--A one-horse buckboard (like this one here
--a breeching strap that's come loose. When the horse stops on a decline, the wagon keeps rolling forward, whacks him on the backside, and he bolts.
1. It seems like the breeching generally is one thick single piece of leather, precisely to prevent this kind of thing from happening. I've read about historical accidents where the strap just broke, but is there any kind of carelessness in the initial harnessing that might cause something similar?
2. I expect it would be somewhat trickier than usual to prevent this situation from becoming a full-blown wreck, because you'd have to keep the wagon from overrunning the horse when he finally slows down. It seems like the ideal thing would be to try to steer him for a fairly steep hill. If there's not one of those handy, what would be plan B? Would it be better to try cutting him loose?*
*I am a little confused on this point because I don't see any shafts on this particular kind of wagon, and am having a hard time visualizing how the horse would be hitched up without them.
Again, please don't feel obliged to correct any of the twelve mistakes I'm sure I've already made here - but any insight you could provide would be a huge help!
As others have said, a single horse buckboard or buggy will always
have shafts because that's the only way to attach it to the horse correctly.
Anyway, when harnessing horses, sometimes people forget to buckle a certain buckle or they don't know that it needs buckled or the leather is old and gives out when pressure is applied. Either way, sometimes things happen and you find yourself in a wreck...praying for a safe outcome for everyone LOL.
Like LHP said, you can't just cut him loose because there are multiple points of connection that you can't reach from the wagon. If things get to the point of no return, you have to bail for your own safety and leave your horse to whatever happens.
However, it is possible to stop them after they have their runaway without causing a bigger wreck, but it's hard and depends solely on the terrain and ability of the driver. In an ideal world, if there are no uphills to steer him toward, then there are no downhills either that would run the wagon up his butt again. On flat country, you could just let the horse run his panic off and then slowly get him back under control and ask him to gently slow to a stop. If he takes his time stopping, then the weight of the wagon would slow down with him and not run him over again. Or, if the terrain permits, you could circle him (very big circles to avoid turning the wagon over) because the centrifugal force would help to slow the wagon down as well as helping you re-gain control of the horse.
I grew up in a household where my Dad spent decades training (and retraining "problem") teams. Over the years, we've had our share of runaways but, thankfully, no real wrecks where people or animals were hurt. The key is that, if they are truly panicked, then they aren't going to stop just because you pull on the reins. Your only real chance is if you can stick with them and sort of direct them well enough to avoid dangerous obstacles long enough for the panic to wear off. Once they switch from "flight mode" back to "thinking mode", then you can assess the situation and start working to get them stopped so you can fix it.
Dad always keeps a tractor tire on the wagon that is attached to the rear axle via a chain. That way, if things start to go bad, all he's got to do is drop the tire on the ground. That will suck the air out of a horse quickly and help get them stopped faster (none of our wagons have working brakes
) than anything.
This team of mules were notorious bolters when he first got them, but dragging an extra few hundred pounds of resistant dead weight made bolting too much of a chore so they got over it.