I was able to buy a nice harness from a trimming client and I'm pretty sure everything will work for Sweets, but the blinders might need some help. They seem to be pretty stiff and sit a little close to her eye. The tips of her eyelashes just touch. I was able to oil them well and do some manual shaping of them which did help but I want to clarify - I should be able to cup my hand comfortably around her eye between the eye and the blinder, correct? Do you have any other suggestions for fitting blinders? I would love more details on that.
She had never worn blinders before (or a crupper) and did exceptional. She was perfect, no drama. I ground drove her all over the farm for about an hour (boy that's exercise for me ). She knows her voice commands quite well and will trot and walk on command. She's very responsive to the bit and respectful so I think this half cheek ordinary snaffle will be ok. You just think about turning and she turns. The amount of pressure needed on the rein isn't much more than the weight of a horse fly.
We hung out in the barn for awhile with the blinders and crupper on so she could get used to the feel. At first she was craning her head way around to each side trying to see around the blinders, but she got used to them very quickly.
I have some more adjustments to do and everything was sitting too far forward in these photos. Should have put the breeching on but didn't.
So another question about the blinders - how much should I expect to ground drive her in them before hooking her to a cart, and would you suggest an open bridle to start off with, or start her in the cart with the blinders? She pulls a snow tube every winter, obviously with no blinders, and she's drug logs, tarps, bags of tin cans. She is very accustomed to all that stuff and it does not bother her. But obviously a cart is quite a bit more dangerous and heavy than those other items.
FWIW, she's been ground driving in a surcingle, long lines, and an open bridle for about 5 years so that part of it is not new to her.
Well, very nice photos but not a single one of them shows *me* how the blinkers fit. Maybe others can guess but I'd need to see a head-on photo. Stand in front of her with the driving bridle adjusted as you normally do and snap a photo of her that way.
I'm unable to tell from the photos if you have adjustable blinker stays (those 'wings' that attach to the top of the blinkers). If they are made of flexible wire and therefore adjustable, my preference is to bend them so that the blinkers stand as far out from the horse's face as possible. You will need to experiment with them to see how to achieve various adjustments. There is probably also a buckle at the top of the 'teardrop' (at the poll) and that buckle fastened longer or shorter will also influence the degree of openness of the blinkers. Again, experiment to see how the various adjustments change the blinker position. If your blinker stays are not adjustable, then you're pretty much stuck with them. Most better harness has adjustable stays. I've seen some cheaper harness where the blinker 'stays' were simply made of floppy leather and therefore not adjustable.
I personally hate to see blinkers sitting right on a horse's eyes. I see that a lot and it gives me the willies. My blinkers will always be as far from the eye as possible. I also (carefully) trim the long guard hairs around the eye (not the eyelashes) so that those hairs don't press against the blinker, another thing that might not bother the horse but creeps me out.
Better photos would help you get better answers, I think.
Thank you for the information. I apologize for not having the right photos up. When I took pictures (and hubby took pictures), it wasn't for the intention of showing the blinker fit. It was something that I thought about more and more later on.
These are adjustable in that they are rolled leather with some type of flexible material inside (must be wire). I can fairly easily bend them. They are definitely not thin floppy leather. They're very stiff but moldable. I did try changing the buckle adjustment on top of the crown as well but it didn't really seem to make a lot of difference.
It sounds like you should be able to adjust them as desired. Some blinker stays are theoretically adjustable but so heavy and stiff that I can't begin to flex them.
I'm able to get the best fit for my ponies by standing in front of pony, grasping the stays on both sides and bending the innermost corners of the stays downward toward the center of the face and then 'swooping' the remainder of the stay upward and outward in a smooth curve to the outer edge of each blinker. That fixes the blinkers in their most open position.
The buckle on the crown should have the effect of bringing the blinkers in closer to the eye the shorter the buckle is adjusted or conversely, it should relax and widen the fit the longer the buckle is adjusted. I hope my descriptions makes sense. Adjusting blinkers is really one of those visual things that doesn't translate to language very well.
