First, I want to say, it’s ALWAYS best to have a trainer or someone with more experience come take a look at your equine, your harness and your vehicle. HANDS ON help is always the best way to go.
If that is not an option then please please reach out to someone you trust to help you trouble shoot. **Changing things on your harness or your vehicle can be a HUGE deal and should not be done lightly.
That said, I had a customer reach out to me about a harness issue. Her pony was showing signs of discomfort when hitched to her little mini-sized mower. She would bump into the breast collar and either stop, lunge forward into the breast collar or try to back up. Instead of getting mad at her mare, the customer thought maybe there was an issue with the harness.
During our phone conversation, I asked to see a photo of the mower. I had a thought that it was causing the mare to feel over faced – which means the mower is heavy, and difficult to pull, so the mare felt she couldn’t do it.
This brings me to line of draft…
What is line of draft?
I have talked about line of draft A LOT on this blog and over on my personal blog. Basically there are two lines of draft (to super simplify a bit of a complicated topic) horizontal, and a low line of draft.
A horizontal line of draft is when the traces attach to the single tree above the hocks of the equine.
A low line of draft is when the traces attach to the single tree below the hocks.
Using the wrong piece of harness with the wrong line of draft can make pulling difficult for the equine. So, for example, if you use a collar and hames with a horizontal line of draft the equine has to carry the weight of the collar and hames as well as pull the vehicle as the collar and hames can not function correctly with a horizontal line of draft.
Using a collar and hames with a low line of draft means the collar and hames can function as they are meant to, when the equine leans into the traces to pull/push the load, the collar will LIFT up and lay back along the shoulder, meaning they aren’t carrying the weight of the collar but simply pushing into it to move the load. I have a video of using the incorrect breast collar with the incorrect line of draft towards the bottom of this blog: Collars, Line of Draft, Balance of Draft
how to determine which line of draft is best
The customer mentioned above reached out because she knew something wasn’t right but wasn’t sure what it was. I asked for a little more information about the vehicle and her current harness.
- It was a mower from Cottage Craft Works: Reel Gang Mower
- Her harness is a ComfyFit with a Standard Curve Breast Collar.
- She had also tried the collar and hames but the mare still seemed to have a difficult time.
I studied the photo she sent (shown just above sitting in the green grass) and the photos on the website (link shared above, the brown words Reel Gang Mower are a link!). First of all, I could see this is a vehicle with a horizontal line of draft HOWEVER I thought something like this would actually function a little better with a low line of draft.
Why did I think a low line of draft would be better?
I asked her a few questions:
- Is this easy to move around for the person?
- Is it heavy?
- How high is the single tree?
It’s not easy to move, it’s heavy and of course, the nature of the vehicle means, it is constantly dragging behind the pony. It does not roll easily by itself, as a well balanced cart will.
The line of draft on this little mower was such that a breast collar was the correct piece of harness to use, however the weight of the vehicle and the constant drag, meant the breast collar was not comfortable for the pony.
In my opinion, this mower would function much better, if the single tree were lower. When you have a vehicle with a low line of draft, this can make it a little easier for the equine to move it because, when they lean into the breast collar, the traces will lift the front of the implement, or the vehicle a little bit, making it easier to get the load moving. Also, making it easier to move the load, over uneven ground.
I thought she would be able to flip the shaft upside down, thereby making the single tree low enough that she could use the collar and hames. **Again don’t try something like this without first asking someone with more experience. If at all possible reach out to the person who made your vehicle to see if tweaking will be a safe option!
She already had the collar and hames but when she had tried that with the shafts on the “correct” way the mare was no happier than she was in a breast collar. Because the collar couldn’t function correctly and the weight of the vehicle was making it extremely difficult for her.
The above photo shows the set up with the shafts flipped upside down! You can see how the line of draft is now correct for a collar and hames. With the single tree down lower, when the mare leans into the collar and hames, the front wheel will slightly lift up, allowing the mare to get the mower moving easier. The owner said the mare was more willing to go forward and seemed to have an easier time moving the mower!
(I mentioned the mare didn’t look thrilled and the owner said she only looks thrilled when grazing. LOL! But she also sent me a short little video clip and the mare looked quite bright and forward.)
Through trouble shooting and trying a few things the owner was able to get her pony more comfortable, use her mower and actually have a nice time mowing the grass! I happen to think this is a genius of a mower. I can’t think of a better way to get your grass cut!!