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New England D Ring Harness

Possibly the most versatile harness you will own.
By Richard Branscombe and Tricia Hills
The New England D-ring harness really is possibly the most versatile harness available on the market today. With little adaptation offers itself to field work such as ploughing and harrowing, pulling light shafted vehicles  and pulling implements with short Scandinavian shafts. The design is thought to have evolved from the single horse Scandinavian harness taken over to the USA with the early settlers and works on a similar principle. For single horse work the D-ring allows the trace to track up and down with the dragged or towed implement without passing on the movement to the collar. The main trace  runs from a bracket on the back of the central D-ring . This eliminates one of the main causes of collar rubs and sore shoulders. This is particularly useful when working on sloping or rough ground. When the tug trace is correctly adjusted to sit at right angles to the hames, the collar will sit in the correct position on the shoulder without tilt, so allowing the pressure to be spread evenly around the neck. An angle greater than or less than 90 degrees may cause the collar to tilt and exert uneven pressure. This constant angle means that the collar is working at its most efficient.  
Scandinavian shafts can be accommodated by using detachable flat bars on the metal Dee, and light, long shafts can be used by attaching shaft holders to the back band with hold-backs to the breeching ring. The harness will not work with heavy English shafts, as the weight on the back needs a more substantial traditional-style pad to accommodate the heavy ridger chain.
In pairs work, forward straps are added which run from the Dee-ring to the side clips on the neck yoke, which then attaches to the implement yoke. The weight of the implement tongue is taken on the back of the horse and not the neck, with the collar remaining in place irrespective of the vertical and lateral movement in the pole. Thus sore necks and rubbed shoulders can become a thing of the past when the harness is adjusted correctly. It takes a few extra moments to get it set right, but the benefits once done are obvious. The height of the pole is adjusted by altering the length of the traces, shortening raises the pole or lengthening drops it down. This allows correct pole height, so on implements like mowers where the pole height is critical to the correct functioning of the machine, exact settings can be achieved. Horse drawn mowers are hard work for the horses. There is a constant pull to the side where the cutter bar is being dragged through the crop, and the pole tends to bounce around a lot. The D-ring harness takes all the movement away from the collar as there is no direct attachment between the two.
The harness is not a novel invention; it has been around in the USA for years, as the Scandi harness has been around in Europe for a long time. However, I do believe that this is the first time that the two continental adaptations have been brought together in the one harness. It can be supplied in strong nylon webbing, leather or biothane and is available from Blue Horse Equine who will be happy to answer any questions or queries that you may have.
The nylon D-ring harness with American adjustable collar and hames is about half the cost Scandi harness and a very versatile set of harness.

D Ring Harness Image One Flat bar attachment for  Scandinavian shafts on a timber arch.
D Ring Harness Image Two D-ring harness in single horse set-up with short Scandinavian shafts.
D Ring Harness Image Three D-ring in pairs mode with central tongue. Note constant 90 degree angle on the collar irrespective of trace angle.
D Ring Harness Image Four Neck yoke assembly on central pole. Note no direct connection between the pole and collar