Rural Heritage Tack Room

Collars, Hames and Sore Shoulders

by Carol Hershman

Reasons a draft horse gets sore shoulders:
HorseShoe A poorly-fitting collar (the foremost reason). If you don't know how to fit a collar, ask the help of somebody who does.
HorseShoe Hames that don't fit into the collar, placing the point of pull either too high or too low.
HorseShoe Hames that are so straight they pinch. The hame should have enough bend to allow it to fit securely in the hame bed, with no space showing between the hame and the hame bed.
HorseShoe Spreading the top hame strap too much. Keep the top trap as straight as possible.
HorseShoe Hot humid weather, causing the horse to get hot and scalded.
HorseShoe Overloading the horse for too long.
HorseShoe Letting the horse get too thin.
HorseShoe Working a horse when it has sores or lumps.
HorseShoe Dirty shoulders. Wash shoulders after a hard day's work.
HorseShoe Dirty collars and sweat pads. Clean collars frequently during and after work, and wash collar pads.
HorseShoe Using a dried out, hard collar. Oil collars frequently.

Curing Shoulder Sores:

Preventing sore shoulders is, of course, better than a cure any day. But at times all of us need a cure. Many sores can be cured while the horse keepsworking, but the cause must first be removed.

HorseShoe If sores appear above the tugs, lower the hames a bit by loosening the top hame strap.
HorseShoe If sores appear below the point of pull, the hames are too long or the point of pull is too low. Bring the hames up by loosening the bottom hame strap and tightening the top hame strap.
HorseShoe If the top hame strap is taken all the way up and the hames are still not seating securely in the hame bed, you are not using the proper-sized hames for that collar.

Rule of thumb: Hames should be the next even size up from the collar size. Hames that are the right size for the collar will naturally fall into the area behind the rim of the collar, where you usually find an extra piece of wear leather
HorseShoe Check horses every morning for wrinkles or scabby spots, or sore and swollen areas, and immediately attend to any sore. A sore that is not attended to can develop into a lump or scar tissue.
HorseShoe Puffy and painful, hot and feverish spots are more serious—the flesh is being torn from the bone deep inside. Only a long rest will keep such a horse from spending the rest of his life with an ugly lump that will always make trouble.
HorseShoe Use a vinyl-sided collar pad when working a horse with sore shoulders.
HorseShoe Clean everything—collar pad, collar, and shoulders—scrupulously and often.


Carol Hershman is editor of “Manes & Tales,” newsletter of the West Virginia Draft Horse & Mule Association, RR 1 Box 64, Thornton, WV 26440, 304-892-3976. This article appeared in The Evener 1999 issue of Rural Heritage.

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26 October 2011 last revision