse," it consists of the headstall and bit, with generally blinkers attached to the former, and very frequently what is called a "bearing-rein." The most important part of the bridle is the "bit," which, whatever may be its shape or dimensions, should act in such a way as to control the horse with little effort to the driver, and without irritating and paining the animal. It is very often the J contrary, however; for unfortunately, as has been truly remarked, from sheer carelessness and ignorance, a great deal of cruelty is daily practised on the horses of the higher and richer classes, in the way of ill-proportioned, ill-shaped, and ill-fitting bits, which, adjusted in a manner that converts them into instruments of torture, cultivate vice and create unsoundness.
Bad bits and bitting cause "hard mouths, make horses restless and runaways, and often seriously damage the lower jaw."
Whatever may be the shape of the bit, it should be light and properly fitted to the mouth. When too large it is almost as injurious as when too small. The mouthpiece should be exactly the width of the mouth, so that it fits close to the outer surface of the lips; most of the bits in use are too wide in this part, and if they have a port this fault is exaggerated in its ill effects.
The bit should also be in its proper place in the mouth, a short distance above the tush. If a curb-chain is employed, this ought to be rather loose than otherwise, and it should be somewhat broad.
The bits in ordinary use are the plain snaffle, the ring-snaffle, curb-bits, of various patterns - as the "Buxton," "Liverpool," "Chifney," etc., all of which have their admirers, and are adapted for different kinds of mouths, as well as to suit the hands of different drivers.
Perhaps no part of the horse's harness has given rise to more discussion than the use of the "bearing-rein." The object of this piece of harness is to relieve the strain on the driver's hands when the horse is impetuous through high feeding and insufficient work, knocks his head about, and is inclined to be fidgety and unmanageable. It is also of service in preventing the horse rubbing his head against the end of the shaft, or the pole (if in double harness), and so getting his bridle fixed, which might lead to serious consequences. Horses heavy in hand are also supposed to be easier to drive when wearing a bearing-rein.
The rein is a part of the bridle, and is buckled either to a separate snaffle, if a double bridle is worn, or to the cheek of a Pelham bit - attached to the bit; it passes through rings affixed to the headstall, and is carried back to a peg or hook in the harness-pad. When properly applied, it should allow the snaffle to hang a short distance from the angle of the lips, and it ought to be of such a length that when the horse raises his head to trot it is then quite slack. Such a bearing-rein, so far from being an inconvenience or torment to the horse, if high-spirited will prove of assistance, and will certainly help the driver in averting accidents.
But the "gag" bearing-rein, and its usual mode of application, is an abomination and a cruelty to horses, and is applied to all alike in the same manner.
This is a round rein passing from a point of the headstall near the brow-band on each side, through a swivel attached to the snaffle-bit, through another ring, and then drawn so tight to the pad-hook that the corners of the mouth are rigidly drawn up towards the horse's eyes; added to this is a wide curb-chain linked up tight, so that the unfortunate horse is trussed up by the head to his tail, through the medium of the pad and crupper, and looks a perfect mockery of what he should be. When he has been driven for some distance or kept in harness for some hours, we can scarcely wonder that his suffering is great, while the physical damage done is sometimes very marked. It is against the abuse of the bearing-rein, when applied in this way, that all friends of the horse should protest. No sensible coachman who knows his business, and is not too lazy or indifferent to attend to it, will use the gag bearing-rein.
Horses doing hard work do not require bearing-reins; for heavy draught horses they should never be employed, as they J 2 hinder them in working properly, and are of no advantage whatever.
The advantage of blinkers is very questionable. There can be no doubt whatever that fashion and custom alone sanction their use. Horses can be utilised better without than with them, and all horses should be trained to harness without them. They are not worn on harness horses in the army, and in civil life hundreds of horses are worked without them. They make the bridles heavier and more expensive, require more cleaning, cause the horse's head to be hotter, injure the eyes, and are certainly unsightly to any one who admires the noble animal. Blinkers ought to be abolished.
For pair-horse harness, the equipment should also be light and strong. Breeching is rarely worn, as the strain of backing and holding back the carriage is thrown upon the pole and pole-chains, as well as upon the break. Otherwise there is not much difference in single and double harness.
"With regard to the harness of heavy draught horses, a word must be spoken in urging the adoption of that which is light, yet strong. Nothing can be more ludicrous and nonsensical than the massive, cumbrous equipment sometimes worn by agricultural, and even town horses - equipment which can only overburden them, add largely to the saddler's bills, and make the animals look uncomfortable and grotesque.
The cleaning, repair, and preservation of harness requires attention; but this is seldom neglected with that of light horses. With regard to heavy harness, Reynolds insists on every part being maintained in good repair; many accidents are occasioned, and not a few runaway horses made, by defective gearing. On many farmsteads, only rainy days, which are sometimes few and far between, are devoted to the cleaning of harness. Such neglect cannot be economical in practice; dirty collar and saddle linings are prolific causes of sore shoulders and backs. When damp from rain, or fouled by perspiration, the linings ought to be thoroughly dried, and as thoroughly cleaned by scraping and brushing; while the leathers will be more supple, durable, and comfortable by frequent applications of pure neat's-foot oil.