Tandem Harness

Friend has Belgians.
He bought them trained to drive single, team & even as Wheelers in a Pickax.

Now he’s decided he wants to drive a Tandem.
He has team harness & did a trial run, but the lead horse obviously had no clue, kept trying to drop back & place himself with the Wheeler.

I have zero knowledge of harnessing a team or tandem. Friend drove a tandem once, a long time ago & with horses trained to that configuration.

I told him he needs Tandem harness, based on ads I’ve seen that mention (as best I recall) fittings for the saddle worn by the lead horse.
He insists he has what it takes already. Mentioned lines, but no other change in harness.
Am I worried for no reason?

Needs a set of very long lines to run from Leader, thru rings on wheeler bridle, then thru terret rings that are split horizontally to keep reins apart. Leader can wear a single horse harness but needs trace carriers. Not sure of “the look” in draft hitches, but traces “probably” go back to a set of singltrees hung off the wheeler’s collar. This was so both horses could actually pull the load while delivering in narrow alleys and city streets in the old days. Drafts may have some unique way of connecting the leader I don’t know about.

The carriage folks often shortcut with very long leader traces and two unique pieces of metal called “Tandem keys” that fit on wheeler trace buckles instead of using singletrees. Usually no breeching on leader because she can’t hold anything without shafts or a pole! Less to polish!

He needs a whip with lash that reaches the leader, should she need a touchup for forward.

Then the fun, not all horses will work as leaders!! A leader MUST be forward, brave and BOLD out there alone. No partner for confidence. They have to respond well to voice commands and Driver has to have nimble fingers!! What works in feel, pressure with a Pair or Four needs to be half or less on the Tandem leader. Even then leader may whip around, stop by the carriage for a pat, because she got too much (a twitch!) rein pull in a turn!!

Suggestion with new Tandem is having ground person lead the leader for a while, get her used to being alone, out front. Getting her forward may take a while to understand. STRONG suggestion to NEVER take the Tandem out alone!! Things can go bad in a heartbeat, second person can save you, untangle horses, fix trace the leg went over, pull the leader back straight. Driver alone CANNOT do any of that. Tandems are just faster in every area, especially when it goes wrong!! And it will, even in the arena.

You only create a good Tandem by diving them a LOT, put the miles on them. If his chosen leader is not improving after some time, he may want to exchange the horses, try the wheeler as leader instead. We have done two Tandems and a three with the Pair and a leader. Each took a good while to get improved. More than a couple months of regular driving sessions. Leaders were used to being in Pairs, not out alone in front. The three horses were actually the worst, he was not as brave as we wanted, though a terrific leader in the Four. The Tandems were for CDE competition, so needed to be very brave leaders, FORWARD even when we could not see ahead on curves. Different horses in both Tandems, so started from scratch each time. They were pretty good for Fall competition with Feb/March starting Tandem driving. Leaders were BROKE, obedient, excellent driving horses. Pretty unflappable everywhere, to add this knowledge on. We STILL had issues to work thru to get them correct, understanding what we wanted. Then there were the harness modifications to make things safer, improve their drivability. But they were light horses, we were going to ask MUCH from them. Perhaps the potential draft Tandem won’t be working at that speed or skill level, to be so highly polished, yet still very enjoyable to drive.

Tandems do keep your blood racing, which scours out all your veins and arteries!!

Driver WILL want to practice using that long lash whip, throwing lash out, bringing it back without hitting wheeler area, not tangling in harness or wheels. Best practice is sitting on the tall carriage/wagon/cart seat, hitting paper targets on bales where horses would be. Close the aisle doors so the neighbors don’t see you acting “peculiar”! Ha ha Driver NEEDS to be able to hit what he aims at.


“scours out your veins and arteries” :grin: I love this!

Thanks X 1,000,000 @goodhors !

I’m afraid the required hours driving won’t happen here.
Both drivers (Son & Dad) work full-time.
Driving is limited to their outdoor fenced paddock with a track drug in. Maybe 1/2ac?
I doubt they’ll research (or purchase) the harness modifications you described.
Or do the required whip practice.
No whip is carried now, so…
I will cut/paste your info & text to them
Better than saying nothing :woman_shrugging:

At least my friend - the son - was amenable to calling in help from local Draft folks who show a 6, as well as tandem & unicorn.
And Dad had a lead on the horse in front for the test-drive.

