How to measure for a Harness

A Step-by-Step guide, by Janie Amdal


Every day I hear from customers or prospective customers who have questions about how to measure their animals for a harness (or a halter, or a saddle, etc.) I always am glad to answer questions.  However,  I know people who have questions about measuring might rather just have something to read – Here is the guide for measuring for harness.

Whether you are measuring for a pleasure, work, or any other kind of harness, the measurements are essentially the same.  I’ve added a picture of a comfy fit breast collar style harness and a work style farm harness for your reference, below.  And Gerda says to tell you that you’ll see lots of other great pictures on our product pages and over at the HorseDriver facebook group.


Begin at the beginning: Measure for the bridle

A.  Poll measurement.  Measure from the corner of the mouth on one side of the animal, across the top of the poll behind the ears,  to the corner of the mouth on the other side.  This measurement should not allow for a bit ring,  just measure from the actual corner of the mouth to the actual corner of the mouth on the other side.  Cheeks are adjustable at both the top and bottom and in order to maximize proper fit we need to know the actual measurement.

B.  Nose measurement.  Measure all of the way around your animal’s muzzle about 1.5 finger widths below the cheek (sometimes called the tear) bone;  not tight, just the accurate measurement of the nose.  Nosebands are adjustable.  We always want harness to fit in the middle hole of every adjustment.

C.  Brow band measurement.  Measuring brow bands is often problematic.  Almost everyone measures in a different place.  Try to measure below the outside corner of his ear (where the concho and end the end of the brow band strap will sit- both straps go thru the browband so allow space for them).  As a guidleline  here are typical brow band measurements  – Mini A 12-13.5  Mini B 13-15, Shetland  13.5 14.5  Cob  15  Horse 16  Large Horse, 17  Draft 18-19  Large draft 20-22.  Remember the browband will go in front of the winker stays.

Next Step: Measuring Length

D. Length.  Measure along the side of the horse from end to end.  Just on one side,  don’t “go around the corners” as you would if measuring for a blanket.  Pretend that you could put your animal against a wall and measure the length of what touched the wall from end to end.

Next Step: Height

E. Height.  Measure the height of your animal – the line on the graphic shows the right place to measure – somewhere right about the end of the mane.  This measurement is not official and is used generally so just measure where you think best, or give us the height you believe he or she to be.

Next Step: Girth

F. Heart Girth. You’ll notice the measurement is perpendicular to the ground and is taken where the front edge of the saddle should sit. Directly on the line of the heart girth. Perpendicular is important because the saddle needs to sit and stay in that location as you drive.  If the girth is at an angle (and or the saddle is tipped) it will slip forward into the “arm pit” and put pressure on the horse’s back and ribs.  Harness saddles are not meant to be tight.  They should be just snug enough that they won’t easily slip around the horse and hang below him.  This allows the harness to remain balanced on the animal and work as it should.

Next Step: Turnback

G. Turn Back.  Measure from where the saddle will sit on his back, in a straight line but following the curve of his back to the top of his tail.  Be sure to follow the curve.  The turnback needs to have adequate adjustibility, and if you measure in a tight straight line that may be a problem.

Next Step: Chest

H. Chest. Measure from the top edge of his leg on one side around to the same place on the other side.  If you are not sure watch him take a step and notice where his leg muscles end and his barrel begins. This measurement will be used for breast collar sizing  and sometimes to estimate trace length.

Now to the End: The Rump

I. Rump.  Measure the rear end in the same way you just did the front.  from the forward edge of his leg on one side around to the same place on the other.  The actual spot is a fit forward of the point of his hip.  The breeching will sit right in this location and is not adjustable end to end so this measurement is important.

Last but not Least: Collar

J. How to Measure for a Collar:

  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) 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.  Their necks are flatter on the sides and more straight than horses.


There they are – the basics of measuring for a harness!

There are lots of great tips and tricks over in our HorseDriver group on Facebook, too.  Feel free to join the group, and share pictures of your animal all harnessed up – lots of our long-time customers and friends will be glad to help you make adjustments to ensure you’ve got the right fit.  If you are unsure about any of the above, or have other questions, please feel free to just call!







3 thoughts on “How to measure for a Harness

  1. Sheila says:

    I looked at your breeching parts to buy and it says Mini C. What measurement is that for? I have a 46”/11.2hh Modern Shetland. What category would you consider her in? I do have to get actual measurements yet.

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