Charles Field Mason.

A complete handbook for the sanitary troops of the U. S. army and navy and national guard and naval militia online

. (page 30 of 38)
Online LibraryCharles Field MasonA complete handbook for the sanitary troops of the U. S. army and navy and national guard and naval militia → online text (page 30 of 38)
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the end of the pole, attaches traces as described above, takes the
reins, first of the lead team and then of the wheel team, and mounts
to the right side of th,e seat. The orderly mounts the seat from the
left side.

393. At the command :


Each driver reverses the several steps used in hitching.


394. Never pole too tightly, especially when the pole is a heavy
one, because if the pole chains are tight the weight of the pole will
continually rest on the neck. On the other hand, if the poling up
is too loose the constant swaying will be a source of irritation and
danger to the team.


395. The correct adjustment of the two short inside reins, called
coupling reins, requires great care. They should be so fitted that
an even pressure is brought to bear on both sides of the animals'
mouths, and in such a way also that both animals shall go straight
and pull evenly on the traces. For instance, if the near horse carries
his head to the near side, the coupling rein on the off side should
be taken up, when his head will be straightened.

Supposing we have two animals apparently well matched, but
that the near one carries his head rather out to the front, and has a
light mouth, while the off animal has a hard mouth and carries his
head close to his chest. Now, to get this pair to pull equally on the
traces we must have the near animal's rein considerably longer than
those of the off animal. In this case we should begin by letting
out the off side coupling rein and taking up the near side rein the
same number of holes.

The reins will now be adjusted so as to permit the near horse to
hold his head well in front of the other, while the collars are brought

The most general fault is coupling up both reins too tightly, which
makes the animals carry their heads in toward the pole, instead of
going straight, as they should do. To prevent animals acquiring


this habit, it is a good plan to change their positions occasionally,
instead of always driving them on the same side of the pole.

It is a convenient plan to have more than one hole in the billets
for buckling the reins on the bits, so that an animal can be pulled
back or let out a hole or two on either side without altering the
coupling rein.


396. Place both reins in the left hand, the near rein over the
forefinger and the off rein under the middle finger. Thus you have
two fingers between the reins. The reason for this is that it gives
much more scope for play of the wrist on the mouths than if you
have only one finger between the reins. The thumb should point
straight to the right and the forefinger be held well out, pointing to
the right rear. This will keep the rein close up to the knuckle,
and the pair may be easily moved across the road by turning the
back of hand up or down ; up for left turn, down for right turn.

397. Sit firmly but comfortably in your seat, body erect, without
stiffness, and elbows close to side. Do not lean forward. Now
take the whip in the right hand, at the place where it balances com-
fortably, and you are ready to start.

398. Bring the pair to attention by feeling their mouths gently,
and speak to them. If they do not respond, touch them gently with
the whip.

The moment they start drop the hand slightly; "jibbing" is
often caused by neglect of this precaution.

399. The elbows should be held close to the sides, with the points
almost touching the hips.

The wrist should be well bent, as by this means the driver is
enabled to keep a perfectly steady bearing on the mouths without
any jerking.

The forearms should be horizontal, and the fingers from 3 to 5
inches from the center of the body, with the knuckles to the front.

The thumb should not be pressed down on the rein. The fingers
that should grip the reins are the three lower ones.

400. Never hit an animal while the right hand is holding a rein,
because if you try to cut him when you have the off rein in the right
hand you must slack that rein off, and the pair is apt to dash to the

401. Do not get into the habit of "jabbing" the pair with the


bits, and do not flap the reins on their backs to start them or make
them increase their pace.

Drive at a steady, even pace, as nothing tires a team so much as
to constantly change the rate of speed.

When it is necessary to pull up in a hurry, the proper course to
pursue is to catch hold of the reins with the finger and thumb of the
right hand, just behind the left, and shorten them as much as neces-
sary by pulling them through. This is safer and more business-like
than elevating the hands, which disturbs the seat.