Your throatlatch is way too loose for a driving horse. Or you may want to invest in a gullet strap.
Also it seems that the browband is a little long, hard to tell with your pics.
Re long lining, if your horse is green at it, it's best to have your long lines going through the tugs. Less of a chance of saddle turning around if horsie gets excited and turns quickly.
If you're green at driving, get thee to a driving trainer!
Your horse seems like a nice accepting kind of horse
For me, to make the ground driving sessions have a bit more in the way of learning - have the horse wear the breeching - and either dont use the breast collar OR attach it to something on the girth so it wont move forward if the horse puts its head down
I would move the saddle back off the withers - probably 3-4 inches. This will straighten it out so it doesnt lean back as much
Then raise the tug loops up several inches - so they are on the side panel of the saddle - not below it
Good suggestion to use the tug loops to run your reins to give you more control over your horse and turning around. Very easy for the horse to do with the reins thru the terrets
Put on the breeching and attach the holdback straps to the girth or to the tug loops - use a bit of baling twine if you need some more length
This will help the horse get used to the feel of the breeching on its butt while it moves
While I generall agree that a trainer is a great idea, they are not plentiful on the ground, so there IS a lot of the basics you can do yourself, especially when you know your horse and you and the horse trust each other
Just take it slow and steady and make sure the horse is confirmed in each step before you ask for more
We just heard of a friends horse at a trainer. Things seemed to be going well but they kept introducing new things every lesson - new carts, new terrain, new everything. And now they horse is overfaced and they have to step back many many steps. Going more slowly would have avoided the meltdown.
I would agree you will wish to change the reins down from the rein terrets on the backpad, to run reins thru the shaft loops on her sides. You want to "keep the horse between the lines" so she can't turn quickly UNDER the reins on her back and get tangled. One spin and you "have lost control" and she will continue to tangle badly with you being unable to stop her. Lines down lower control both her body, rear end AND prevent losing control in turns, not allowing a spin. You can drop the outside rein if needed, but not lose the animal by keeping a hold with the inside rein if she acts very silly for some reason.
As Drive NJ mentioned, adding your breeching for each practice will be helpful to the horse. If your holdback straps on the breeching are too short, maybe a double-ended snap on that buckle, will allow you to snap them to breastcollar buckle. Might add a bit of binder twine if she is long bodied to allow snapping parts together. You don't want it real tight to start, but she is feeling breeching as she moves. This gives her a more consistant feel of both the breastcollar and breeching, to work out being ticklish for the new driving animal. You can tighten a bit for short sessions in a lesson, then loosen it again. Breeching will be pushing on her steadily for stopping her vehicle, going down hills, so she must take the pressure without kicking or running from the feel. Breeching will need to push her rump, before cart rolls forward enough to hit her hindend!! Too loose a breeching fit, cart hitting horse will cause a wreck. Too tight a breeching, may rub her hair off, so you want a nice medium-snug fitting breeching on the animal. Getting the tickles out with no vehicle attached is best for everyone!
I agree also, with taking your time to be sure she is comfortable with each thing you add or introduce her to. Make sure she is bored with them before adding more things. I agree with RAH about the blinker fit, wide as possible, and trim off the long hairs around the eye. Some horses do better with snug fit blinkers, but she has been worked open already, sounds pretty nice minded. So let her look with open blinkers. They are really to prevent her from reading your body language and "help" you because she KNOWS the routine. She must ALWAYS WAIT for the command, before doing anything while hitched because she is NOT ALLOWED to make choices. DRIVER makes the choices of when and how, horse must wait for directions. Can't have two "Captains of the ship" doing the driving, horse gets NO vote!
