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Putney Trace Horse

Published: 05/08/2020 By Allan Fuller

If you happened to be wanting to take your wagon and horse up Putney Hill in times gone by it naturally was a considerable extra strain for your horse, or horses,  especially if you had a heavy load. So stationed at the bottom of the hill as in the photo you could use an extra horse to help your own horse get up the hill. 

Jack the trace-horse helps a much smaller  animal bear its heavy load

The word trace comes from the trace harness used to attach the horse to your horse.
There was the same arrangement for Wimbledon Hill from 1908 up to1939, the most famous being a shire Horse called Jack, the photo shows him helping quite a small horse with a load that looks as if it was heavy on flat ground let alone up a steep hill. They certainly were not the good old days for working horses.
Trace horses were set up by charities, presumably some small charge was made to the person hiring the trace horse.
There is a theory that the expression kicking over the traces’ is derived from this practice if there was a skitch horse, but it does sound a bit far fetched!