402. The driving gloves should be large and very comfortable.
They should nevef be of a size to cramp the hand in the slightest.

403. The right hand is known as the whip hand. It is generally
used only for holding the whip, for assisting the left hand, and for
shortening the reins by pulling them through from behind the rein


404. The driving of four animals as they should be driven is an
art that can only be learned by constant practice and study.

405. When driving, the body should be kept upright and square
to the front, but all stiffness should be avoided. The driving seat
should be about three or four inches higher at the back than in front,
so that the driver can sit well back in a really comfortable position.
The ankles and knees should be just touching each other, and the
arms close to the sides. The forearm should be about horizontal,
and the left hand, as in driving a pair, from four to five inches from
the center of the body, the back of the hand being turned toward
the front, but inclined a little toward the team. The wrist should
be bent slightly toward the body, and on no account allowed to
bend the other way. This is far the best position for feeling the
mouths, as the wrist then acts like a spring, and an even pressure
can be maintained.

The driver should on no account be half standing, or merely lean-
ing against the seat, with unbent knees, as, in the event of a wheeler
falling or shying to the side, he will probably be jerked off the


406. The best way of holding the reins is to have the near lead
over the left forefinger, the off lead between the forefinger and the
middle finger, the near wheel between the same and under the off



lead. The reins must be gripped firmly by the three lower fingers
of the left hand. The thumb should point to the right, and the
forefinger be held well out. The near lead rein should pass over or
close to the knuckle of the forefinger and not over the first or second


407. All four reins can be shortened, if much is required, by
pulling them through from behind, but it is generally quicker and
neater to hold the reins with right hand two or three inches in front
of left (the little and third fingers over the off-side reins and the
middle finger between the near-side reins), and then slide the left
hand up to the right. This movement is generally required when
going down hill.


408. It is better to shorten these by pulling them through from
behind. This is necessary when going down hill, especially when
the wheelers are loosely poled up, so as to prevent the singletrees
from hitting the leaders' hind legs.


409. In order to shorten these, take out both the leaders with
the right hand (the third and little fingers over off, and first or
middle finger over near side rein) ; they then can be passed back
to the left hand the required length by letting them slip through the
right hand the necessary amount. To lengthen them, simply pull
them through from the front.


Either push through from the front, with the full of the right hand
over the rein, or take it right out of left hand and replace it the
proper length.


Push it through from the front.


This is the most difficult rein to keep in its right place and to
shorten. It is constantly slipping when the wheelers pull. It appears
to be the best plan to pull it through from behind.



Push it through from the front with the right hand.


410. To the left: Turn the left hand, knuckles upwara, and pass
it across the body from left to right ; the team will incline to the left,
the reins on that side being shorter.

To the right: Pass the left hand down toward the left hip, back of
the hand to the front, with the knuckles of the forefinger downward,
and that of the little finger uppermost. This shortens the right hand
reins and causes the team to incline in that direction. The whip
can be applied to the off wheeler in the first instance, or to the near
one in the second, if they do not cross rapidly enough.


411. With the right hand seize the near lead and wheel reins
under the lower fingers ; then either pull those reins up toward the
center of the body, which will shorten them, or allow the left hand
to go slightly to the front, which will slack off the right reins, or,
better still, combine these motions.


412. Take hold of the off lead and wheel reins with the lower
fingers of the right hand and treat them in the same way as in using
the left reins.


413. In order to steady the animals or to ease the left hand, the
right may be placed in front of the other over all the four reins, the
third and little fingers being over the off reins and the upper fingers
over only one of the near reins.


414. The handle should rest in the palm of the right hand and be
kept firmly in its place by the action of the thumb pressing against
the base of the forefinger; the lower fingers will then be left free to
catch hold of the reins.

If, however, it is necessary to pull the reins through from behind,
the lower fingers must be tightened on the handle, so as to allow the
thumb and forefinger to be used.


Hold the whip at an angle of about 30 to the left and about
40 upward.

The thong ought to have three or four turns round the handle.

