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irish horse drawn caravans

Harness for your
Horse Drawn Caravan

The Harness

Fine traditional skills are embodied in the hand-crafted, well-oiled and cared-for harness worn by the caravan horse. Either 'common' or van' harness is used to attach the horse to the caravan. In bygone days the 'common' harness was used by farmers and cart-men, the 'van' harness by delivery van-men.

The leather harness is very valuable and specially fitted to suit each horse so the visitor is required to take good care of it. No part of the harness should trail on the ground - it will get walked on, get damaged and get dirty.


Visitors will be given instruction and practice in harnessing the horse before leaving on their tour. The instructor will demonstrate the correct fitting of the harness, and the visitor will copy and easily learn the procedures involved.

harness on a horse


  1. Put on the winkers/bridle (the pieces with the bit). This can be put on over the halter, which may stay on.
  2. Put on the collar.
  3. Then fasten the hames (made of wood or metal) securely in the recess on the collar. Keep the long traces from trailing on the ground by crossing them over the horse's back.
  4. Put on the straddle/housen and the attached breeching (tail piece). Fasten the belly strap (girth) just behind the forelegs. These are the shorter pair of straps.
  5. Buckle one end of the reins to the bit on the near (left) side of the horse. Pass the other end through the rings on the hames and on the straddle/housen. Go to the other side of the horse and continue in reverse order.
  6. horsedrawn caravanReverse the horse into the shafts, lift them up and slip the tugs over the shaft-arms. The tugs are the leather loops on the back band. Don't fasten the breeching straps yet.
  7. The ends of the traces are now hooked to the caravan-end of the shafts.
  8. The breeching strap loops around the traces, goes through a ring on the shafts, and fastens back onto itself.
  9. Then you can buckle the back-band belly strap, leaving it slightly loose.
  10. Now you're ready to go!
  11. When unharnessing do so in the reverse order.

The above process is a lot more simple than it seems! It is fairly easy to master after instruction and a short practice session of 10 to 20 minutes.

Reins should never be used to tie a horse to a tree or post. Halters or ropes are provided for this purpose.


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