Field Artillery Training: Driving 4

I concede that not everyone is as fascinated by “gear and tackle and trim,” as GM Hopkins and I.  If you have any interest, however, in what all yesterday’s beautiful technicalities are about, here is your (very) basic primer. There are fourteen pages of it in Field Artillery Training.


  1. Breast collar                        9.   Wire traces, short (between horses)
  2. Neckpieces, polebar        10.   Saddle blanket
  3. Neck straps                         11.   Pannel [sic]
  4. Collar pad                            12.   Saddle
  5. Collar pad straps               13.   Girth*
  6. Hip straps                           14.   Surcingle
  7. Breeching                            15.   Stirrup leather, and 16. Stirrup.
  8. Wire traces, adjustable to the length of the horse

The pair of horses closest to the vehicle, the wheelers, are attached to the pole which projects forward from the vehicle’s front axle (or the limber’s only axle. A crosspiece (the pole bar) goes in front of the wheelers; it hangs from supporting straps and is also linked to the breast collar. Because of the pole, the wheelers can steer or slow the vehicle.

The breeching also applies only to wheelers. This wide strap behind the horse is a braking system: when the wheelers back into their breeching, they put their weight into slowing the vehicle. Co-operation is essential between drivers: if the wheelers are backing, the first two pairs must not be pulling forward in the traces at the same time.

The traces link each pair of horses in a series and thento  the vehicle at the swingletree (a bar that pivots) attached to the vehicle. The traces are what converts the horse’s pushing into its collar into the pulling of the vehicle.

*Only a saddled horse has a girth, that is, a strap that goes under the horse’s belly, for the very practical reason that, if a horse is killed, it essentially drops out of its harness, or can be cut out with minimal difficulty.

The unattributed diagram appears on the Military Horse site where it is labelled RHA harness.

A useful source of information on all things harness-related is the glossary on the site of the Equine Heritage Institute.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”

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