The point of the thong should be just under the inside of the
thumb ; this will keep it from slipping. Hold the whip where it will
balance comfortably, the end of handle under the forearm, the wrist
well bent, and the elbow close to the side.

415. When the right hand is on the reins or using the whip, it
should be kept close to the left, the forearm being nearly horizontal.
It can then rest on the thigh and yet be ready for any emergency.

416. The wheelers should be hit in front of the saddles, to avoid
making them kick. It is no use hitting the wheelers if the leaders'
reins are too long. In this case you must first shorten up the
wheelers' reins, and then use the whip on the leaders ; otherwise, as
soon as the wheelers have jumped into their collars, the leaders will
again press forward and allow the wheelers to hang back as before.

417. The proper hitting of the leaders with the whip can only be
acquired by constant practice when off the wagon. A good whip
can hit his leaders wherever fie desires and without the dangerous,
flail-like swipes that some teamsters appear to consider necessary.


418. Feel all the animals' mouths, and, if necessary, give them
the word to go, dropping the hand to them at once until the vehicle
is fairly off. The wheelers ought to start the wagon, and this can
be effected by touching them with the whip, if they require a hint.
It is never safe to start without having the whip in the right hand,
ready for immediate use. The whip is to the driver what the leg
is to the rider, that is, it keeps the team up to their bits. As soon
as the team is going straight, take the right hand off the reins, at the
same time keeping it close by, ready for any emergency.


419. When you want to pull up, shorten all the four reins by
passing the left hand up to the right, or else by pulling all the four
reins through from behind, as before explained; then, having the
right forefinger on the near lead rein, the middle finger on the near
wheel, and the lower fingers of the right hand on the off reins, pull
both hands back toward the body, and if necessary lean back a little.


Should the team be getting the better of you, and you find that you
can not stop it, it will be found a great assistance to place the right
leg over all the four reins, as you may be able to stop them by the
extra power and leverage by the position of the leg. Of course, it
is understood the brake has been applied.


420. Always keep a steady pressure on the reins.

Never move left hand from reins, even though the right may be
holding them in front, as it is very difficult to get the left hand
back into its place again with the reins in the right places.

Lead reins should seldom be removed from left hand.

Grip the reins tightly with the third and little fingers to prevent
their slipping.

Alter position of the bits if the team pulls hard.

See to it that your wagon is always well greased.

Always take a pull at the team to steady it just before you arrive at
the crest of a hill, and begin to descend slowly, holding the leaders
steady, and with just enough traction to keep their singletrees from
hitting them.

In crossing ruts and turning corners be careful that the leaders
are out of draft; otherwise the pole may be snapped off or the
wheelers .pulled down.

If, while going down a hill, and especially when near the bottom,
you find a wheeler slipping on his hocks, do not try to pull him up,
but drop the hand and allow the team to go a trifle faster.


421. Always keep to the right when meeting vehicles.

On a narrow road a loaded team has the right of way, and it should
be given ungrudgingly.

On overtaking a vehicle, pull out to the left and pass it at a steady
pace and without cracking your whip or coming in too close.

When followed closely by another vehicle and both are at a good
pace, signal with your whip if you are about to slacken your gait or
change your direction.

When approaching a railroad crossing, bring your team to a walk ;
halt if necessary, but always look and listen.

Be courteous in observing the simple rules of the road ; give plenty


of room to others, and do not forget that a smile or a pleasant laugh
will do more for you than a growl or a surly remark. Horsemen, as
a rule, possess good dispositions ; meet them at least half way.


363. Constant and intelligent supervision of adjustment of the
bearing parts of harness, packs, and saddles is productive of better
results than medication in keeping transportation animals in service-
able condition.

364. In preparing for the field it is well to bear in mind that nearly
all animals in a command lose flesh rapidly for the first ten days of a
march, and that during this period the adjustment of all parts of the
harness, more especially the collars, should be given close attention.

