A horse is a great partner for pulling a cart or carriage, but there are many parts of the vehicle that must be carefully fitted to the animal. If a cart is not correctly sized for the animal it can cause painful problems like over-straining, saddle sores, and injuries to the animal. To make sure that a vehicle and animal are well matched it is important to measure both the animal and the vehicle, or walk the animal 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) to check for tightness or discomfort.
The first item to be put on an animal is the breast collar, which attaches to the traces. Traces are the lines that pull or push the vehicle, and they connect from the breast collar to the single tree of the vehicle. The traces also stop the cart, which is why it’s important to be sure that they are a good length for the animal.
The next item is the bridle, which connects to the crown piece and the breast strap. The crown piece helps keep the bridle from getting pulled forward over the equine’s ears. There are straight and molded crown pieces, which are helpful for horses that are sensitive about their ears. The bridle also connects to the throat latch, which stops the bridle from popping off over the equine’s head when it is not in use.
After the bridle is secured, the martingale and breast strap are attached. The breast strap sits over the chest and pushes against the animal’s shoulder blades when it pulls. It is very important to make sure the breast strap does not sit too high, which can push into the animals windpipe and create breathing issues.
There are two types of axles, wooden and metal. The wooden axles have more flexibility and can handle rough ground better, but they are not as strong. Metal axles are a little more durable, but they can be hard on the animal’s legs when they have to jump over small bumps or potholes.
One way to improve a vehicle is to add larger wheels, which allow the cart to roll over rough ground more easily and not bounce so much. They also help the horse to not feel the jarring effects of the cart going over bumps and holes. Another improvement is to add a cork axle washer, which reduces the noise that can be made by the metal axles hitting each other over rough ground.