A compilation of harness tips and tricks from Mindy!
I thought I would share a few “harness hacks.” These are things I’ve been seeing out and about, and also the answers to some of the questions I get. (I love it when people ask questions about harness fit, which harness they should buy, what color they should pick, etc, etc. This gives me ideas for blog posts!)
I often get questions about how to adjust the bridle so the cheek pieces lay nice and flat. One thing most of us don’t like is when the horse gets a peek of all that is going on behind it! (If it’s never seen that before.)
The biggest thing I see is that people don’t adjust the wire in the winker stays. There are two things you can do:
- You can make the top buckle longer, moving the buckle up a hole or two.
- And, you can bend the wire so the blinders are standing away from the side of the face. This actually pushes the cheek pieces flat along the horse’s cheek! Ta-Da!!
Some of us have “fluffier” minis and ponies. They have a bit more shoulder and maybe rounder tummies.
With my mare, I found the tree in the saddle was a little too narrow. This was causing some divots just behind her shoulder, or pressure points, after our drives. Though my cart is well balanced, we drive over very rough ground so there is weight on the saddle sometimes. And if the saddle tree is too narrow, that can be uncomfortable for the horse. I was driving her so much that I started to see muscle wastage, just as you would with an ill fitting riding saddle.
I thought and thought about what I could do because I love how the Comfy Fit saddle wraps around the horse, with padding down their sides. It’s just seem more… comfy!! So I decided to see if the tree had any bend to it. It did! It has a bit of a spring to it. So I went ahead and “bent” it to be a bit flatter. I didn’t put too much pressure on it, but did see that it widened. When I put it back on her it sat so much nicer and actually seemed to wrap around her from the end of the tree all the way down her side. Perfect.
Next I wanted the saddle to be wider so when we are cantering across rough ground the saddle isn’t rocking at all, or pushing more on the front or the back. I love the permasoft pads and had the
Pony Long in purple, but wanted a pad that was wider and even longer! So I ordered the Horse Long, in purple. When it got here I was amazed at how BIG it was! LOL! I thought it was going to look ridiculous but actually it looks just fine and adds a couple of inches to the width of the saddle! And the pad goes all the way down my mare’s sides.
One of the nice things about the permasoft pads is that they don’t absorb the sweat. This allows the sweat to run down the horse’s sides, helping it cool down faster!
Another nice thing is how soft they are of course!
I often see that people have the hip straps of the breeching too far back on their horse’s bum. It should be as far forward as you can get it, typically this will set the front hip strap almost in line with the swirl in the flank. It can be just a bit behind the swirl as well.
One way you can get your breeching to hang straight, is to run the front hip strap through the slot in the back band that is more forward and the rear hip strap in the slot that is closer to the tail.
If you have a Comfy Fit harness or a Whiteman harness then the back strap has two slots, one for each hip strap!
The MaraFUN harness has a bit of a different hip strap configuration so there aren’t two slots in the back band, but you can still make sure you bring that front hip strap as far forward as you can!
The Breast Collar
All breast collars will have a neck strap. Some have one piece of leather that goes across the neck and some have a nice wide, padded piece with two straps that come down on each side, like the Comfy Fit harness breast collars.
Something that gets left off (or removed) is the neck connector strap. This is actually a very important part of the harness and is there for a good reason.
Even when we have a perfectly balanced cart with a straight line of draft, as we drive over rough ground, go down hills, through water crossings, bounce around over rocks and ruts, there will be some weight that ends up in the neck strap. To help combat that, we have the neck strap connector. This connects to the saddle and helps distribute some of the weight from the neck strap to the saddle. It also acts as a stabilizer.
The other piece that gets left off or forgotten is the false martingale. This little, important piece is what keeps the front of the Deluxe, or the standard collar down. By keeping that down you will ensure the horse is pulling (or pushing) the cart from the widest part of the chest and shoulders and that the breast collar lays flat allowing for more surface for the horse to lean into. If you leave it off the middle of the breast collar can shift to one side or the other as well.
When you are using a regular breast collar with a lower line of draft the front of the collar will often want to bend away from the horse while also pushing up into the windpipe of the horse. The martingale will help hold all the down, though you will end up with more weight on the top of the neck strap then!
These are just a few harness hacks that I have tried and recommend. If you have any please share in the comments! And if you have any questions please email them to me (Mindy) at email@example.com