365. If the march should happen to be a continuous and a severe
one, it may be noticed that about the sixteenth day draft animals
appear suddenly to become very lean in the muscles of the shoulders,
back, abdomen, and croup. If a fair amount of forage is available
they quickly improve to a certain point, where they remain station-
ary and continue to do hard work without noticeable change under
an intelligent system of watering and feeding. They are now in
working condition.

366. Water on the march whenever a good opportunity to do so
presents itself, never forgetting, however, that a warm animal should
be watered but sparingly, and that such a watered animal should
not be allowed to remain stationary even for a few minutes, as this
induces laminitis (founder), due to contraction of the internal blood
vessels by the cold water taken and the consequent increase of blood
pressure in the legs and feet, where it can not, while the animal is
inactive, be taken care of by the system. Laminitis (founder) is
due to congestion of the feet.

367. Feeding. Soon after reaching camp, offer a little hay.
Water before feeding grain when possible. Offer grain immediately
after watering, and then place before the animals what remains of
the hay for that day. The morning watering must of necessity be
governed by circumstances. If absolutely sure of water on the road
say one hour after breaking camp, it would be a needless waste of
time and energy to water immediately before or after the morning
feed on the line.

368. Midday baiting. As little as I pound of grain per animal,


taken from the daily allowance and given in charge to each driver,
fed at the noon halt, will have a wonderful effect for good on the
animals of a command. At this halt the careful driver will add a
few handfuls of grass, and at the same time look over his collars and
breeching with a view to their readjustment.

369. Collars of steel are preferable to leather for military use
when properly adjusted and cleaned. When improperly adjusted
they are inferior to the leather article. Steel collars are adjusted
by means of bolts and plates. Leather collars by means of top straps
and hames. When these methods will not produce the desired results
the use of collar pads must be resorted to. Felt collar pads are not
desirable, as they soon become stiff and hard.

A collar should fit snugly to the sides of the neck without com~
pressing it, and its bearing surface should rest squarely on the bed of
muscles situated on the front of the shoulder. When in position
there should be a space between its lower part and the windpipe
sufficiently large to comfortably admit the insertion of the open hand,
back up, as far as the wrist.

All collars should be furnished with a neck plate of zinc for the
protection of the top of the neck against rubbing.

The prevent blistering of the top of the neck on hot, sunny days it
will be found that a wet sponge or a wet piece of folded gunny sack,
properly secured to the top of the collar and wetted at intervals, is

The bearing surface of steel collars should not be scraped unless
considered absolutely necessary to remove accumulated dirt due to
negligence. If scraped they should be boned smooth and then
slightly oiled. Leather collars may be easily cleaned with a damp
sponge. They should be thus cleaned each evening. A careful
man will not let his collars remain on the ground overnight, but
will hang them on the pole, or put them in some safe place where he
will protect them from the rain and the dust of the camp.

370. Necks and shoulders. On arrival in camp let collars remain
in position for about 15 minutes. Their weight on the hot, tender
skin affords sufficient pressure to prevent the formation of swellings
so often observed after the collar is suddenly removed. Normal
circulation will establish itself gradually under collar pressure alone
and the skin of the shoulders and neck will regain its tone and


After removal of the collar, bathe the shoulder and neck with clean
water ; this to remove sand and dust that would otherwise remain in
the hair, where it may not be reached with the horse brush.

Salty water, or a weak solution of vinegar in water, when applied
to the shoulders and neck, acts as a tonic to the jaded skin.

Animals with narrow, lean shoulders should not be placed in the
collar. For these, if they must be harnessed, a breast strap (Dutch
collar) should be used.

When putting on a collar, see that the mane hangs naturally
beneath the neck plate. If the collar is a steel one, be careful when
snapping it in place that the skin of the upper part of the neck is not
pinched between the neck plate and the collar itself.

If swellings appear on the shoulders, use massage to remove them,
and in addition apply a cold-water pack during the night; a wet
sack properly adjusted and held in place will answer the purpose.
If a gall appears, do not grease it. Wash it with water and soap, dry
thoroughly, and apply a weak solution of alum (one-half ounce to a
pint of water) or a solution of aloes in water (one-half ounce to the
pint). If the animal must be worked, use a chambered (cut-out) pad
over the spot to remove pressure. Greasy ointments serve as a trap
for dust and sand.

