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Versatility Class unharnessing advice, please.

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xrdh

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Does anyone have any advice on how to quickly unbridle and unharness a mini in a Versatility Class? In what order is it best done? Who does what? Does the helper just hold the horse, or does he also undo everything on his side? How do you change from the bridle to the halter safely? And, lastly, are there any videos showing how the pros do it? I can't find any on YouTube.
 

BSharpRanch

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When I show, not often, Hubby is my groom. He takes the off side, I take the near side. His job is to undo the wrap strap and trace on his side. I undo wrap strap and trace on my side. He removes the cart while I undo the girth and start stripping the harness. I then remove bridle and put on the halter. Make sure that you remove the cart BEFORE removing the bridle, or you will be DG'd
 

Kendra

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It's really more time than you think it is - just make a plan with your groom so you know who's doing what and practice once or twice and you'll be golden! I find it more efficient to just unharness on my own and have the holder just be a horse holder mostly, but you can figure out what works best for you. The helper is allowed to help you unharness.

I know it was already mentioned but it's worth repeating: never, ever, under any circumstances (not just in Versatility) remove the bridle from your horse until it is completely removed from the cart. It's not an arbitrary rule, but crucial to keeping your horse safe - yet I'm amazed how often I see someone leading their harnessed and hitched horse with a halter. So dangerous.

Sorry for the tangent ... Versatility is lots of fun!
 

xrdh

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Thank you both.

How, exactly, do you take the bridle off? 1) unbuckle the reins from each other, (2 pull the reins out of the rings, 3) unhook the reins from the bit, or 3) undo the throat latch and then pull the bridle off with the reins still attached. Where is the halter during this time? I always have the halter buckled around my pony's neck when I unbridle, but that might get tangled up in the reins and side check if I'm trying to do it quickly.

I've competed in Versatility Classes in the local pony shows, but have never really felt like the unharnessing went smoothly and as quickly as possible. I was hoping an expert could give me some tips. I always use breechings, but I'm considering taking them off for this class to save some unbuckling time.

A video would be wonderful.
 

BSharpRanch

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After the harness is stripped, I put the halter around the neck, slide the bridle off then fasten the halter, just like at home. I leave my reins attached to the bit.
 

Margo_C-T

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My suggestion would be to first 'perfect' your harnessing/unharnessing technique at home; practice the proper steps until you are 'as smooth as silk' in your technique! It helps to have the proper technique down pat! There is a proper order to be followed in harnessing/unharnessing...main 'rules' to remember are: Bridle on horse and reins in hand/easily reachable before actually hooking cart up to horse, and when unhooking, bridle not removed until horse is actually fully UNHOOKED from cart; that when harnessing, the FIRST thing to actually hook horse to cart is the traces, and when unharnessing, the traces are the LAST thing to UNHOOK...THIS IS ABOUT SAFETY, as the traces are the only thing that will keep the cart with the horse should something go wrong and the horse 'get loose'! When unhooking in a Versatility class, decide ahead of time how best to complete each step in removal SMOOTHLY and keeping safety rules in mind; have 'who does what' decided, and practiced, if at all possible, ahead of time. Helper can bring in whatever you will need for the next phase, remove cart and harness after the unhooking. Most of all, keep calm and have fun!!
 

Flying minis

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So here's how I do it. . . .and practice at home first! Groom fastens halter around neck, unhooks cavesson and throatlatch. Person in cart gets out on right side, unhooks both traces and crupper. Groom unhooks left wrap strap, driver unhooks right (driver just works from back to front of horse, unhooking as they go). Driver removes cart. Groom unhooks girth and removes martingale from it. Now driver just slips hand under backpad and brings everything FORWARD, catching breastcollar and bridle on the way and takes it all off over the horse's head. Extremely quick and keeps all harness parts together. Groom halters horse. All done.

It ensures cart is removed before bridle, but does remove the traces before the wrap straps (and yes, I was taught to hook back to front and unhook front to back) but I only use wrap straps, no french tugs, and they are tight and hold my cart as well or better than tugs for safety.

Think of it this way - the groom works all up front. The driver works back to front, then back again (with the cart) then up to the front again (gathering the harness). It also keeps groom and driver from interfering with each other.
 
