I get asked this question all the time: “Which harness would be the best choice for my pony/horse/donkey/mule?”
**Please note: when I say pony I don’t mean these harnesses only come in the pony sizes. They come in mini all the way to draft. Also I am not saying that these questions and suggestions only work for ponies. They are all the same for every size of equine, including donkey’s and mules. Just wanted to clear that up!
I think people are surprised when I don’t immediately say the Comfy Fit Harness. The reason that I can’t answer that question so simply is because I need to know a few things first.
How big is the equine you will be driving?
Is is short and stout or lean and leggy?
Are you going to be driving mainly on roads? On mountain trails? In the show ring? On the farm, plowing and dragging heavy things?
Are you driving a two wheeled, easy entry cart with a straight line of draft? Or a 4 wheeled marathon vehicle with a low line of draft? A wagon? Dragging a harrow?
So many thing to take into consideration when choosing a harness!
The type of breast collar (standard, Deluxe, SuperFlex or Euro Style) or collar and hames will be decided by the kind of vehicle you are pulling. Not necessarily the type of terrain you will be driving over. Though when considering very rough terrain, a low line of draft will make it easier for your horse to pull, but when using a low line of draft a well fitting collar and hames style collar are a must have! I wrote a blog about line of draft and balance of draft that can be found HERE if you need more information on that!
The Comfy Fit Harness
The Comfy Fit harness pairs nicely with a collar and hames. Of course it also works well with the Deluxe collar and the Comfy collar, which is the Euro style collar that matches the Comfy Fit harness. I love the Comfy Fit for the road driving that I do and I’ve used it quite a bit on trails as well. It was originally designed for Combined Driving so it’s wonderful for that as well! And people have started using it in the breed show rings in the Carriage Driving classes. It’s such a great all around harness.
When people ask me if I like the Deluxe style collar better than the SuperFlex collar that is also a tricky question. For ponies like Mikey, lean and leggy, I prefer the Deluxe style breast collar. This is because both the neck connector strap and the martingale are used with this collar. This helps stabilize the saddle better on those very lean ponies. I have found that when Mikey is working hard, really trotting out and using his body correctly, the saddle can slide backwards on his body. Because of his history with ulcers I can’t tighten his girth to help stop the slide, but the neck connector strap paired with the martingale keep everything in place and centered on his body. This allows him to really round up and work nicely from nose to tail.
But I am also using an easy entry cart with a straight line of draft. So that style collar is appropriate for that vehicle.
The MaraFUN Harness:
I love the MaraFUN harness for trail driving. I really like the hip straps on the MaraFUN harness. It has a nice wide strap that lays across the hips. This strap doesn’t rub and if a bit of weight from the shafts end up on that hip strap the width of it helps disperse that a bit better. Weight can end up there when the breeching engages. Sometimes if the line from the breeching rings to the footmans loops isn’t a nice straight line there will be some pressure in that strap. So having it be a little wider helps!
Zorro is built very stocky and sturdy (or fat! LOL!) so for him I really like the SuperFlex collar. It stays in place and is soft that it wraps around his shoulders beautifully. He really leans into it when he has a difficult job to do. Keep in mind that I only use this style collar with a straight line of draft.
I have seen a few donkeys drive with this style of collar and it seems to work very well for them as well! Though they are narrow in the neck and shoulder area they will often have a bit of a tummy which helps hold the saddle in place. And their bony shoulder area seems to really like the soft shaping of the SuperFlex collar. We have a special harness for donkeys and mules. Both a Comfy Fit Style and a MaraFUN style! Donkeys have such different shapes and measurements we found it easier to design harness sets for them. When you are shopping for a donkey harness buying a horse harness will ensure that things aren’t going to fit correctly. But buying a harness designed just for them will mean you can use the harness straight out of the box!
When using the SuperFlex collar I do not suggest using a neck connector strap. This can cause the collar cap to tip back, towards the saddle, putting more pressure on the back side of the collar cap. With this style of collar the top of the collar us supposed to lay nice and flat. Use of a martingle is a must when using the SuperFlex collar however! If your pony or donkey has a bit of a round belly that will help keep the saddle in place (something good about a round tummy!) and the martingale strap will help keep everything centered when they are working hard. The SuperFlex collar is known for allowing the pony, horse or donkey to round up more from the hind end, opening up the shoulder for a freer forward movement.
Coming soon… the Pleasure/Buggy style harness and the Farm/Work harness!
Please remember that these are all my personal opinions. There are many ways to drive a pony, horse or donkey. If what you are doing is working then please keep on keeping on! If things aren’t working then perhaps this information will help you.