Are My Shafts too Wide or too Narrow?

Fitting the Shafts of your Driving Cart

Nearly every week I have someone call and ask me how they can tell if their shafts are fitting their equine. Usually they are concerned that they are too narrow… but if the shafts are too wide that can cause issues as well. So, having them just right is best!

How much space “should” there be between the equine and the shafts?

Typically, I like to see about 1 1/2″ – 2″ between my pony and the shafts. HOWEVER, how the shaft loops are hanging is more important than an exact number of inches. The shaft loops should hand straight down from the saddle.

In the photo above you can see how the shaft loops hang straight down to the shafts and there is still a bit of room between the pony and the shafts.

Shafts that are too Narrow

If your shafts are too narrow, the shaft loops will hang straight down, but the shafts will touch the equine’s sides, squeezing them. This is uncomfortable for them and can inhibit proper bending through the ribs. It can also cause pressure marks over time. You can see the pressure marks on the black mare below. The round circles on her sides are where her shafts ended.

Shafts that are too Wide

If there is more than 2″ typically this causes the shaft loops to have to “reach” the shafts, putting a lot of downward pressure on the saddle.

The shafts above are too wide causing the shaft loops to stretch from the saddle to the shafts.

Shaft Width in the Back

The width of the shafts back where the breeching hold back straps attach to the footman loops is also important. If they are too narrow then it’s very difficult for the equine to use it’s body to turn the vehicle. They will have to make very long large circles to turn or will have to do a sidepass and push the shafts over to simply turn the vehicle.

If there is room in the shafts the equine can use it’s shoulders correctly to turn the vehicle.

Having the shafts be too wide where the holds backs attach to the footman loops causes a lot of downward pressure over the top of the equine’s hips. It can cause rubbing and pressure marks on the top of the hip.

The above shafts are definitely too wide for the mini hitched. You can see how the hold back straps are stretching to reach the footman loops.

If you have questions about your set up don’t hesitate to reach out to me with photos and we can troubleshoot:  mindy@chimacumtack.com

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