Draft Horses Harness and Clothing
Draft Horses Harness those who continue to use heavy cart bridles furnished with large winkers must entertain an exceptionally low estimate of a horse’s natural intelligence and possess extraordinarily little regard for his comfort. If a good-courage horse is allowed to see and become familiar with objects of danger, he will quickly learn to disregard them, and know no fear.
A colt that has never worn winkers, by kind treatment will quickly attain sufficient confidence to face anything. The bridle should not weigh more than 4 Jibs., have no winkers, fit easily on the poll, be padded down the cheeks, and furnished with a round throat-strap, and a smooth jointless snaffle-bit.
The collar, intended as it is to supply a cushion for the reception of shocks and afford relief to pressure under heavy and continued draught, cannot well be too bulky nor too accurately adjusted. Great suffering is entailed, and horses are prone to become vicious and shy workers, by being worked in collars too large or too small, or unadapted to special conformation of shoulder, or rendered uncomfortable and irritating by wear, or the accumulation of filth.
Under severe uphill draught the collar will sometimes choke the horse by pressure upon the lower part of the windpipe. This accident usually happens to horses that have long sloping shoulders and fine withers; it may be prevented, or at least the liability may be diminished, by having the collar ‘piped’—that is, hollowed out at its lower end where it may come into apposition with the windpipe as that tube enters the chest. It is prudent to work horses prone to choke by the collar, in chains rather than shaft-gears.
The cart-saddle should be well padded and possess ample length and width of tree to afford extensive and equal bearing. To prevent abrasions on horses having sensitive and thin skins, the linings of all parts of the harness and the inner aspect of the breech and backhands should be covered with sheepskin.
It is well to remember that the greatest draught-power of which an animal or team of animals is capable is most perfectly secured in proportion as the bonds of connection between the harness and the wagon or cart are inelastic.
Every part should be maintained in good repair; many accidents are occasioned and not a few runaway horses made \>y defective gearing. On many farmsteads only rainy days, sometimes few and far between, are devoted to the cleansing of harness. Such neglect cannot be economical in practice; dirty collar and saddle linings are prolific causes of sore shoulders and backs.
When damp from rain, or fouled by perspiration, the linings ought to be thoroughly dried, and as thoroughly cleansed by scraping and brushing, whilst the leathers will be more supple, durable, and comfortable by frequent applications of pure neat’s foot oil.
A great deal has been written upon the use and abuse of the bearing-rein. In regard to its employment for cart horses, I submit reasons given to a body of large proprietors in the year 1876 (for its retention), and I may remark that subsequent experience has strengthened the opinion I then entertained.
The provision of stable clothing is altogether unnecessary for cart horses in health; it is, however, essential for the treatment of many diseases to which draught animals equally with finer-bred ones are subject.
Opinions differ regarding the use of a covering for horses when performing slow work, but the custom of providing clothing for outdoor wear has become almost universal in northern towns. The judicious use of clothing for horses during the hours they are exposed to in clemencies of weather is undoubtedly advantageous, but unless rain is falling it is as unwise as unnecessary to permit the use of a cloth during the actual performance of work: it should only be employed as a protection against rain or to prevent the bodies cooling too rapidly after exertion.
For the latter purpose, stout woolen rugs are unquestionably the most suitable; but as a protection against rain, waterproofs are decidedly preferable. Woolen rugs absorb so much moisture as to become an absolute burden to the horses and cannot be thoroughly dried in a limited space of time.
The great objection to the use of oilskin and all other impermeable descriptions of clothing is the sense of oppression and discomfort produced by the wearing of such a material.
Exposure to rain in the abstract is not harmful, if the horses can be taken to the stable direct from work and have their coats thoroughly dried and the skin circulation stimulated by friction ; but as almost all kinds of team-work in towns is performed by alternations of strong exertion and inactivity, the bodies of horses that have been exposed to rain do not receive necessary attention until the labor of the day has been completed, and hence arises the necessity for protection by clothing.
The provision of covering is also advantageous for preventing the linings of collars and saddles becoming wet, a frequent cause of sore shoulders and backs.
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