371. Traces. Verify the length of traces frequently. Do not
depend on the chain links as a guide in hitching. Leather traces
stretch considerably in wet weather. A difference of half an inch
in the length of traces will cause trouble on the shoulder of the
shorter side. It is also liable to produce lameness due to irritation
of extensor muscles. If the point of attachment of the trace to the
collar should be too high, it will cause a downward pull on top of
neck, with its consequent irritation. If too low, it will cause the
collar to " ride," and nearly all the pressure will be on the point of
the shoulder and on the windpipe.

The number of sore-shouldered draft animals in a command on
the march is an excellent standard by which to judge the horseman-
ship of the personnel.

372. Breeching. The breeching should DC f ainy loose, otherwise
it is liable to chafe the quarters and to interfere with the free play
of the muscles. It should be taken up as the animals become thin.

Martingales should not fit too snugly, as they are very liable to
chafe the soft, thin skin of the under part of the body.


373. Yoke straps should be adjusted with a view to the height of
the pair. They should never be permitted to trespass on the bearing
surface of the collars.

374. Backstraps should be so adjusted as not to let the saddles
ride the withers, but at the same time there should not be sufficient
strain on them to cause the crupper to irritate the under part of the

375. Bellybands and cinchas should never be unduly tightened, as
they cause cinch sores near the elbow and quarterstrap sores beneath
the ring shields.

When a cinch gall appears, remove the cause, keep the place clean,
and apply a solution of aloes or alum in water. Either of these will
stimulate the gall and deter insects from alighting on the wound.

376. Bearing reins should be of such a length that the animals
may have free use of the muscles of head and neck. Bearing reins
are not a necessity.

377. A driving bit should be smooth and jointed. It should be so
adjusted that it will not lift the corners of the mouth. If placed too
high in the mouth, the animal uses his molar teeth to press against
it, and gains for himself the reputation of a hard-mouthed puller.

378. Beware of thread ends in collar pads and of knots in head-
stalls, throatlatches, bellybands, cinchas, and surcingles, and be care-
ful that buckles are not turned toward the skin. These readily pro-
duce irritations and abrasions, and are plain evidence of negligence
and carelessness on the part of the rider or driver, as well as loose
supervision on the part of those superior in rank.

379. To keep his animal in the collar and off the lead line should
be the aim of each driver. This can be accomplished with little
trouble, barring accidents, if the harness is kept in proper shape and
fit and necks and shoulders are kept clean.

Wagons in the field should be inspected at the end of each day's
march, and, if practicable, all necessary repairs made promptly.
Particular attention should be given to discovering the loss of nuts
and to replace the missing; a good supply of nuts and a few extra
bolts should be carried in the tool box. The axles should be greased
daily and care taken to remove the old before putting on fresh


List of articles carried on each wagon :


Axe, front of wagon i

Axle nuts, in tool box 2

Bucket G. I., under rear of wagon I

Sponge, in tool box I

Currycomb and brush, in tool box i

Cases axle grease, in tool box 2

Extra hames, in tool box 2

Lantern, in water bucket i

Wagon wrench, in tool box . i

Open links, in tool box 3

Pole, on side of wagon r

Reach, on side of wagon i

Pickax, on side of wagon i

Three-eighths or half-inch rope, on side of wagon, ft 150

Spade, on side of wagon .- i

Hame straps, in tool box .... 3

Hame strings, in tool box. . .^ ( 3

Shoe for each foot of each animal, previously fitted, in tool box. i

Horse-shoe nails, in tool box

Singletrees, under wagon 2

Doubletree, under wagon i

Online LibraryCharles Field MasonA complete handbook for the sanitary troops of the U. S. army and navy and national guard and naval militia → online text (page 30 of 38)