Harness and Vehicle Care Mistakes
Carriage Care
Harness Care

Harness and Vehicle Care Mistakes

Here is the second post in our series of "We've Made All the Mistakes So You Don't Have To".  Most of these mistakes are not “life-threatening” but can help you take better care of your equipment so it will last longer and stay in better shape.  Some of these mistakes we have made ourselves, while others we learned about before we made them. 

    • Not closing the crupper – keeping the crupper buckled when not in use, or at Open Crupper and Cavesonleast closed somehow will help it maintain its shape. A crupper that is left hanging open, especially a leather one, can develop cracks in the leather at the crease from which it is hanging.  My husband is notorious for this! :-(
    • Not closing the caveson – this is the same principle. A caveson/noseband left open hanging on the rack will form a crease/crack at the point where gravity takes over.  Most of the time, I just tuck the bight into the keeper instead of buckling it so that it is ready for the next time I put the bridle on the horse.  
    • Hanging the bridle on a hook - a "half moon" bridle rack will maintain the shape of the crown much better than a simple hook.
    • Hanging a full collar from the top – a full collar should be hung upside down with its top closed if it has a fastener on the top.
    • Stuffing the harness in a suitcase or tote – I am a big fan of hanging up your harness on harness racks. They help keep the harness’ shape much better.  I have seen patent leather skirts stretched, cavesons creased, and backbands twisted when they are stuffed in a box.  To keep the harness clean, cover it with towels and maybe a light plastic bag to keep off dirt and dust.  If you are going to be storing it for a while, take apart any pieces that may get creased or stretched and lay them over the harness rack. 
    • Storing a leather harness in a heated house – a little heat isn’t bad, but most of us don’t live where it is 40 degrees F with perfect humidity. Storing a harness in a 70-degree house will dry out the leather (I've seen it).  It is better for it to live in an unheated area than have the moisture sucked out of it in the house.  Conditioning it will help, but it is better to hang in the tack room and kept clean if possible. 
    • Shoe polishing the edge of a leather harness - we drove a big pinto when we first started carriage driving.  I made the mistake of using shoe polish a little too close to the edge of the harness and my white pinto got a little black in places.  Keep the black polish on the top of the harness!
    • Using leather conditioner on patent – patent leather just needs some furniture polish to make it shine. Using leather conditioner or Vaseline will just make it “greasy”.
    • Furniture polish on vehicle paint – clear coated painted carriages need to be treated like they are fine cars. Using furniture polish on paint will put oily swirl marks on the paint.  Using a detail spray designed for paint is imperative on painted vehicles.  And waxing that carriage is also beneficial.  Waxing a painted carriage helps make it easier to clean as well as protects the paint.
    • Leaving mud on a carriage - We almost made the mistake of loading a muddy carriage to come home from a show in Iowa until one of our friends told us we better leave Iowa mud in Iowa, or you may bring that mud with you on the carriage next year!  That stuff is like concrete!  The sooner you get mud washed off, the better.
    • Scrubbing a carriage – when washing a vehicle, use lots of water first to remove the major dirt. If you scrub off the dirt, you can scratch the finish with the abrasiveness of the dirt.  Once the major dirt is off, then you can use a soft cloth, like a microfiber cloth, to remove the rest of the dirt, again, along with lots of water. Vehicles should basically be treated like an automobile.
    • Washing a carriage in direct sunlight – vehicles should be washed in the shade so as not to damage the finish, just like a car.
    • Polishing vinyl seats - putting Armor All on vinyl seats sure looks nice, but whoever is driving will NOT be happy with you!  (Trust me, I did it once.  My husband was less than thrilled after his first drive in newly polished seats!)  I have even known of people who have exited the vehicle (not on their own accord) after their "Better Half" made those seats so wonderfully beautiful...and slippery!  Just use some water to clean vinyl seats. (A tip, you can use a little rubber shelf liner under your derriere to help keep it in place on vinyl seats.)
    • Wearing new jeans on light fabric seats - I did this at a Suzy Stafford clinic.  I wanted to look nice, but after my lesson, my tan seats had a Smurfy tinge of blue.  It did come out eventually. This probably goes for all new fabric.  Make sure your apron has been washed appropriately so it doesn't bleed on your light seats.
    • Resting wood shafts on the ground – Most wooden shafts are made of hickory. A cart resting on its own weight on the ground will eventually develop a warp that is unfixable. (We have never done this, but I have seen this on a cart from a kid who left it on the ground for a winter.) Wood vehicles should always have their shafts supported.  The same goes for wood wheels or they can develop flat spots from being in one position too long.  A vehicle not in use should have the axles supported so the wheels are not on the ground, or rotate the wheels regularly. 
    • Keeping spring trace holders open – while this is more convenient to be able to put to without having to lift the traceTrace Holders | IVC Carriage holder, keeping it up can stretch the spring making them unusable. Store them in the down position.
    • Not using a whip reelbow top whips should be stored on a whip reel. This will help keep the bow nice so it doesn’t develop a crease and crack at where the stick meets the lash.
Whip Reel | IVC Carriage

For more information on leather harness maintenance, see our article

For more information on synthetic harness maintenance, see this article.

Comment below with other harness and vehicle care mistakes you have made or heard you are not supposed to make!  :-)


Nov 09, 2021
Bev Wannamaker

I have recently entered the world of driving after riding for decades. Thanks for the helpful information so I possibly avoid these mistakes though I am certain I will find my own. Lol

Aug 25, 2020
Linda H

I will never understand why people don’t take the time to maintain their equipment. It is not only their safety at risk but those around them as well. Besides it helps everything last longer.

Jan 27, 2020

Thank you for your posts—very insightfull

Jan 07, 2020
Cathleen A. Springer

Thanks for the inside track on maintaining driving equipment.

Jan 07, 2020
Kathleen Hasenoehrl
These are so helpful , things I never knew, thanks.

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