I am very passionate about the use of breeching. I have heard of and witnessed a few accidents that could have been prevented had the horse been wearing it’s brakes aka breeching.
Having a correctly adjusted breeching could mean the difference between your horse being able to easily stop your cart OR being run over by the cart OR having it’s feet swept out from underneath it when going down steep hills. Just having the breeching on the harness and not being certain it’s adjusted properly is just not enough.
First of all, make sure your breeching is the right length, not too short and not too long. When I measure for breeching I start in the middle of the flank swirl on one side, then go around the rump to the middle of the flank swirl on the other side.
I prefer breeching with two hip straps. This helps the breeching hang more level and is easier to adjust. The two hip straps will also help keep things in the proper place even when driving over rough terrain and moving at a fast pace. When you have two hip straps one tip is to run them through their own slots on the turn back strap. Typically the turn backs will have two slots, one for the front hip strap and one for the back one.
You want the breeching to sit at the fattest part of the hip. If it’s too high it can get up under the tail at the worst times. If it’s too low it can sweep their feet out from under them as you go down an incline, especially if the ground is a bit slick.
The breeching should be adjusted so you can put 3 or so fingers between the breeching and horse’s rear. If it’s too loose it will engage too late. It will also slap the horse when driving over rough ground as it engages and disengages. If it’s too tight then it will hinder the horse’s movement and can make them irritable.
Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure on the hips straps at the top of the hip. I see this happen when the hold back straps are angled downward on the shafts. This happens quite a bit with marathon style shafts. You want the hold back straps to come straight from the breeching to the footmans loops. If your footmans loops are too far back on the shafts then you can have someone re-weld loops in the correct spot.
More on your footmans loops. Often they are not in the correct spot on the shafts. Especially if you have an easy entry cart from Kingston Saddlery as I do. The footmans loops are too far back, towards the front of the cart. This makes it hard to adjust the breeching correctly.
If you have questions about breeching and how to adjust it please send me an email or ask in the comments! I am always happy to help!