You may want to latex wrap her bit, soften the feel, because with Driving she will need to take a bit of rein pressure in her mouth. You do NOT want her being too light to the reins, over-responsive in a carriage. The distance of reins from hands to mouth, adds a LOT of leverage and rein weight on her mouth. Way more than a ridden horse gets. She should take a bit of rein pressure, give her face, when you ask her to do things. Giving her face (nose dropping, face vertical) for very short times, will begin to aid her in using her rear quarters better for balance of the entire body. This asking is a building process, short asking sessions during a work, will not be learned in just a short time. I am old-school in believing ring sided bits (direct-pull), are a training step towards a leverage (curb) bit on a trained/more finished, horse. I can do a lot more with my horses in curb bits, because they are better balanced, responsive in a different (NOT FORCED) way than I can get with ring-sided bits. I want my horses "talking back" with my rein requests by taking pressure, self collected or hunting the bit, going long if given extra length of reins. I NEVER want that head flying up because I picked up the reins and felt her mouth, or having horse put chin-on-chest to hide from the bit and rein pressure. That is too light a horse, shows me an untrained mouth, not truly a "soft mouth".
And lastly, it looks like your harness saddle has what we call a "sliding backband" to hold your shaft loops. This backband allows the strap holding shaft loops to slide side-to-side for shafts and carriage on uneven ground. You will want to make sure the strap is well conditioned, slides easily, so one side shaft doesn't get stuck up or down when horse is finally hitched to a carriage. Such a harness saddle is all right for SOLID shafts of a 2-wheel cart, a set of buggy shafts, but NEVER used with independent shafts. The ability to have shaft loop slide up, will let the Independent shafts on a 4-wheeler to get uneven and cause a problem. This is REALLY important to prevent an accident or wreck with the horse.
The solid shafts of a 2-wheel cart are supposed to pull the (well-conditioned) sliding backband back to even when the ground levels out. Independent shafts can't do that with the hinge in them, will NEVER self-level. So you could end up with a shaft over her back, other poking her in the elbow or stomach, horse getting upset with that. We have a sliding backband harness saddle, and I had the sliding strap part sewn in place, so it only LOOKS like it slides. A friend of ours had her sliding strap part stick uneven after getting back on level ground and horse got poked pretty good with crooked shafts on a turn. I didn't want that to happen to us, so we have "the traditional look" but no chance of a problem.
This is all excellent advice, thanks everyone for taking the time to type up these wonderful posts!
Yes, the backband does slide very easily on this saddle. The harness was in great shape when I bought it, but I still took everything apart piece by piece and soaped and re-oiled everything so I could check all the stitching and buckles for safety. I spent about 4 hours going through every inch of it. But that is great to know about the sliding backband. I will double check this to be sure it is sliding very easily.
The cart I will most likely end up purchasing is a 2-wheel training cart but I will post some photos of it prior to committing to it just to be sure no one sees any red flags.
She's been ground driving (long lining) for years so she is very good at it, very comfortable. For riding, she goes bitless about 90% of the time, but I do put a bit on her for ground driving, and always have, so she's not totally new to the weight of the long reins and bit. But I will be sure to take this slowly. Wrapping the bit is a great idea, thanks for that! I can get the latex wrap from Smartpak so I'll go ahead and add that to my next order. Sealtex I think it's called??
She pulls a snow tube in the winter and has never had any problem with the noise or sight of it dragging behind her. She seems to flourish and do better and better the more you give her to think about and do. She LOVES to work, and to have a real job. But I definitely won't overface her with too much at once with the harness and eventually cart. I will take everyone's advice to go slowly and introduce only one new thing at a time. I added the crupper first, and let her hang out for awhile with that, walk up and down the aisle, etc... before adding blinders because she seemed fine. But I will do a couple more sessions with these before adding the breeching.
At this point I probably will not hook her to a cart until next spring/summer just because of our endurance ride schedule, and everything else I have going on. It's already August and winter comes early here.
Thank you again everyone, if I can think of more questions, this will be my first stop.