Now that you have your horse and carriage you need a harness to connect your horse to the carriage. As you start surfing the web and getting suggestions as to the type of harness to get for your horse you again are confused and amazed at the many type there are.
First and oldest harness is one that is made from all leather with either solid brass or chrome fittings. The harness itself can be black or russet leather. Russet harness is generally used when your vehicle is of natural wood.
Black harness is generally used when your cart or carriage is painted.
In some show settings the color of the fittings (chrome or brass) have to match the color on your carriage fittings such as the whip holder, ends of the singles trees, etc.
You will find that harnesses are made in several different sizes:
- Mini A (under 34″)
- Mini B (34″- 38″)
- Small Pony (38″- 42″)
- Medium Pony (42″- 46″)
- Large Pony (46″- 51″)
- Cob (13 to 14.3 hands or 700-975 lbs)
- Horse (15 to 16.3 hands or 1000-1250 lbs)
- Warmblood (1250-1400 lbs)
- Draft (1450-1600 lbs)
- Large Draft (1650-2000 lbs)
Although these are the sizes that you can get, many manufacturers only make several of the above and the others would be custom made at generally a custom price.
There are also different styles of harness to choose from, the breast collar type or the full collar and hames. For most pleasure driving classes and for fun just coming down the road the breast collar type is just fine. The breast collar type is made in several weights from fine harness to a substantial weight which serves well in Combined Driving events. Breast collar type is also much easier to put on the horse than the collar and hames.
There is a Gig harness which is used for a two wheel gig cart. Then there are several types of draft horse harness including show and logging & farming harness in several weights depending on what your draft is going to pull.
Most harness can have color added at places such as the nose band, brow band and even on the saddle.
The best known makers of leather driving harness is Smucker’s Harness Shop which has been around since 1867 and Freedman Harness which has been around since the early 1800’s.
The newest type of harness to come along in the past fifteen years or so are those made with synthetic material. The best advantage of the synthetic harnesses is that they are much easier to clean as they can be hosed off when you hose off your horse. Some are made with some leather connections so that they will break if you have an accident and the horse goes down or he runs away. I feel the worst thing about the synthetic is that it does not break under extreme stress where leather will generally break at a certain point.
Zilco Harness out of Australia was the first to come out with the synthetic harness and I still have my original one but since they started manufacturing them in Vietnam I don’t feel they are as well made. The other company is Ideal Harness from the Netherlands and their quality is very good and stands up well.
Whatever make or material of harness you buy, you need to be sure that it fits your horse and cart or carriage so that you are safe when you go driving.