Fitting Tips: Pleasure Harness

Fitting Tips: Pleasure Harness, by Janie Amdal

The second most common and important question I’m asked once a customer receives their new harness is:

“How do I know when I have it on right?”

“How should my breast collar or collar style pleasure harness look when it fits and is in the right place on my horse?”

Fortunately, many of our customers have friends and colleagues who can help with getting their new harness adjusted properly, and help them understand how and why harness parts are meant to fit.  For those who do not have that resource, here are some answers and suggestions I hope you’ll find helpful!  I am always glad to answer questions and look at pictures for you, but hopefully this little post will get you started.  At the end you’ll find a list of some other resources as well.

The gorgeous horse featured on this post is  Hero, who belongs to Kathleen Carey-Plock.

This picture of Hero has been my go to example of hour your breast collar style harness should look when it is on correctly .  Whether your harness is leather, betathane, comfy fit or traditional,  the elements of harness fitting are the same.  Look at Hero’s picture – start from his nose and look carefully all the way back.  Your animal will look different in his harness because horses, like people are different.  He may have a traditional style harness, or even a show harness.  However the elements are the same.  The bridle is comfortable with everything in place.  The breast collar, and breeching are following the same line with the traces echoing that same straight line.  Saddle and girth perpendicular to the ground so that the girth is over the heart girth area.  traces are long enough to keep the cart behind his rump but not too long.

Two more examples are below

Louise & Ticket

Let’s start with a picture of Louise Nyquist and Ticket. Louise is in her hyperbike with her cute dog in the basket in the rear. Ticket’s harness is fitted exactly right.  Both of them are relaxed, happy and comfortable.  What you cannot see is that this picture was taken on the LAST day of the 2015 Caravan at the end of a more than 3000 miles driving across our beautiful country.  Ticket was the only mini.  In fact he is always just the ticket.

Starting at the front with the bridle,  you can see that the blinds are centered vertically on his eye.  His nose band is a bit below his cheekbone and his brow band is roomy enough not to crowd his ears. The lines are at a comfortable angle as they pass thru the rein terrets to Louise’s hands.

The breast collar (in this case a deluxe breast collar) sits below his airway.  The curve for the shoulder comes up just where it belongs to give him freedom of movement.  The deluxe style stops a little farther forward from the girth than the standard curved one.

Looking at the saddle (including the girth)  you can see that it is perpendicular to the ground.  The girth is set directly under the saddle which is flat (not tipped) on Ticket’s back.  When the saddle is fitted properly it is not tight, just snug enough so that it won’t roll around.  The saddle’s job is to support the shafts.  When the saddle is too tight everything else on the harness is out of balance and less comfortable.

The breeching is level on his rump, not dropping below the curve –  If the breeching is too low it interferes with the gait and can be unsafe as well as uncomfortable and annoying.  Ticket’s hip straps are set right at the top of his rump.  I think they are slipped thru just one slot on the turn back strap and crossed like an X  it is possible to run them separately but many people prefer the X because everything stays where it is meant to be.   The breeching position will be more clear in the next picture.

It is important for the turn back strap to be the right length.  When hitched you should be able to easily put your hand, thumb up, under the strap.  The crupper itself should set 1-2″ (depending on the stride of the animal) below his tail when standing.  If not when the horse steps forward the crupper moves forward as well.

Goran says “EEEEW You don’t want to give your pony a wedgie!”  The traces in his picture are a bit difficult to see. They run along the side almost entirely behind the shafts. These will show more clearly in the next picture as well.


Drifter & Ruckus

I  love this picture as well… The horse is Drifter and driver is Ruckus.

Drifter uses an all purpose collar because he does a variety of sorts of driving.  Please refer to our other blogs for information about collars and choices.

I would love to be in the second seat! Look at that countryside!

I’m including this picture because it shows the saddle/girth in exactly the right place,  The turn back is the right length for comfort and stability. The traces are visible behind/slightly below the shafts.   The breeching fits exactly as it ought. And I LOVE the 2nd cart!

The collar is lying correctly to allow Drifter to work in comfort.  His bridle is set correctly and since this is a traditional harness with a simple saddle a pad is used.



If you look at the featured picture, above, of Kathleen Carey’s beautiful mini you’ll see another example of a breast collar harness set exactly as it should be.  Here are a few links to other places with Tips and Tricks:

Your Turn!

What fitting challenges do you have?  What was the hardest part of learning to harness your horse?  Are there pieces that you don’t know how to attach?  Share your questions and your images in the comments below, or over on our HorseDriver group at Facebook!

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