I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.
With most common types of team harness the neckyoke is an essential component of both the steering and hold back systems. In addition to holding the tongue up, neckyokes permit the horses to pull/push the end of the tongue with them as they move right or left, thus steering the vehicle or implement. As part of the hold back system neckyokes function by transferring the – slowing, stopping, backing, and holding back the load – actions of the horses to the tongue, and thus to the vehicle or equipment.
Because the animals push the load with their foreheads, there are several factors that affect draft. One of the most important is that the steers need to have short thick necks so that there is less tendency for the neck to curve or sway. This is why the preferred breeds for oxen in Nova Scotia are Hereford crosses, most often Hereford x Durham. The angle of draft is controlled by a pole, or wooden tug, that is attached to the yoke with two adjustable lengths of chain. The angle with which the tug meets the yoke can be adjusted so that when the steers push into the load, the draft neither forces their heads up too high nor down too low. Like all draft animals, they need a constant angle of draft that allows them to lift the load.