1. How does the harness work?
When it’s correctly adjusted, pulling on the front straps of the harness puts pressure on the horses hamstring muscles via the fillet strap. Pressure on these muscles encourages the horse to pick up a hind leg and step forwards, and so encourages it to move forwards. The harness therefore allows you to ask the horse to walk forwards without having to put pressure on the head.
2. How does the harness make loading safer?
The harness allows you to influence the horse to move forwards from behind, without having anyone standing in the firing line of the back hooves. The harness also allows you to secure the horse in the trailer without having to tie up the head. The ‘cradle’ effect of the harness is far less upsetting to most horses than having their heads tied up - the horse feels pressure on its rear end if it steps backwards, rather than feeling that it can’t move its head.
3. What safety features are included in the harness?
When fitted correctly, the harness will stay in place should the handler have to let go of the horse – no trailing straps to become tangled around legs or other objects. The harness has a maximum load tension of 130kg. This means that the harness strong enough for normal loading and to support a horse stepping back into it when secured in the trailer. Should the horse panic, the harness is designed to break at a built-in ‘weak point’ which can easily be replaced.
4. Can I use the harness on any horse?
The harness is designed to be adjustable to fit any size of horse. The instructions for use include guidance on fitting.
5. Can I use the harness with any type of transport?
The harness can be used to encourage the horse to step forwards in any situation – loading into a trailer, lorry or to give extra encouragement when first encountering new buildings etc. The harness is designed to allow the handler to secure the horse in a trailer, by clipping the harness onto the breastbar of the trailer. Depending on lorry design, the harness may be used in the same way or may be adapted to be secured to the headcollar tie ring. The problem of reversing back out is not so common with lorries however due to the positioning of the horse once in the lorry.
6. My horse is really nervous about loading, how will the harness help?
The harness can help in this situation in several ways. Firstly, because it allows you to load the horse safely by yourself, there is no need for anyone else to be anywhere near the horse during the loading process. Many horses are nervous about loading because of past experiences of having people behind them doing all manner of things to ‘help’ load the horse, from using lunge-lines, to brooms, to hosepipes, to whips and shouting. Having no-one else around will usually help to make the horse feel calmer.
Secondly, because the harness gives you very much more control over the horse than a headcollar alone, it is likely to make you feel much calmer about the loading process. Horses are very good at picking up on the mood of their handler – if you are calm, it is more than likely that they will be calm.
The ‘cradle’ effect of the harness also seems to help calm some horses and it has been compared to the effects of Tellington Touch wraps or Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine.
7. Can the harness solve every loading problem?
NO. The harness is a training aid that also improves safety. The harness may be of use in the rehabilitation of horses that are genuinely scared of loading, but only when used by an experienced horse handler. For more information on loading in general, click here.
8. My horse loads fine, then reverses out of the trailer when I go to secure the rear bar – can the harness help with this?
This is one of the problems the harness was designed in response to. Once the harness is clipped to the breast bar of the trailer, if the horse steps back it feels pressure on its rear. Most horses accept that this pressure means they can’t step back any further and stay put. This means the handler can take their time getting to the back of the trailer to secure the back bar.
9. My horse is fine until it sees the trailer, then refuses to go any closer – can the harness help with this?
The main advantage of the harness in this situation is that it can be put on the horse well away from the trailer (in the stable for instance) and then only brought into action when it is needed. Again, the harness can’t necessarily solve the problem however it does give the handler very much more control than trying to encourage the horse nearer to the trailer with just headcollar or bridle alone.