Friday, February 27, 2015

Harness racing for the model shower, part two

Part two of Barb DiAnnibella's excellent harness racing series is tailor made for tackmakers.  I really appreciate all the good close-up photos, plus Buxton!  From now on, all tack items should have a piece called the Buxton.  Thanks again, Barb, for all the wonderful information.

Harness Racing for the Model Shower

by Barb DiAnnibella, owner Seven Furlong Racing Stable Inc.

The harness used for harness racing is very simple and consists of the saddle (usually worn with a pad under it) and girth, crupper, and breastplate or buxton as it is called.    The buxton is more like the breastplate you’d see on a riding horse than it is like the one you’d find on your average driving horse.   Most, if not all, harnesses are synthetic, however if there is not a suitable material available for models to make a synthetic-look harness, leather is perfectly fine.   Basic black is always acceptable but some trainers have the harness made in their colors. 

The saddle and the girth, showing the quick hitch clips.  
A close-up of the quick hitch.
The buxton.
Standardbred race horses can be trotters or pacers.  A trotter moves its legs in unison in diagonal pairs while a pacer’s legs move in lateral pairs.  Most pacers use pacing hopples (also referred to as hobbles, either is acceptable) when they race, however, while rare, there are “free-legged” pacers who race without them.  If you are making your first harness for a pacer, and want to keep it a little simpler, you can add documentation stating your horse is a free-legged pacer and leave them off.  

Pacing hopples are fastened to the harness using hopple hangers. The side hopple hangers fasten onto the crupper strap, one near the saddle and the other not quite halfway back.
This is the front hopple hanger.  The curved piece on the right fits over the horse’s neck, near the withers, and the strap in the middle connects across the horse’s chest.  
The rear hopple hanger also fastens to the crupper strap, near the crupper.  This picture shows the rear hangers and one set of side hangers.
This picture shows the buckles used to fasten the hopples to the hopple hangers.
Trotters sometimes wear hopples that are worn only around the front legs and are connected by a pulley system that is under the stomach of the horse.  

Bridles can be open (no blinkers) or include blinkers, called a “blind bridle”.  Your average pacer will wear a blind bridle. 

The bridle will include what looks like half of a noseband. This helps to keep the bridle in place when pressure is applied on the lines.
The horse will wear a head halter as well. This looks somewhat like an English bridle cavesson and is worn under the bridle.  The head halter has rings on both sides that can be used for cross-ties back in the paddock area and the head pole will fasten to one of the rings.
All race horses use an overcheck because they can be hard to control if they get their heads down.  Overcheck bits tend to be simple, usually a solid (non-jointed) loose-ring snaffle with small rings.  The driving bit is as varied as those for riding horses, but a half-cheek snaffle is always acceptable for the model horse.

The lines (reins) include handholds that can be adjusted to the driver’s preference.
The third and final post in this series will discuss additional equipment, Standardbred horses and hints for showing the model harness racer.


  1. This is so interesting! I never knew about all the little parts and pieces on these harnesses!

  2. Obviously I love this series. All the hangers and scalpers and knee boots always made me feel so accomplished when I worked at the track. Like... you really had to know your stuff to race rig a horse, especially a pacer.

  3. Love all this helpful info. I grew up with the same books and never knew about the newer style rigs and breast collars. I have some Stone palouse models that I thought would be good for a harness racing set up someday and this will help.