Small Farmer's Journal

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

Ask A Teamster: Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses

Their Causes and Prevention

by Dr. Doug Hammill D.V.M. of Montana

Unfortunately, trading wreck stories seems to be a common pastime of some teamsters. I’m sure those of you fortunate enough to not have experienced a wreck with horses have certainly heard stories of another teamster’s misfortune.

In those few seconds when our horses are panicking and out of control they can injure or even kill themselves or us. Even if no one is hurt, those moments of panic can destroy the horse’s trust and make him unsafe or psychologically unable to work any more.

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips.

Here are 10 of them:

Safety Tip #1: Always fasten breast strap snaps facing inward towards the collar, instead of facing out away from the collar. (See photo #1.)

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #1

If the breast strap snaps are hooked facing outward (away) from the collar, it’s possible for a horse – or his team mate – to accidentally hook a bit, bridle part, halter ring or hame ring into the snap. The result is a claustrophobic animal with its head trapped in an awkward, unnatural and uncomfortable downward position. When this happens, there is a great risk of panic and a wreck resulting in physical and/or psychological damage to horses, humans or both.

I once witnessed a wreck when a very well-broke, dependable horse hooked his bit ring into the breast strap snap, began fighting for his freedom, and lunged backwards dragging his team mate with him. The horse injured his mouth with the bit, and backed the wagon into a pickup truck. The wreck certainly was not the horse’s fault, and could have easily been prevented.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #2

Unfortunately, it’s very common for harness to be set up so that when the team is hitched the breast strap snaps face outward. In fact, new harness often comes from the maker that way. It’s a simple matter to remove the breast straps, turn the snaps over and reassemble the straps so they snap inward. Once the breast straps are set up properly, snapping them inward is actually easier and quicker than hooking them facing out and a whole lot safer for you and your horses. (See photo #2.)

Safety Tip #2: Always snap combination snaps and pole strap and/or breast strap snaps so they face in toward the tongue. (See photos #3 and #4.)

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #3

This tip is similar to the first. Again, when these snaps are attached (to the neck yoke rings) facing outward, we have potential for the horses to catch their bits in the snaps when they rub their heads. Having the head trapped easily triggers claustrophobia and panic in horses, and often results in a disastrous wreck.

The paired combination snaps on a team harness usually come pointing in the same direction, so that on one horse the snap is safely facing inward and on the other horse the snap is unsafely pointed outward. Some of these snaps are riveted on; others are bolted on. If they are bolted on, you can simply take the bolt out and turn the snap around. If they are riveted, you don’t have that option without cutting the rivet and replacing it with a bolt. If you use combination snaps, be sure they are modified as necessary so they both face inward toward the tongue.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #4

Some breast straps attach to the neck yoke with their own snap, and are used with a pole strap that has its own snap as well. When using such set ups, be certain that you snap both the breast strap snap and the pole strap snap facing inward on both ends of the neck yoke.

Although it’s not impossible for a horse to get a bit ring caught when the breast and pole strap snaps are pointed inward, it’s a lot more difficult because there’s very little room on the inside. But on the outside the bit and other equipment can very easily come into contact with the snaps.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #5

Another option which offers no chance for a snap to catch a bit ring is a breast strap and pole strap design that attaches to the neck yoke rings without any snaps. (See photo #5.)

Safety Tip #3: Attach all lines to the bit with buckles instead of snaps. (See photo #6.)

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #6

Attaching the lines to the bit with snaps was an accepted method in the old days, and unfortunately still is today.

However, using snaps to hook the lines to the bits is just not safe at all. Snaps are notorious for breaking – usually when you need them the most. (See photo # 7.) In addition, an itchy or impatient horse can unhook them when he bumps or rubs his head on the neck yoke. He can also unhook or break line snaps when rubbing on his partner.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #7

No matter what the scenario, when a snap is rubbed off or fails, you have completely lost control of your horse. Long ago, before I knew better, I had a couple of close calls and then a fairly serious wreck caused by line snaps breaking or coming off. And since then I’ve heard countless stories of near misses and serious wrecks due to line snap failures.

