One of the questions I am asked the most is how can I make my single harness into a team harness or do I need to purchase two more harnesses? (Along with what do I need to drive my two horses in tandem… that one is coming soon!)
I asked around but it seems a difficult question. Either people have been doing it for so long they can’t remember what parts they had to buy or they are too busy to write a blog and make a video. So I decided I would just go ahead and give it a try! After all, I learn best by doing.
Full disclosure here: I have NO idea what I’m doing! I mean I can drive my two ponies singly all day long over any kind of terrain. I can harness and hitch them with my eyes closed. But figuring out how to harness and hitch them together? That has been a challenge!
There are so many things I wondered about but didn’t give much thought to. Such as:
- Starting and stopping, together, at the same time.
- What would happen if one started rapidly backing up!
- What would happen if one started rapidly backing up then turned and FACED the other horse which caused that horse to back up as well, resulting in them both pulling each other as hard as they could in the opposite direction.
- What would happen if one tripped and fell down, getting tangled in the harness and bringing the other one down too. (this has not happened but I have thought about it when we were out in the field practicing!)
- How to put into practice the act of helping two very different ponies keep in step with each other. Not allowing one to do all the work.
Not to mention exactly how to go about harnessing them together! Which it turns out was the easiest part of the entire process.
**I want to make this very clear… What I am about to share will work for minis to draft horses, donkeys and mules both mini and standard size. Who knows… these same harness parts may work to hitch two buffalo together as well!
Parts for a Collar and Hames Team Harness
If you are using two different harnesses and need a collar and hames style collar due to your line of draft, then this is the part of the blog for you! (I’ll talk about using breast collars down below.)
You will need:
- Team style martingales
- snaps for your hold back straps, bolt style snaps will work for the smaller equine but you’ll need the larger #200 snap for the big equine
- a pole strap (or two if you are using larger horses/drafts/mules) or one for each horse if you are hitching to a vehicle
- 4 x cheater straps
- Trace Carriers
- Team lines
- and a collar and hames set for each horse, if you don’t already have one!
That’s it! Those are the only pieces you need to make your two single harnesses into a team harness.
For the purpose of this experiment I wanted to use two harnesses that are not alike. Though most harnesses are alike in that they have a breast collar, a saddle, a back strap with a crupper and breeching. In that way they are alike, but one of my harnesses is the ComfyFUN Trail Harness and the other is the Pleasure Harness. You can do this with two Comfy Fit harnesses, a MaraFUN harness and a Comfy Fit, two MaraFUN harnesses, two Pleasure harnesses, two logging harnesses… I’m sure you get the picture!
These photos show Sky, the red pony, wearing the Pleasure harness and Zorro, the bucksin pony, wearing the ComfyFUN Trail harness (Only offered once a year in September!):
Because I want them to pull a drag I made using tires, and the line of draft is low, they need to wear their collar and hames. Sky is wearing the All Purpose Collar synthetic from Brodhead with the appropriate hames and short tugs. I am using the short tugs so I can use the buckle in traces that came with my harnesses.
My ponies go best in the open style bridle so that is what I am using. But this works the same if you use bridles with blinders!
To set the harnesses up for team driving I simply attached the Team Martingale to the Collars:
Then, ran the martingale UNDER the girth, with the ring sticking out the back side of the girth. This allowed me to snap the hold back straps to the martingale ring:
The snaps shown here are the bolt style snaps appropriate for the minis and small ponies. If you are doing this with a larger equine please use the #200 snap. You can see how I ran that martingale strap under the girth. This is so it doesn’t sag down and get caught on anything or allow them to get a foot through it.
Here is a photo from the side showing the hold backs tucked neatly under Sky:
The martingale connects the breeching to the collar. If I were to have a team pole that was connected to to my collar and hames then the breeching would still engage when they slowed the vehicle they were pulling.
I am not pulling a vehicle (YET!) but am pulling a tire drag I made using a Small Pony Pipe Evener:
To start I am having them pull only two tires as I don’t want to over face them before they are ready. As they work up to it I will add the other two tires. It’s hard work pulling this over the grass and rocks in my field!
To connect them together in the front, as they are learning, I am using a pole strap:
The pole strap has a snap on each end and I snap it into the hames.
I also need 2 sets of Cheater Straps for each pony. This would allow me to remove the shaft loops and buckle the straps that hold them to the over girth straps, making a nice neat profile. I don’t currently have those but am ordering some!
For the purpose of learning, and while we are ground driving, I also connect them together at the hip. I just used a length of paracord (or twine) with a quick release knot, in case I need to get them apart. I tied to the inside breeching ring, but lots of people like to have a long enough piece of paracord and tie them together all the way around! Please get some hands on help for that if you go that route. There is a certain way you need to do it so everyone stays safe.
As far as harness parts and pieces this has been pretty easy so far. If you are using breast collars to drive your team, because your vehicle has a horizontal line of draft then this next part is for you!
Parts for a Breast Collar Team Harness
**Please don’t make your minis, ponies, horses or draft horses pull stone boats, sleds with rocks, tire drags, or harrows with a breast collar style of harness. If you are going to pull something like that it’s best to outfit them appropriately and get the collar and hames.
You will need:
- Side Hold Back Rigging
- a pole strap or two, if you are hitching to a vehicle you will need a pole strap for each horse
- Team lines
- Trace Carriers
To attach the breast collars to the breeching you will need an attachment called the Side Hold Back Rigging. This one actually was very confusing for me. But if you lay it out exactly as it’s shown on the website you will figure it out!
I had the snaps on my hold backs but if you buckled directly to the rigging it would make for a nice neat appearance.
Your breast collars will need to have rings sewn onto them to drive your ponies as a team. These rings are used to connect the pole strap which connects the ponies to the team pole. If you need rings sewn onto your breast collars please shoot us an email and we will help you get that done! You can see them in the photo below:
Next up are the Team Lines. Let me know just say, wowza. I found these to be so confusing!! Lots of people were offering help but they were using terms like, Draft line, Check line, Continuous line. I did not know what they were talking about! A friend reached out through email and she made me a video which explained the lines perfectly. Then I made this graphic:
The inside line should be the longer line when you lay the team lines out on the ground. This is confusing because it is also the shorter line since it has the buckle sewn into it. The other line is one long line from hand to bit. But that inside line needs to be a bit longer so it can reach to the other horse’s bit.
To further explain I’ll say, the line with the adjustment holes in it goes on the outside of the horse and the line that has the buckle sewn into it goes on the inside of the horses. That inside line will run through the terrets of either the saddle or the neck, or both if you desire, and then crosses over to the other horse.
When you have your team lines in your hands it will make more sense!
To order team lines go to either the Soft Strap driving line product or the SuperGrip driving lines and choose which configuration you need. Searching Team Lines on the website will not get you the result you want!
I will be making a video showing all of this up close and personal… But I need to find the time in between snow storms here in Montana! I’ll update this blog with that video when it’s done.