A Little About Neck Collars for Harnesses

By Janie Amdal

Different types of harness are used for different purposes and require different types breast collars or neck collars.  There are several types and styles of neck collars. Goran and Gerda are a bit confused, and they have asked me to write a post about collar types and materials. This is just an introduction, and perhaps an opportunity for conversation! Be sure to chime in on the comment thread below. I hope you find the information useful. I don’t know if Goran and Gerda will be able to make use of it or not…

Collar Styles 

10G Leather Buggy Collar
Scotch Collar
Collars with Show covers can be made for all size animals

Driving Collars or Buggy Collars are designed for use with buggy’s, carriages and lighter weight vehicles.  They are  narrower at the draft (the measurement around one side of the collar at the widest part) which is the area against which the animal will be pulling the load.  Generally buggy/driving collars are more refined looking than work collars although they serve exactly the same function and need to fit very well to minimize the amount of work required by the animals to pull the load.  Buggy Collars have traditionally been made of leather although there are some European styles featuring wood or metal.   This type of collar generally comes in full face or half sweeny shapes.  This style of collar is frequently used with a decorated  “top” or cover for showing.

All purpose collars are designed for versatility.  They can be used with buggy’s, carriages and moderate weight vehicles.  They are a bit wider at the draft (the measurement around one side of the collar at the widest part) than a buggy collar and generally a little thicker thru out.   Average draft is often 15″ The out seam is generally double stitched and includes  an extra wear plate fastened down with thongs on larger sizes.  All purpose collars come in full face or half sweeny or full sweeny shapes depending on the maker.

Field Collar with Adjustable Top, Full Sweeny
All Purpose Collar , Patent Fastener, Half Sweeny


Field (or work) Collars are heavier built than all purpose collars.  Field collars feature double stitched and laced outseams as well a wear leathers,  stitched and usually laced outseams.  The average draft of a field collar is often about 18”.  Field collars come in several grades indicating their intended use.  Field Collars,  Heavy Duty collars for pullers and loggers, Deluxe pulling collars.    Extra heavy and pulling collars can be made “no choke” which means there is little stuffing at the throat to allow for an unrestricted airway when putting heads down to pull.  

Neck Collars are available with buckle and strap closures or Lever “patent” fasteners which allow for one handed closure and allow a little adjustability.

All-purpose collars and work collars are frequently available with adjustable collar caps and can be had in 3” increments,  i.e. 16,17,18”  22, 23, 24”.   These adjustable collars are popular for several reasons;  one, the collar could be used on more than one animal with similar sized necks, the collar would work well on an animal who is growing or who is developing muscle as he/she works. The sides of the collar slip into the top section 9of the collar and buckle on each side.

Traditionally collars have been made of leather which is stuffed with either “long straw” (seldom available now) or “chopped straw” which is blown in and packed tightly in the collar body.  Years ago most collars were done with “long Straw” which was slipped into the collar case by hand and tightly packed.  Heavy duty pulling or logging collars are sometimes still available with long straw and made by hand. 

Carefree Buggy Collar with Patent Fastener

Recently, Countryside Manufacturing has begun making betathane syntheitic collars in both Buggy and Work Styles using the traditional methods and sizing.  After about 3 years on the market these collars are becoming the new standard for work collars. The completely synthetic collars have a variety of benefits and Countryside was the first to make these collars. I know of only one other shop which makes any synthetic neck collars at all.

Collar Shapes and how to Measure for a Collar

Collars are measured for size by measuring from the inside of the rim at the center of the top to the center of the rim on the bottom.  Your job when measuring for a collar is to draw a straight line thru the center of the animal’s neck. By contrast when measuring for a collar pad you measure all the way around the inside of the body of the collar.  Usually the pad size is about 2″ larger than the collar size.

  1. Use a collar measuring tool or make your own tool using two carpenter’s squares (L shaped rulers) or L shaped cardboard cutouts. Overlap the long sides of the two rulers or cutouts forming what looks like a letter C or one vertical side of a collar.
  2. Place measuring tool on the animal as if it were one vertical side of the collar. Place it just where you want the collar to sit on the animal at the wither and below the airway. Grip the tool so it won’t slip as you remove it.  Be sure the two parts do not slip;  then measure from the top to the bottom on the inside. That will be your collar size.
  3. Look from the front at your horse’s neck. You will be able to shape of the animal’s neck and determine the  (SWEENY or shape of the neck) for the collar. Average, straight necks, i.e. thoroughbred, standardbred are FULL FACE. Necks that are wider at the bottom than the top, i.e. quarter horse, fjord, halflinger, most average drafts are HALF SWEENY. Necks that are heavy and thick all the way up are FULL SWEENY.  Mules and Donkeys have their own special shaped collars.




2 thoughts on “A Little About Neck Collars for Harnesses

    • Mindy Schroder says:

      Hi Judi! The ONLY way to know what collar will fit is to measure your donkey. There is no guessing about this. The fit of the collar is extremely important and not something I am ever okay about guessing at. If you go to the Size Chart page you will see a video about measuring. There are written instructions as well but I HIGHLY suggest watching the video. I also have a video ONLY about measuring for a collar over on YouTube. You can find that here: https://youtu.be/q299jPCWqc4

      Thank you for your question! Mindy~

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