As with other snaps, if line snaps are facing outward, a horse can snag them and therefore his bit into a multitude of other harness parts – his or his partners. This can have potentially devastating consequences as the horse becomes trapped and panics. A vision of two horses that once got their bits snapped together comes to mind.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

photo #8

There are a lot of different types of snaps on the market. In my opinion, all snaps – except for one type – are dangerous on driving lines. The only snap I consider safe is a twisted line snap. (See photo #8.) It’s also called a twisted wire snap. I’ve never heard of them coming off and I’ve never had one come off myself. The downside is that they can be tricky to get on and off until you perfect the technique.

SmallFarmersJournal.com is a live, ever-changing subscription website. To gain access to all the content on this site, subscribe for just $5 per month. If you are not completely satisfied, cancel at any time. Here at your own convenience you can access past articles from Small Farmer's Journal's first forty years and all of the brand new content of new issues. You will also find posts of complete equipment manuals, a wide assortment of valuable ads, a vibrant events calendar, and up to the minute small farm news bulletins. The site features weather forecasts for your own area, moon phase calendaring for farm decisions, recipes, and loads of miscellaneous information.

Spotlight On: How-To & Plans

Pulling A Load With Oxen

an excerpt from Oxen: A Teamster’s Guide

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

by:
from issue:

Fabricating steel rings is a common task in my small farm blacksmith shop. They are often used on tie-rings for my customer’s barns, chain latches on gates, neck yoke rings, etc. It’s simple enough to create a ring over the horn of the anvil or with the use of a bending fork, however, if you want to create multiple rings of the same diameter it’s worthwhile to build a hardy bending jig.

Horseshoeing Part 2C

Horseshoeing Part 2C

The wear of the shoe is caused much less by the weight of the animal’s body than by the rubbing which takes place between the shoe and the earth whenever the foot is placed to the ground and lifted. The wear of the shoe which occurs when the foot is placed on the ground is termed “grounding wear,” and that which occurs while the foot is being lifted from the ground is termed “swinging-off wear.” When a horse travels normally, both kinds of wear are nearly alike, but are very distinct when the paces are abnormal, especially when there is faulty direction of the limbs.

English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

by:
from issue:

One of the challenges I constantly face using draft ponies is finding appropriately sized equipment. Mya is a Shetland-Welsh cross, standing at 11.2 hands. Most manure spreaders are big and heavy and require a team of horses. I needed something small and light and preferably wheeled to minimize impact to the land. My husband and I looked around our budding small farm for something light, wheeled, cheap, and available, and we quickly noticed our Vermont-style garden cart.

Farmrun On the Anatomy of Thrift

On the Anatomy of Thrift: Side Butchery

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Farm Drum #30 Blacksmithing we Pete Cecil Basic Techniques

Farm Drum #30: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Basic Techniques

Pete Cecil demonstrates basic blacksmithing techniques through crafting a hook in the forge.

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

Blacksmithing Secrets

Blacksmithing Secrets Part 1

by:
from issue:

Whether a farmer can afford a forge and anvil will depend upon the distance to a blacksmith shop, the amount of forging and other smithing work he needs to have done, and his ability as a mechanic. Although not every farmer can profitably own blacksmithing equipment, many farmers can. If a farmer cannot, he should remember that a great variety of repairs can be made with the use of only a few simple cold-metal working tools.

The Tip Cart

The Tip Cart

by:
from issue:

When horses were the main source of power on every farm, in the British Isles it was the tip-cart, rather than the wagon which was the most common vehicle, and for anyone farming with horses, it is still an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. The farm cart was used all over the country, indeed in some places wagons were scarcely used at all, and many small farms in other areas only used carts.

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

by:
from issue:

This is the story of a harrow on a budget. I saw plans on the Tillers International website for building an adjustable spike tooth harrow. I modified the plans somewhat to suit the materials I had available and built a functional farm tool for eighteen dollars. The manufactured equivalent would have cost at least $300.

Chicken

The Best Chicken Pie Ever

by:
from issue:

She has one more gift to give: Chicken Pie.

The Horsedrawn Mower Book

Removing the Wheels from a McCormick Deering No. 9 Mower

How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

by:
from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

To Market, To Market, To Buy A Fat Pig

Within so-called alternative agriculture circles there are turf wars abrew

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT