Surcingle Specifics

When Arizona trainer Lance Valdespino first began ground-driving horses more than 30 years ago, there were few options available for surcingles. He tried using one from a traditional set of driving harness, and found that the screw-in metal rings were set too high for many horses. Running the lines through the stirrups on a saddle, as often is recommended, also didn't allow the flexibility he wanted and often placed the reins too low.


John Brasseaux, In 1975, he designed his own surcingle, measured and cut the leather pieces, found sturdy D-rings and took his invention to a shoemaker in Tucson, Arizona, for assembly. The resulting piece of equipment has five rings on each side. The D-rings are 21/2 inches in diameter and are set 31/2 inches apart center-to-center.

Following are his tips for proper use of the surcingle:

* Make sure it fits. Before you use the surcingle, be certain it fits and won't turn or move backward when your horse is in motion. You can use a crupper to help keep the surcingle in place. If you do, however, you'll need to accustom the horse to the feel of it under his tail while he is both standing and moving. The crupper shouldn't be so tight that it pulls on his tail or so loose that it irritates or rubs.

* Choose quality. A cheaply made surcingle will do more harm than good. The rings must stay vertical so the reins can slide through easily; not lay over flat, which will bind the driving lines.

* Judge how your horse responds to the ring you use. When you first start driving your horse, select a ring that is appropriate to his build. Each horse's neck comes out of his shoulder differently. You don't want your horse over-bridled, and you don't want his nose up above the bit. Find the appropriate ring by trying different options.

For more information on Lance and his round-pen training routine, see "Beyond the Round Pen" in the June 2007 WH.