Harness Racing Equipment
Brace Bandages are protective bandages worn by pacers or trotters
that adhere tightly to the leg of the horse. Typically they are
worn by trotters on the hind legs and help to widen out the
animal's gait behind. If worn on the front legs, light cotton
quilts are often worn underneath to offer protection.
Buxton (Breastcollar) is a combination of straps worn that fits
around the neck and between the front legs of the horse. It is
used to hold the saddle and girth of the harness in place and
keeps it from slipping back along the horse's flanks. The proper
name for this piece of equipment is Breastcollar, but in harness
racing circles it has long been referred to as a "Buxton" because
Ohio-based trainer Dick Buxton was the first harness horsemen to
use this type of breast collar on Standardbreds in the early
1960's. Previously, it had been used mainly on hunter-jumper
horses, and today you can find it used in all horse disciplines.
Check (Overcheck Bit) is the bit that attaches to the overcheck.
There are many types of overcheck bits, and all have various
functions. Basically this bit helps to balance the horse and
gives the driver more control over the horse.
Crupper is part of the harness that attaches to the back of the
saddle and runs along the horse's back and under his tail. It is
used to help hold the harness in place.
Driving bit is the main bit in the horse's mouth which is used
for steering/driving. There are many types of driving bits, such
as snaffles, D-bits, twisted-wire, double-twisted wire,
Frisco-June, side-liners, Dr. Bristol, etc.
Driving Lines are what a driver or trainer uses to steer and
control the horse. They are typically made of leather or a
synthetic material and connect to the driving bit.
Driving Whip is used by a driver in the race to urge and
encourage his horse.
Ear Plugs are small pieces of cotton or rubber placed in a
horse's ears in order to reduce the noise a horse can hear. In
many cases, high-strung horses are thus easier to control when
they do not hear all of the sounds of the other horses during
racing or training. Ear Plugs can either be left for the duration
of a race, or they can be "pop outs." These "pop outs" have a
string attached to them which runs back to the sulky and is
easily grabbed by the driver, who can pull them out when he feels
the time is appropriate during the race.
Hand Holds are attached to the driving lines and help to give the
driver or trainer leverage in controlling and steering the horse.
Harness is the equipment worn by the horse when racing or
training. It includes a saddle, girth, crupper, bridle and
Headpole is a straight pole that attaches to a ring on the
horse's racing halter and to a strap attaching to the waterhook
on the horse's harness at the top of the saddle. The purpose of
the headpole is to keep a horse's head straight. There are two
types of headpoles: a plain headpole and a burr headpole. The
burr headpole is a bit more severe than a plain headpole.
Head Number is the small plastic or metal number that is attached
to the top of the horse's bridle so that he can easily be
identified during the race.
Hobble Hangers are straps that attach to the harness and hold the
hobbles in place on either side of the pacers. Two hangers are
near the front legs, one on each side; two hang down on the
middle of the horse on each side and one hanger each is found
behind the back legs on each side.
Hobbles (or Hopples)
Hobbles (also Hopples) are used to help a pacer maintain his
gait. They are comprised of two loops, with an adjustable middle
portion and they attach to the hobble hangers. The front loop is
a bit smaller than the hind loop, and the horse's legs go through
each. Trotting Hobbles have gained in popularity in the last
decade, with the success of horses such as CR Kay Susie. On
trotters, the hobbles fit around the front legs only, and are
used to help steady the horse's gait.
View a more detailed history of Hobbles and the Pacing Gait
Knee Boots are boots worn by both pacers and trotters and are
used for protecting the inside of the horse's knees. They come in
all shapes and sizes, and can be made of leather, felt or rubber.
Murphy Blind is a small piece of leather that can be attached to
a horse's bridle in order to help keep his head straight. It is
often used in place of, or in conjunction with, a head pole. In
some instances, where a horse might resist a headpole, they will
accept a Murphy Blind. This piece of equipment was designed by an
old-time horse trainer named Murphy, who thought that if he
restricted a horse's vision somewhat, the horse would straighten
his head to be able to have unrestricted sight. This idea worked.
Open Bridle is a bridle that does not have blinkers or "blinds"
on it, and allows the horse full vision on all sides.
Overcheck is what is used to keep the horse's head balanced. It
attaches to the waterhook on the top of the saddle of the harness
and is attached to an overcheck bit that goes into the horse's
mouth, or to another type of overcheck bit that does not go into
a horse's mouth, or to a chin strap or chin chain. While many
horses can jog and some can train without an overcheck, it is
very rare to find a horse who races without one.
Quarter Boots are worn typically by pacers on their front feet to
protect their "quarters," the back of their hooves/coronet bands.
Quick Hitch is the coupler on the harness that allows the racing
sulky (bike) or training (jog) cart to attach to the horse.
Saddle Pad is the fuzzy, thick pad placed under the saddle of the
harness to make the equipment sit more comfortably on the horse's
back. These come in various colors.
Saddle Pad Number
Saddle Pad Number is the pad worn by the trotter or pacer on
their backs during warm-ups and races so that they can be
Shadow Roll is a piece of fleece of various thickness that is
placed over the nose of the horse and attaches to the bridle. The
purpose of the Shadow Roll is to keep the horse from seeing
shadows either directly below him or to the sides of him, so that
he doesn't jump over them and thus, go off stride (gait). There
are several types of Shadow Rolls, such as a brush roll, a
turned-up roll, a standard roll, a small roll, and the finger
roll-made famous by the great pacing mare Shady Daisy.
Shaft is the part of the racing sulky (bike) that attaches to the
arch and runs along either side of the horse's flanks.
Stirrups are found (typically) on the inside of the racing sulky
(bike) or training (jog) cart so that the driver or trainer has a
place to rest his or her feet.
Sulky is the racing cart or bike. Over the past three decades
these racing bikes have evolved and developed into a number of
different designs. Originally made only of wood, they now can be
comprised of metal, titanium, fiberglass, wood and/or a
combination of these.
Tendon Boots are worn on the front legs of the horse for
protection, below the knee and above the pasterns.
Tongue Tie is used to keep the horse's tongue from flipping back
in his mouth and shutting off his air passage while racing or
training, possibly causing him to faint and fall. Tongue Ties are
typically made out of nylon or cloth.
Two Ring Martingale
Two Ring Martingale (Running Martingale) attaches to the bottom
of the harness at the girth and comes up between the horse's
front legs. The driving lines go through two small rings at the
top of the martingale. The theory is that the lines stay steadied
with this (running) martingale and thus keep the horse balanced,
even if he or she consistently throws or tosses their head about.
Wheel Disc is a clear or colored plastic disc that covers the
racing sulky's (bike's) wheels, and prevents a horse's hoof from
going through it.