From what you described so well, the horse they chose to lead seems to think he belongs back in a team.
Unlikely they’ll switch positions as the Wheel horse now is the taller @ a solid 19h, Lead is a skosh under that.
Drafts don’t need the speed or technical savvy a CDE tandem would. Driving will be limited to an arena & crossing the diagonal to change direction at most.

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@2Dogs You are helping the best you can. They will know more after you share, than they do now. Perhaps their draft friends will be helpful in learning Tandem from. Arena walls may help keep things smoother for them to learn. Like your pony acquaintances, you can’t save them from their poor choices. Your middle name is not Cassandra (cursed by the Greek gods) is it? I feel like her at times, prophesying doom, but totally ignored.

We had help, much in useful tips, plus he took Tandem lessons with driving ponies. Those little devils were FAST!! Could tie themselves in a knot before you could blink! Patiently waiting on you though as they got untangled. Husband later said they did it to get a rest time! Ha ha He wanted to try Tandem for the challenge, our horses had Pair work down well. They were our first driving horses, beloved for their “freeze when you get scared” thinking. Kept bad from getting worse! The second Tandem was even more fun, we actually had Tjeerd Velstra’s book to refer to, in having a better Tandem! He had so many new ideas to incorporate in our thinking, and they worked!

Once the our Leader got confident, it was like riding behind a heat seeking missle! She snaked thru trails and hazards, cantered the Tandem to make up time between hazards. They looked like western pleasure, smooth, relaxed, but deceptive in their speed over ground when clocked. Tandems are a bit like driving semi trucks, fast on open trails but pretty slow in hazards because the length can not get thru fast, so you try to make up time between hazards.


Thanks :blush:
I guess I just believe in Research, Research & Get Help from One Who Knows before I try anything new.
And when I see or hear of something with Injury Potential for horse, driver or both, my Spideysense gets twitchy :dizzy_face:

One very experienced Driving friend, whose miles are self-admittedly limited to roads & trails, has the same answer for all issues:
Drive every day.
Um… Just not possible for a lot of us.
So I look for solutions that include finesse over repetition :sunglasses:

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Probably irrelevant but possibly interesting: when I worked at Morven Park’s carriage museum, some of our Tandem literature talked about using a tandem hitch to take a hunter to the meet, in the front position and, presumably, not pulling but getting there without the tiring of carrying a rider or the possible escaping of being ponied. That “fact” still sticks with me 20-some years later.

We had some paintings of young men terrifying the populace with their speeding tandems, and one of a leader horse halfway in a storefront, causing chaos.


@ShenanAnna All true information historically! Tandems were status symbols, the sports cars of rich young men because they are a difficult hitch to drive. Tandems are harder than Fours say our driving friends who drive both combinations. That single leader wayyyy out there can take “notions” you do not expect while cruising down the road!

We appreciate our good old horses better now, we were so lucky to have them! Bold and fearless just was their nature, a GIFT!! Now we are having to develop new leaders for the Four. It will be interesting to see how things shake out. Would NOT attempt a Tandem anytime soon!! Ha ha


@ShenanAnna & @goodhors I read/heard that about tandems too.
Fie! On those Rowdy Young Victorians!! :laughing:

The funniest tandem I ever saw was at Villa Louis Carriage Classic on the Cross Country course.
Coming to crossing a longish bridge over water, the leader hesitated.
{Spectators’ intake of breath} Then Wheeler chest-bumped him & over the bridge they went! :grin:
Wheeler’s 'tude had plainly said “Oh No, you DON’T!”


Tandems and unicorns. Unicorn hitch would be when you have a big sport break which would wear out a single wheeler

Draft Unicorns & Tandems use one of the big hitch wagons.
Like all other teams of more than a pair, the Leaders are the “headlights” - the horses with the highest action. Wheelers do all the pulling.