Harness Part Names

I have been contacted by quite a few people lately wondering what the names of harness and cart parts are. So I thought it would make a good blog post!

This post will focus on the Pleasure style harness. I will write a separate blog about the easy entry cart and in the future I will write one on the Farm/Work Style harness as well!

Harness Parts

Let’s look at them one at a time!

ACrown Piece or the Poll piece: The crown is what holds the cheeks onto the bridle. We make straights one and molded/curved ones. The molded crown pieces are great for horses and ponies that are super sensitive about their ears, as it’s shaped to sit comfortably behind the ears.

Left: ComfyFit Molded Crown, Right: Straight MaraFUN Pleasure style crown

BBrow Band: The brow band helps keep the bridle in place. If the brow band is too short it can pull the cheeks and the crown piece forward into the eyes and the backs of the ears. A brow band that is a little too long is just fine and doesn’t create any issues.

CNose Band: The nose band is there to help keep the blinders laying flat alongside the equine’s cheeks. It is also helpful in keeping the bridle on the horse’s head. When paired with a gullet strap, which connects the nose band to the throat latch, it makes the bridle even more secure!

DThroat Latch: The throat latch is there to help keep the bridle from popping off over the horse or pony’s ears. It doesn’t need to be very tight, but when buckled very loose it can’t do it’s job.

EBreast Collar: The breast collar is where the traces attach. It’s there for the purpose of connecting the horse or pony to the vehicle.

F Martingale: The martingale is for the Euro style collar and the Deluxe Style breast collar. This is to help keep the collar centered on the horse or pony. Without a martingale the breast collar can pull hard to one side or the other, and end up crooked. They can also pop out in the center and cause the animal to pull just from the shoulders and not also from the chest. So it’s a pretty important harness piece. **A martingale is not necessary when you are using a straight style breast collar, such as the one that comes with the Pleasure style harness or the MaraFUN harness. Because those types of breast collars are just a simple straight piece of strap and can’t be crooked or pop out in the center.

GSaddle: The saddle is the piece of equipment that holds the shafts via the shaft loops (H). It also connects the front part of the harness (the breast collar) to the back part of the harness (the breeching). The saddle on a driving harness does NOT need to be very tight on the driving horse, unless you are driving in the marathon or cones portion of a CDE. Then you will want it to be a bit more snug to keep things stable while moving fast!

HShaft Loops: Mentioned above, these hold the shafts of the vehicle.

IGirth/Belly Band: This is the part of the harness that holds the saddle in place. Again this doesn’t need to be as snug as a riding saddle, unless you are competing in the marathon or cones course of a CDE. I trail drive and do not have my girth very tight at all. There are a few different types of girths,

  • the wrap strap style which is typically seen in the show ring. This allows the driver to tighten the shafts to the sides of the horse. This is because breed shows don’t usually use breeching and so the only brakes they have are the wrap straps and the girth. Essentially the saddle is stopping the carts forward motion.
  • The other style has an over girth which is a strap that simply comes up from the girth and then buckles into a strap and comes down from the shaft loops. This style of girth allows some float to occur in the shafts and the shaft loops.
Left: Regular Over Girth Style Girth  Right: Wrap Strap Style Girth

JTurn Back Strap: This is the strap that runs from the saddle to the crupper. It’s there to connect the saddle to the breeching.

KHip Straps: The hip straps connect the breeching to the turn back strap which connects the to the saddle. Thereby connecting the breeching to the saddle!

LBreeching Body: The breeching is the breaking system. This is the stopping power of the harness. VERY IMPORTANT!

MTrace Carriers:  Not every harness will have trace carriers. They are especially helpful when the single tree is a little lower than the shafts, which makes the traces have to hang down a little bit. The trace carriers will keep things neat and help to prevent your horse or pony stepping over a trace in a sticky situation.

NTraces: Traces are what connect the horse or pony to the vehicle. These are the pulling or pushing part of the harness. So the traces pull/push the vehicle and the breeching stops the vehicle. The traces connect from the breast collar to the single tree of the vehicle.

O – Crupper: The crupper is the part that goes under the horse or pony’s tail and connects to the turn back strap which, in turn, connects to the saddle. This is helpful in keeping the harness centered on the animal’s back.

PDriving Lines: The driving lines are the part of the harness that allows us to communicate with the horse or pony. They go from the bit, through the rein turrets on the saddle, to our hands.

How Does the Harness Function

There is a wonderful article in the Rural Heritage Bi-Monthly magazine. It talks about the 4 Components of Harness:

  • The Communcation Component – Yellow
  • The Draft Component – Green
  • The Stopping and Backing Compnent – Red
  • The Support Component – Blue

The article explains each very well! You can find that by following this link: Harness Variety and Function


4 thoughts on “Harness Part Names

    • Mindy Schroder says:

      Please see this video for instructions about putting a harness together: https://youtu.be/Wj8CrC9_wBk

      You do need a breast collar when hitching to a vehicle. If you are just ground driving (without a travois or pulling a tire) then you don’t need the breast collar. But ANY time you are pulling ANYTHING you need one as that is how the horse pulls.


  1. Gina says:

    Love your harness poster with letters. And the definition of those letters. Do you sell this it would be great for my mini/pony 4-H group. If not may I have permission to copy and print it?

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