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xrdh

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Thanks for the advice. I printed out your instructions and will try it the next time I harness up. I never considered dividing the work front and back, instead of left and right. The only problem I foresee is having the halter fastened around the neck while the reins and side checks are still attached. If I'm not extremely careful, the halter will interfere with the removal of the bridle.

So, outside of the show ring, everyone out there makes their horse stand still, untied, while they harness and unharness, all the while holding the reins in one hand?
 

paintponylvr

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Thanks for the advice. I printed out your instructions and will try it the next time I harness up. I never considered dividing the work front and back, instead of left and right. The only problem I foresee is having the halter fastened around the neck while the reins and side checks are still attached. If I'm not extremely careful, the halter will interfere with the removal of the bridle.

So, outside of the show ring, everyone out there makes their horse stand still, untied, while they harness and unharness, all the while holding the reins in one hand?
I haven't competed in versatility classes and know that your first questions were pertaining to that, but I'm confused. Maybe because you're talking about "speed" and getting easier, faster.

I've never had putting a halter on before removing the bridle interfere w/ taking the bridle off. Doesn't matter if there is an overcheck, a sidecheck or nothing. I just "tie" the halter around the neck before removing the headstall. No problem. I "tie" the halter - as most times I have a rope halter, no hardware, but it's the same when using a flat strap nylon one that is buckled. O, I do slide the crown strap under the check piece(s), but that's no problem as that's part of everyday harnessing/unharnessing for me...

2nd paragraph - Nope. Mine are tied when harnessing and un-harnessing. I don't usually have a helper/groom and when I do, they are helping with harnessing, not holding the horse. The headstall/bridle is the last thing on, and the first thing off (my horses often wear their harness(s) for a while when tied while being prepped or the wagon/cart being unloaded/prepped for hitching). NOW - if I am at home, sometimes I DO unharness the horse next to the cart and drape the harness over the cart. Then, YES, I hold the lines the whole time I'm unharnessing because I don't have a halter/lead rope right there. The bridle then stays on the horse until I get to where the halter is. Generally, if the bridle is left on I usually ground drive the horse to the halter, I don't lead him. But I prefer to take harness and bridle off in the same spot -so wait until I have the halter in hand, then remove the bridle first and then unharness.

With a work harness, I only unharnessed one time and left the harness out w/ the wagon. You only have to carry "all that gear" once, before you realize how much easier it is to remove it close to where you are putting the harness away. I let the horse do the work of carrying, now, rather than having to go back and carry it myself. Of course, this isn't for a versatility class either, LOL.

The horse is not hitched before the bridle put on and is unhitched before removing the bridle.
 

Flying minis

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Mine all stand tied while I harness, but untied while I hitch. I work alone, and they are taught this from day 1. They also learn to stand tied when hitched, in case in the future I or someone else want to tie them to hitch / unhitch or while hitched, but otherwise I hitch while holding them. Better also add - that's only for singles. For anything more, I tie to hitch.

And having the halter around the neck while pulling the harness over the front is no big deal. Once you practice it you'll see how easy it is. And I do both - specific sides and front to back - the driver is always on the off side, and the groom / header on the near side. groom stays up front, and driver moves back to front to back to front. If I get a chance and get a groom out here, I'll video and post it.
 

xrdh

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Just to be clear - at home most of you harness your ponies while tied in a halter; then you tie the halter around their necks and bridle them; then you hitch them. I'm not sure if you tie them with the reins after being bridled, but must assume that you don't tie with the reins and they are expected to stand still until you're ready to take off. How is that safer than putting on the bridle last, all the while the pony is tied with the halter either on or around his neck?

Do you all agree that it's OK to put a halter on top of the bridle to tie up your harnessed and hitched pony, or is that frowned upon, too? I don't mean to leave the pony hitched and tied while I leave, but just until I can get my act together, lock the tack room door, etc. I work alone.

I've been driving for 6 years now and have never had a problem with either bridling a hitched pony or with putting a halter on top of a bridled and hitched pony and tying him for a few minutes under my supervision. Have I just been lucky so far?

