Breeching (britching) harness is a kind of harness that enables a team to exert backward pressure on the shaft of a wagon or cart, causing it to brake or back up. It can be used with all types of yoke and harness.
Breeching harness looks like a breastband collar worn around the rear quarters. Its main part, called the breeching seat, is a wide band of leather that circles an animal's buttocks. It is held in place by a band which passes over the top of the rump. The band is called a hip strap. The breeching is connected to the yoke or harness by a pair of straps (or ropes) called sidesteps, hold-back straps, or pole straps.
Sidestraps are adjusted so they are slightly slack when a vehicle is being pulled forward on flat terrain. When the load begins to move downhill, the shaft (of wagon or cart) drives forward against the yoke or harness, the sidesteps tighten, and the breeching seat closes against the buttocks. The animal brakes by resisting the pressure of the breeching seat.
Used for backing up, the breeching works like a breastband collar in reverse. The sidesteps tighten and pull against the yoke or harness the same way traces tighten and pull against a singletree. The yoke or harness pulls back on the front of the wagon shaft and the vehicle backs up.
How Breeching Works as a Brake
The illustration on page 95 shows the breeching in dark lines. The breeching is not in use, so the pole strap is clipped or tied to the hame. When the animal is hitched to a wagon, the strap is connected to a jockey yoke, which works like a singletree.
Correctly positioned, the breeching seat crosses the base of the buttocks. The height is adjusted by the hip strap.
Full Collar Harness with Breeching Parts Highlighted
Back straps are needed when breeching is used. These connect the hip strap to the collar and help stabilize the entire harness.