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close this folder 6. Hitches
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Vehicle hitches

Most hitches to vehicles are designed and made so the animal or team can brake and back the load up as well as pull it forward.

Teams in yokes can get some leverage for breaking by lifting their heads and resisting the pressure created when the shaft of the wagon pushes against the back of the yoke. Horned cattle can back a load up by pushing back against the yoke stock with their horns. The stock is connected to the wagon shaft and when it goes back, the shaft and the wagon go back.

These controls are effective only with very light carts or wagons, or when the vehicle has an independent braking system (mechanical brakes). They are not adequate if the load is heavy or if the terrain is hilly. In the latter instances, animals should be fitted with breeching harness before being hitched to the load.

Animals or teams in sling or breastband harnesses have no braking or backing power at all. Those in collar harnesses have very limited ability. A general rule is that animals in harness should wear breeching when pulling vehicles.

Basic types of vehicle hitches are discussed below. Some involve

yokes, others harnesses. Yoke to Wagon

Yoke to Wagon (Two Animals)

There are many ways to connect the shaft or tongue of a wagon to a yoke. The method shown here is recommended because it minimizes strain on animals and vehicle and because the component parts are easily made in a local forge and can be mounted or removed, without wrenches, as needed.

The hitch is made by attaching a draw chain to the centerpoint of the stock by means of a pin and clevis. Two rings are kept on the clevis, a small draw-ring for the chain and a larger pole ring for the shaft of a cart or wagon. A field implement can be attached, by chain and hook, to the clevis, or to either of the two rings; however, when a wagon is pulled, the chain should be attached to the draw-ring and the wagon shaft passed through the pole ring. The load is pullet by the chain, not the shaft. This lets the shaft slide forward and back through the ring, eliminating much of the jarring produced by a "hard" or fixed connection. The shaft is furnished with a stop that prevents it from sliding too far forward. The chain keeps it from sliding too far back.

Yoke-to-Wagon Hitch

Chain Adjustment-When the chain is fully extended, it must be shorter than the length of the wagon shaft. If it is equal or longer, the team will "walk off the tongue"-the shaft will slide out of the pole ring before the chain tightens and begins to pull the wagon. In this case, the tongue will be banging on the ground as the load moves forward. This can frighten the team and cause a serious accident.

To make the proper adjustment, measure the length of the shaft and subtract 20 cm. This figure should equal the length of the fullyextended chain.

The shaft, correctly used, is for turning, braking, and balancing the load; it is used as a hitchpoint only if a second team is used in front.

Tandem Yokes to Wagon (four animals)

More power can be supplied to the yoke-wagon hitch (above) by hooking a second team to the metal clevis located on the tongue of the wagon (the tongue is the end of the shaft). The front team (lead team) pulls the shaft. The back team (wheel team) pulls by the chain connecting its draw-ring to the wagon. Use the more obedient, well-trained team as the lead, the stronger as the wheel team.

Doubletree to Wagon (two animals)

• Preparation

Connect the doubletree and singletree to the back of the wagon shaft and connect the neckyoke and Jockey yokes to to front of the wagon shaft (tongue).

The tongue of the wagon (end of the wagon shaft) must be fitted with equipment that can be connected to the team's harness. The equipment lets the team hold up the shaft and brake and back the load. The neckyoke is a wooden crossbar the same length as the doubletree, but made of lighter wood. It has a ring in the center ant one on each side. The center ring is large enough so the tongue can slide through it. The side rings are smaller; they connect the neckyoke to the harness via shorter yokes called jockey yokes. A Jockey yoke has a ring in the center and one at each end.

To prepare the tongue for hitching, lay the neckyoke on the ground just in front of the tongue. It should be at right angles to the tongue. Then fasten the jockey yokes to the neckyoke. The center ring of the jockey yoke hooks to the end ring of the neckyoke.

Top View of Wagon Before Team Is Hitched

Now slide the center ring of the neckyoke over the tongue.

Check the alignment of the equipment at either end of the shaft. A straight line drawn through the midpoint of each jockey yoke should intersect the midpoint of each singletree and be parallel to the wagon shaft.