The Amish tie their hitched horses every day. People have been doing it for hundreds of years.
 

paintponylvr

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Just to be clear - at home most of you harness your ponies while tied in a halter; then you tie the halter around their necks and bridle them; then you hitch them. I'm not sure if you tie them with the reins after being bridled, but must assume that you don't tie with the reins and they are expected to stand still until you're ready to take off. How is that safer than putting on the bridle last, all the while the pony is tied with the halter either on or around his neck? No, I don't tie them with the lines or w/ a lead rope directly to the bit. I have used a lead rope around the neck and run thru one side of the bit to tie them if don't have a halter. If I'm hitching while they are tied, the halter is either left on under the bridle or is put back on after he is bridled and tied to be hitched. The lines are run thru the rings and left hanging on the harness - both in working harness or in pleasure/show harness. IF hitching in the open (and I do this alone a lot), then the halter/lead may be removed (now I drive w/ it on most of the time). The pony is ground driven to the vehicle and depending on the vehicle and pony is either backed between the shafts and then expected to stand while hitched or is "parked" and the cart shafts lifted straight up and cart moved into position to be hitched and the shafts dropped down to put into shaft carriers. I don't turn the lines loose, I hold them and switch sides. I don't dawdle while hitching and if pony isn't holding still or isn't responding to "whoa, stand" - they need more work. Either in the commands/response or to take the 'fresh off".

It's safer to have them tied w/ halter either under or over the bridle when you go to hitch them. The standard is to never have a bridleless horse hitched.

Do you all agree that it's OK to put a halter on top of the bridle to tie up your harnessed and hitched pony, or is that frowned upon, too? I don't mean to leave the pony hitched and tied while I leave, but just until I can get my act together, lock the tack room door, etc. I work alone. YES

I've been driving for 6 years now and have never had a problem with either bridling a hitched pony or with putting a halter on top of a bridled and hitched pony and tying him for a few minutes under my supervision. Have I just been lucky so far? I've never considered it safe to have both a halter and bridle removed from a horses head while he is hitched.

The Amish tie their hitched horses every day. People have been doing it for hundreds of years. You are right. They have. They also are not all perfect, they do/have had accidents (especially recently - some including deaths and have happened when a bridle came off of a horse while hitched) AND their horses are worked hard and often every day of the week.
When I'm working ponies in work harness, they wear their halters under their bridles at home and at most events we attend. In fact, at most, I will keep at least one lead rope on one pony and it is attached to the hames - that way they can be tied out on the trail or in the field as well. That has also "saved us" when we had a major driving accident (green pony acted up crossing a water crossing and forced pair out into the boggy spot and sank/were stuck. Used lead ropes to help w/ pulling them out of the bog - one leg at a time after crawling on top of them to unhitch them from the forecart. Then lead ropes used to tie them to trees while the cart dug out and they were re-hitched after checking them to make sure they were ok. We were all a muddy mess before we got done that day!). I, too, work mostly alone and yes, they do stand tied to be hitched sometimes and others they are expected to stand while being hitched out in the open.

In this pic, you can clearly see the halter under the headstall and lead rope hanging from the hames.



This one shows the halters under the headstalls - extra lead ropes are in the wagon and the lead ropes they were tied w/ are still at the trailer. Due to all the activity this day, they were hitched while tied to the trailer - I moved the wagon up to them and pushed the tongue between them. Not the easiest to do, tell the truth! I've since had halters made for Christmas Parades that have matching lead ropes that are only 6' long (not the 10-14' I use for every day work/handling) that are then attached to the hames and w/i reach if there is ever a problem out driving. However, 6' leads are not long enough to tie to most trees if we are doing a trail drive that stops out on the trail for a break!



Here is probably the only pic I have of me hitching in the open... YES, the pair is EXPECTED to stand while being hitched (they were worked for an hour before getting to this point - this is their first pair hitch - both are experienced single drivers. The bl/white is experienced at being hitched single in the open, the lite silver is used to driving as a pair and is hitched both tied and out in the open). The woman taking the pics can drop camera and help if needed... The lines are held while attaching the neck yoke & traces, the brakes were set on the wagon. When I move from one side to the other, the lines move w/ me. "Whoa, stand" is used - a lot, and is meant to be obeyed. halters are on the ponies under the work headstalls and their lead ropes were left tied to the trailer - where they were first standing to run the lines for them as a pair.



