In the sport of driving, there are five major types of driving harnesses. These harnesses differ based on purpose. The five types of driving harnesses are the show harness, the carriage (or van) harness, the racing harness, the cart (or wagon) harness, and the plow harness.
Show Driving Horse Harness: This type of driving harness is typically for light cart driving. Because your horse will be pulling a lighter load, a breast collar is used in place of a horse collar. The horse collar is seen when it is a draft horse or combined driving show ring. The leather throughout this harness is strong and refined. The color is typically black and the harness is heavily polished to stand out in the show arena.
Carriage (or Van) Driving Horse Harness: These harnesses are similar to the show driving horse harness and they are built for a lighter load. This harness is designed to pull a cart or van. The traces of the driving harness attach to the shafts of the vehicle or to the vehicle itself. The harness can also contain either the breast collar or the horse collar.
Racing Horse Harness: The racing horse harness is built to pull a very light load. The two-wheeled cart that these race horses pull is called a sulky. The harness needs to be lightweight in order to not overload the horse, allowing the horse to perform at their top speeds. The race harness contains a breast collar as a result instead of the horse collar. Most of these racing harnesses include a running martingale and an overcheck, this helps to maintain head carriage. Typically a racing harness has a bridle with blinders, but sometimes an open bridle (one without the blinders/blinkers) is used. For the harness race horse that paces there is additional equipment used. Pacing hobbles are added to the racing harness in order to help horses maintain the pace gait.
Cart (or Wagon) Driving Horse Harness: These types of harnesses are designed to pull a heavier load. Due to this, the driving harness contains a horse collar. For additional strength the traces are typically made of chains and attach to loops on the shafts of the vehicle. The reins for this harness can be rope or leather. A chain may also be passed over of the driving saddle to help manage the additional weight.
Plow Driving Horse Harness: This harness is similar to a cart driving horse harness, but it does not include the breeching strap. This harness is used to drag loads, such as plows, canal boats, harrows, or logs. This style of harness can also be found on the lead horse or horses of a driving team. The traces of this type of driving harness attach to the whippletree behind the horse. The whippletree is what attaches to the load so that the horse can then drag the load. There are two different designs for a plow driving horse harness. These designs are the New England D-Ring and the Western Harness. The New England D-Ring uses a metal D ring that pulls from a ninety degree angle from the junctions of the trace to the hames, regardless of the height of the load. The Western Harness contains a strap that runs from the britchen to the collar. This prevents the pull from riding up and hitting the horse in the face when taking on a steep incline.