How to Hook Up a Single Driving Harness

••• horse and cart image by Tom Davison from

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Harness a horse to a cart carefully and methodically to get the right outcome. The harness, when properly placed, syncs up the horse, driver and vehicle. The driver can then direct the horse, and the horse can safely and effectively pull the cart. When any harness piece is out of line or improperly placed, it can cause discomfort to the horse and make the vehicle hard to control. Consult an experienced horse hand to show you the tricks to harnessing.

Items you will need

  • Single harness

Halter the horse and attach a lead. Attach the backstrap and crupper to the saddle and saddle the horse. Secure the wrap straps. Pass the crupper around the root of the tail and adjust it for girth. When using breaching or a kicking strap, run them through the backstrap keeper.

Put the breast collar on. Make sure the traces are crossed over the horse's back. Pass the driving reins through the saddle terrets with the bit ends loose. Loop the buckled hand ends and pass them through the backstrap.

Place a lead rope around the horse's neck. Take the halter off and put on the bridle, fastening the driving reins to it. Next, attach the throatlatch and the noseband. Move the vehicle to the horse with the shafts lifted. Lower them carefully on each side. Guide the shafts through the shaft loops starting on the near side. Do the far side last. Make sure the ends of the shafts are not forward of the shoulder blade.

Fasten the traces to the singletree. They must be of equal length on both sides with no slack. The tips of the shafts should remain behind the shoulders to keep them from striking the horse. Align the shaft to give the horse room to stretch out his legs while moving, but not get ahead of the shafts.

Undo the wrap straps. Run them inside the trace and wrap them over the shaft ahead of the shaft loop and then under, to form a figure eight loop behind the shaft loop. Buckle it on the outside of the trace. Double check all fastenings. Check all parts for proper placement beginning at the bridle and going back to the crupper. Lead the horse slowly for a few paces to see if the harness is pulling correctly and the horse is comfortable.


  • Consult an encyclopedia or website that has definitions and illustrations of the parts of a single harness. There are many parts to a harness. Websites such as Discover Horse Carriage or books like Storey's Horse Lover's Encyclopedia: an English & Western A-to-Z guide are resources that may be useful.