While doing a lot of driving at events - there are usually people around and a friend and I often parked next to each other to be able to help each other. We have tied our singles and pairs to the trailer - while hitching and unhitching. I usually unhitch when taking a break - don't leave them hitched and tied for extended periods of time. They are bridled before they are hitched - weather removing the halter or not. IF halter is to be completely removed before driving, then it's put on OVER the headstall while they are tied (I don't have the buckle nose halters that can be unbuckled from under the headstall) and hitched, then lines are picked up and adjusted in my hands, the halter is removed and I step back and into the vehicle. The pony is to remain standing still until i am settled and I give the command to move on. If I'm doing a pair, the pony on the right is the one untied first. I go around the back of the driving vehicle to the left side pony, gather/adjust lines, untie and then mount vehicle. The rest is the same.

I reverse it while unhitching. If the pair is to be tied, they are driven up to the trailer to where they'd been tied previously. I dismount the vehicle and gather my lines to go up to the left side of the left side horse. The halter is put on over the bridle and the left side pony is tied to the trailer. The lines are the then draped thru the harness and I go around the vehicle (brake has also been set before getting out) and halter/tie the pony on the right. Then the traces are undone, the neckyoke is undone and the wagon brake is released and the wagon is pulled backwards away from the pair. IF the pair is attached via neck/breeching ties, they are undone first - allowing the ponies to move apart a bit. The lines are undone from the bits, the halter goes around the neck, the bridle is removed, halter put back on & bridle either hung on the trailer or on the hames. I undo the pony that I feel needs to be undone first. The right side pony has all harness removed from the right, the left side pony has all harness removed from the left.

IN this pic, I'm getting ready to mount the vehicle. The left side pony is already untied. I took the pic and untangled her foal that is attached to the left side of her hames (her right foreleg is over the lead rope). Then quickly moved around my cart to the right side pony - untied her (put lead around the hames) and mounted the cart from the right.



By myself, it takes some work to get the forecart pushed up between the pair w/o hitting them in the belly or legs w/ the neck yoke or tongue when they are tied. But it is do-able and I've done it. These two pics were taken when I was totally by myself. I needed to do a drive and "get away" and no one could go w/ me. I went and made it work. I drove the pair for an hour and 30 minutes according to my notes.



I have unhitched the fore cart, and the pair have had their bridles removed (u can c them hanging on the handle of the emergency door). Sorry, it's difficult to see the lines - they are figure 8'd and hung on the hames w/ the snaps attached to the hame rings they run thru during driving. They actually wore the harness home (15 minutes away) and they were hosed off (not thoroughly) w/ harness still on as it was unseasonably warm for February that year. Then they stood sheeted while they dried enuff to turn out. They carried the harness into the barn for me for me to hang it up.



ADA and CDE events you are not allowed to tie the horse up while it is being hitched/unhitched. You are supposed to have a groom for a single and for each pair being hitched. If I remember right, at AMHR and ASPC driving events - they aren't supposed to be hitched in the barn area but only in the practice or warmup areas... Most folks also used at least one header at that time. Some used one on each side when I was watching!
 

paintponylvr

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If I've left them tied while hitched - the headstall w/ blinders is not removed...

Understand - all of mine have also been driven/worked in open bridles and can be driven in open bridles (no blinders). ALL of the driving events I've been to frown on using open headstall/bridles at their venues and at one I was asked to either put proper bridles on my horses or remove ourselves from the premises... I had driving bridles w/ me but the one pony wasn't happy and the rearing started after the bridles were switched out. Her behavior stayed bad the whole time she was wearing the "blind bridle"... now - 4 years later, she still doesn't do well wearing a blind bridle and I would have a hard time showing her in driving classes - either single or multiple - at any venue (ASPC/AMHR; ADA or CDE and draft driving events).
 

xrdh

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Thank you, so much, for sharing your system and experience.

I need to find a halter that doesn't interfere with how the bridle and bit fit my mini so that I can leave the halter on under the bridle. The brass connectors or knots seem to be in awkward places in relation to the bridle. I don't want anything to pinch or rub.
 

paintponylvr

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Here is a pic of Cassie. She is harnessed EXCEPT for the headstall. The lines are hanging on her hames (figure 8'd) and the headstall is hanging by the bit over the lines. The wagon is behind her and the mare she will be hitched with.



Here is Cassie's partner - w/ her lines and bridle also hanging on the hames.



