Another authentic aspect of the Ozark Medieval Fortress is the use of work horses in castle construction. The horse collar was an important invention in the Middle Ages. Before that, the harness just had a strap under the horse’s throat that could choke them. The collar rests on their strong shoulders and lets them pull much better. Most guests are familiar with the horse collar of today even if it is just because of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and wagon.
A lot of guests, however, are from the city and have never seen a draft horse in harness up close. It is a good opportunity when visiting the Ozark Medieval Fortress to take the time to check out the Belgian draft horse named “Honey”. Many people, even from the county, are so excited to meet the horse, they forget to take time to notice the harness. This is especially so if she is working and away from the stable where the antique horse collars are on display.
The collar in daily use at the castle is the type that has been in use since the American colonial days. It is a leather collar that has been stuffed with straw or wood shavings. It has shaped hames, which are metal brackets that are strapped around her neck in a groove in the collar. Some old harnesses have wooden hames but in America they have always been separate from the collar.
In the Medieval, the early horse collars were a single big piece that included the collar and surrounding hames. In order to get past the horse’s head, they have to open. The modern collar is flexible enough that because it opens on the top it can be slipped in place. The Medieval collar was much stiffer and although the hames opened, the collar had to be more closely fitted to the horse. The modern hames are connected at the top and bottom with leather straps. The Medieval hames and collar have a blacksmith-made pin on one side and ring to receive the pin on the other. After the pin is in the ring, a piece of leather was run through a hole in the end of the pin to hold it in place. On a modern harness, the heavy pulling tug or trace lines are attached to the hames with a metal pin. On the Medieval collar, these lines are attached to a blacksmith-made pigtail or ring secured to the collar with large wooden pins.
I encourage all visitors to the Ozark Medieval Fortress to take their time and see all there is available. That includes the display of antique horse collars at the Stable.