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An Introduction to Showing Model Horses in Harness Classes

Learn More about the Fascinating World of Horse Model Vehicles and Harnessses


model horse and cart

A beautiful model horse, harness and vehicle setup from collector Randa Garrett.

Copyright 2011 by Randa Garrett. Used with permission.

Perhaps the most challenging model horse show class to enter is the harness class. Many beginners wonder if they need a cart and harness for their Breyers, or if only a harness is sufficient. Harnesses are more intimidating to work with than a simple saddle and bridle, and all the straps, buckles and other parts can be confusing. Let's take a look at the world of model horse show classes called harness classes, and start with simple steps any model horse hobbyist can take to enter a live or photo show class.

About Model Horse Harness Classes

The term "harness" can encompass many variations, so it's important to read the individual show rules before entering your model horses or your photos. Some model hores shows welcome all types of harness performance setups in one class, so judges will be reviewing every conceivable type of horse, harness, cart and setup. Other shows split the classes between harness-only and vehicle classes.

  • Harness Only - a harness only class includes your favorite model horse and the appropriate horse harness. This is a good beginner class because you do not need to invest in the vehicle. The horse is shown in either an outdoor setting or an arena setting.
  • Harness with Vehicle Class - in these classes, the entire setup is required. You will need a great Breyer model horse or another kind of model horse, a harness, and a vehicle. Dolls are optional but add the last touch of realism, and most people who invest in all the accessories for a harness setup have at least one or two dolls ready to sit up in the driver's seat!

If you're taking pictures for photo shows, an arena background or an outdoor setting is acceptable.

Model Horses and Breyers to Show in Harness Classes

As you survey your model horse collection or your favorite Breyer horses, which ones might make a good harness class entry? The secret to choosing great model horses for winning harness class entries is to pick horse models that seem suited to the job at hand.

Harness classes are the remnant of days gone by when people relied on horses for travel, farming, moving goods and people from one place to another, and pulling heavy loads. Many horses breeds actually evolved out of the need for stronger horses to pull heavier loads (the draft horses or so-called "heavy horses") or for spritely carriage horses.

As you do your research on various horse breeds, note which ones evolved out of carriage horse breeds. Warmbloods, popular in the show jumping and dressage rings today, evolved out of the carriage horses of Europe. Their heavier build and athleticism were ideal for pulling carriages while their beautiful appearance, thanks to an infusion of Arabian and Thoroughbred blood, made them the choice for elegant equipages for the wealthy.

Even ponies had their place pulling carts in olden times. Ponies pulled light carts and were often a child's first experience of driving. Ladies may also drive a pony trap or lightweight cart.

Take a look at your Breyer and horse model collection. The following checklist will help you pick your models with the best potential to win in harness classes:

  • Condition: No matter if its a Breyer, Peter Stone Model Horse, Schleich or another type of model horse, the horse model must be in great condition. Leave your horse models with broken ears and rub marks at home.
  • Suitability: Horses should look calm even if in an active pose. A wildly pulling Mustang might make an interesting diorama, but would never pull a lightweight cart. Nor would a light-boned Arabian pull a heavy beer dray. Standing, trotting and even cantering horses may all be suitable.
  • Tails: If you plan to include a vehicle in your setup, check the tail position. Sometimes the tail is set at an awkward angle that makes accurately hitching up a vehicle impossible.

Types of Harnesses for Model Horses

In the real horse show ring, most horses are shown wearing a show harness consisting of fine leather and a breast collar, a thinner strap than a horse collar. They are shown in fine driving harness with many types of vehicles.

Model horses may be shown with a heavy draft horse harness, a fine show harness, or a historically accurate harness. The choice is yours, but always keep in mind that realisms and accuracy are the most important aspect of the hobby.

Where to Begin Creating Your Harness Setup?

  • Research the history of carriage driving, harness horses and more at your local public library and online. The American Driving Association is the equine sport organization dedicated to driving. There are many great resources on their site.
  • Get a book or print a diagram of how a horse harness should fit. Learn the parts of the harness, the types of bits used, and view examples of a real horse in harness.
  • If you plan to include a vehicle, expand your research to encompass various vehicles.
  • For leather supplies, buckles and leatherworking tools to make horse model harnesses, Rio Rondo has a great selection at reasonable prices.
  • Want a great vehicle project that you can use for live or photo shows? Lesley created a printable sleigh pattern for doll house enthusiasts but it can scaled for Breyer model horses. Linda York, a model horse hobbyist, made the pattern using wood and metal. You can adapt it, too!
  • Bill Duncan, an expert model horse vehicle maker whose work is in museums as well as model horse show rings worldwide, has inspirational photos on his website.
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