Harness the animals. Use the harness shown on page 95 .

• Position the team and hitch the lines.

Position the animals on either side of the shaft so their collars are roughly over the neckyoke. Do this by leading each animal to the correct position or by driving them into position as a unit. To place the team as a unit, fasten their lines and drive them toward the shaft. Approach it from the side and behind. Let one animal step over it and then straighten the team and ease it up toward the neckyoke. Once they're in a position and steady, tuck the lines in the britching, or somewhere they can be reached easily, and go forward to place the neckyoke. (Don't walk between them-go around.)

If the animals were led into position individually, fasten the lines before proceeding.

• Hitch the neckyoke.

Stand in front of the team and pick up the neckyoke (jockey yokes attached). In doing this, you will have also lifted the wagonshaft. Next, you want to free your hands so you can connect the jockey yokes to the lazy straps on the collars. To do this, bend your knees and use them to hold up the neckyoke.

Now fasten the inside ring of each jockey yoke to the inside lazy strap on each collar. With this done, the shaft is now held up by the collar, and so you can stand up and finish the job by connecting the outside lazy straps to the outside rings of the jockey yokes.

• Hitch the braking/backing up system.

At this point, the shaft is being held up by the collars. The tops of the collars are bearing down on the tops of the animals' necks. This is hard on the team, and it is better to transfer this weight to the backpad at the top of the jack saddle This is done by connecting the pole straps to the jockey yokes.

When not being used, pole straps come forward out of the jack saddle side rings and fasten to the hames (see page 95). Take them off the hames and connect them to the ends of the jockey yokes. Tighten them until tension on the lazy straps is relieved, and then unhook the lazy straps and hook them back up on the hames.

Doubletree to Wagon Hitch

Connection of the pole straps puts the weight of the shaft on the animals' backs, but it also links the breeching to wagon tongue. When the animal backs up, the breeching closes against the buttocks and pulls the side straps, pole straps, and jockey yoke. The jockey yokes then act like singletrees, pulling the longer neckyoke (equivalent of doubletree) which in turn pulls on the tongue of the wagon. The wagon is backed up.

When the wagon is driven downhill, the shaft drives forward, pulling the neckyoke forward. Jockey yokes, pole straps and sidesteps are all pulled forward until the breeching seat closes against the buttocks. The animal resists the pressure by leaning back into its breaching. In this instance, breeching works like a brake.

The pole straps are adjusted by trial and error.

If the straps are too short, the breeching will interfere with the animal's normal gait. It will squeeze or tighten against the buttocks when the animal is walking on level ground.

If the straps are too long, the shaft will drive too far forward before the breeching has a chance to work. This can cause two problems: a) the breeching slams into the animal's rear quarters instead of meeting them; there is strain on both the animal and the harness; b) the singletrees come forward with the shaft and bang the animal's heels.

• Hitch the pulling system.

The pulling system is connected by fastening the ends of the traces to the singletrees. Connect the inside traces first, walking out and around the team to reach the other side. Make sure the traces are the same length, and that they pull the load before the team walks so far forward that the neckyoke slips off the tongue.

Double-shafted Cart Hitch (one animal)


One-animal carts are double shafted. Shafts are supported by loops hung from a saddle. The saddle is a thick pad or backpad which distributes weight and pressure from the shafts across the animal's back. The cart is pulled forward by short traces which connect the collar or breastband to the middle of each shaft. In the illustration below, the trace is shown as a rope tied to a ring on the end of the breastband. It connects to an iron U-bolt located halfway back on the shaft.

Backing and braking are accomplished through use of breeching and hold-back straps. In the illustration, the hold-back strap (or sidestrap) ties to a ring on the end of the britching seat and runs forward to a U-bolt located toward the front of the shaft. When the cart goes downhill, the shaft slides forward in the loop, and the hold-back strap tightens and pulls the britching seat up against the donkey's rear quarters. The donkey brakes the cart by resisting the pressure of the britching seat.

The cart is backed up when the driver backs the animal into its britching. The hold-back straps then act like traces, pulling back on the front ends of the shafts.