Days in Horse Country – Training for Harness
Have you ever had the urge to hitch your horse to a sleigh so that you could trot through the snow? If so, consider training him for harness.
Training a horse for harness is similar to training a horse to be ridden, except the horse must learn to pull something behind him instead of carrying a rider on his back. If your horse is already saddle trained, part of his harness training is already started.
You will need to slowly get your horse acclimated to wearing blinkers and teach him how a driving bit feels in his mouth as opposed to a riding bit. Get your horse used to having his tail handled a lot and practice rubbing leather straps on his legs.
You’ll need to teach your horse to ground drive, which means you’ll need to stand behind him holding long reins that are attached to his bit.
The next step involves teaching the horse to respond to voice commands and getting him used to pulling something behind him. Many horses are terrified the first time they see a cart, so just getting him used to having the cart near him will be a task. Eventually, you can have a friend walk the cart behind the horse as you lead him around the arena.
It won’t be long before you can hitch up the cart and ask your horse to pull it. Keep in mind that this should be done in an arena, and with the help of someone experienced in driving.