Hmm, can't find the photos of them being hitched. they were hitched in the open but wouldn't stand still. I had a pair of guys from the event step up and head them both while I was hitching them - it worked out well. Vicki took the photos. I had taken two pairs to this event (no foals) and Vicki & James left early - before we hitched my 2nd pair. Since I was alone and the group at the event had thinned as well, the pair driven in the afternoon was hitched while tied to the trailer. I moved my wagon. Later, after the drive, they were unhitched in the open and they did well (the 3 yr old mare was TIRED and stood quietly while unhitching. I had to "goose" her to get her to step off to take them back to the trailer).
 

paintponylvr

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Sometimes it takes a while to find a halter you can use under the driving bridle. Some bridles just don't fit right with a halter under it - honestly - the bridle/headstalls aren't made to be used w/ a halter under them. They are made to fit the horse w/o anything under them.

You might need to go to the tie/knotted halter style and/or find someone that can tie one from paracord instead of the larger/stiffer rope. I don't like to use the paracord ones all the time - they are extremely thin, which bothers me. They do work great under the headstall, though. I don't have pics of the paracord halters I now have - they were specifically made to be used during Christmas Parades and are MUCH smaller then my 1/4" knotted halters. Right now, I'm not even sure where I packed them - so can't just pull them out and take pics either...

Some of the knot/tie halters made for minis are too large and bulky to be used under a headstall. Here is one that the knots are too large - they rub (literally create holes on the face - has happened 2x when we've used it under bridles) when used under a proper blind bridle. The head shot shows the knot - this put a hole in her face as well as doing the same to another pony - when used under a blind bridle w/ a noseband. Just puts too much pressure on the knot... The orange, open headstall is braided from re-cycled haystring.



Same pony, same headstall - different halter. This one the knot is smaller and softer (different type of rope) but the halter itself is too large.



I've also made my own (haven't had time to do more than the two that I curently have) and these - braided out of 4 to 8 strands of recycled haystring (smaller type) then knotted into a halter work GREAT for under the headstalls. I made one w/ 4 strands and 1 with 6 strands...

The 6 strand one shows well in previous post of Bit w/ harness on. This halter is almost 6 yrs old and is starting to wear out in the loop you attach the lead rope and the loop where you do the tie. Probably should make a new halter soon.

Here is the 4 strand one - when I first finished braiding it and tried it on a smaller pony (it's a smaller halter). This halter is now 5 years old, seen a lot of use and is still holding up well. I'm looking for a pic of it on a harnessed pony... Can't find the one pic I know I had - may have it on the external hard drive - but don't have it available at the moment.



For tying, you can also teach your horse to tie with a collar like in the pic right above. Then use the collar when needing to tie w/ the headstall on. Nothing to unbuckle - the collar stays on when you release the tie rope. It also does not get in the way when bridling your horse. Collars can be leather, nylon or braided (I've made most of ours from recycled, braided haystring). A lot of my collars are actually stitched on "permanently" - I need to cut the collar to remove it - no buckle and not easily un-tyable. You could do the Amish style lead rope that goes around the neck and has a snap that hooks to the bit. This keeps the horse from turning his head or putting it too low (as he can when just using a collar). I just don't really like hooking to the bit.

My tie halters that I have purchased and really like are a name brand, natural horseman style training tool. I like them better than some of the others. I've used Diamond H, Tough 1 and some other no-name types. The ones I really like are Clinton Anderson ones. The best for use under the headstalls are the orange braided ones from haystring or tied from paracord....
 

Flying minis

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Kind of depends what you are doing with your horse too. . . most work horses and some pleasure driving (not show) horses wear their halters under their bridles. Most show horses do not, even at early stages of training. If I have to tie a harnessed horse, I use an extra large halter OVER the harness bridle. This is how I was also taught with teams, by the old driving guy who taught me to drive teams. When I worked with him, all teams were taught to hitch in the open and tied. And they were taught to stand tied calmly while hitched.

Personally, I prefer a halter over the bridle, if a horse does pull, it doesn't pull on the bridle, which it can do when under. But I would say that's just personal preference.
 

diamond c

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I was taught to leave the halter on under the bridle.

but I agree that its pesonal prefrance and what ever works best for you in your situation.
 

BSharpRanch

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I have nose buckle halters for my team that I can just buckle over their bridles. Works well for me and an added bonus is that they can help keep the brdle more secure.
 

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