To learn more about harness racing equipment, click on a name in the image below:
Image: Reprinted with permission from the
Harness Tracks of America, Inc.
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
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 driving lines.
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.
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
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
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 identified.
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
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.