Picking a harness

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PintoPalLover

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Hi everyone,

This is my first post so hopefully I do everything right.
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I got my first mini 4 years ago and after having her (Magnolia) for 2 years I got Sugar when she was 3 1/2 months old. I've been ground driving Magnolia for a while so I know the basics of harnessing/harness parts . I'd like to start Sugar this winter , so my biggest question so far is what harness do you recommend ? She fairly small boned and around 32" . I've read a lot of the past articles on this subject and I'm leaning towards the Ozark Mt. russet pleasure harness, I like the Comfy Fit harness but I'm afraid that it would swallow Sugar up. I wouldn't have her actually pulling much weight till she's 3 next year. Any tips are appreciated ! I already have a cart but I haven't hitched Magnolia yet and I think Sugar will enjoy it more so I want to focus on Sugar's driving stuff more so and get her pulling first.

Thanks !

P.P.L.
 

Marsha Cassada

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I think you would be pleased with the Ozark.

There are so many harness choices now! Also depends on how much you want to spend and whether you plan to show or drive for pleasure. If 15 folks reply to this topic, they will probably all have a different harness!

The biggest issue, IMO, is the fit of the bridle. What ever harness set you buy, just keep working with the supplier until your bridle is fitted correctly. The rest of the harness has lots of room for adjustment, but the bridle is so critical.

My first harness came from Big Dee 15 years ago. It actually has the nicest bridle for fit that I've owned. The blinders are well made and adjustable. The leather is soft and supple. Alas, that set it no longer offered. I fear the Chinese have cornered the leather market instead of Mexico, where most of the previous leather goods were made. The leather workers in Mexico knew leather and tack. Not sure the Chinese have a clue...

I'm still using my first harness. I have tweaked it with other parts over the years. I believe that is the nature of a well-used harness!

Used to be also to search the Forum for topics, but I can't seem to get that feature to work very well any more. Harnesses have been discussed in depth many times over the years here.

I purchased sheepskin pads for the breast collar for a small mare I drove. If you feel the V collar is too clunky for your girl, that might be an answer. I ordered the big horse halter set from Equine Comfort Products and it was perfect. 877-580-9735 is their phone number. The pad velcros over the breast collar.

Looking forward to hearing more about your driving adventures!
 

Strangeaddiction

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I got my starter/work harness from Star Lake, super affordable for a nice leather harness (nice enough to show in if you wanted to do that). Like Marsha said, the bridle is the hardest part to find a fit, and honestly no harness maker is going to make one bridle that fits all so I feel it is important to find someone willing to work with you. The gal at star lake was amazing at helping me, you can even send measurements to her and she'll help you with the bridle and harness fit before she sends it, if something doesn't fit, send it back and she'll help you with a piece that does. I have heard great things about ozark as well, but I would go for an estate harness, the guy does AMAZING work, almost everyone at my barn has an estate harness and I am saving up to have him make me a show harness. His basic harness is a little more expensive than the star lake but I think higher quality leather.
 

MajorClementine

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My first harness was from Ozark. I've replaced some parts of it with Comfy Fit but I'm still using it. If you buy a good harness the first time around you'll be happy you did. Stay away from inexpensive nylon harnesses.

I've seen all sizes of the Comfy Fit in person. I don't think it would look too big on your mare. I was worried about the Deluxe Breast Collar being too big on my narrow chested fine boned mini but Clementine is so much more comfortable with having more surface area to pull from vs. when she was in her thinner straight breast collar.
 

PintoPalLover

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Thanks for replying everybody
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. It's sounds like everybody's pretty easy to work with at various places so that should be very helpful.

I'm not planning on showing ,maybe someday in the far away future , mainly I want a quality harness that's comfortable for her. I'm chewing on my options now ,I know the bridles important and that's what I'm most worried about . I'd really like to get it in russet or brown and I like Comfy Fit's options for that. I hadn't seen the Estate harness before, it's looks nice , too .

I don't know why but I always thought of Star Lakes harnesses as show harnesses (which are very pretty from there !) but it's looks like they might have one that's comparable to Ozarks. I'll definitely let you know what I decide
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Thanks again !

I'll try to post a picture of Sugar yet , too.
 

xrdh

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You can't lose with Comfy Fit. The harnesses are well made (in the USA) and are really nicely padded. The customer service is great, too. They won't quit until you're happy. I have three minis and all three have (finally) been upgraded to Comfy Fits. The Deluxe Deep V breast collar is a must for our cute, but short necked minis (it won't choke them out going uphill), and the sliding back band saddle is critical if you plan to drive in the rough, or on uneven ground. Those are the two upgrades I made to my harnesses. Love them!
 

PintoPalLover

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Thanks for replying xrdh! The Comfy Fit getting pretty tempting, I've only heard wonderful things about it and their customer service. I'm hoping to come to a decision soon, you'd think it be easy, I guess I'm just going to have to make up my mind. :/
 

dalvers63

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I'm coming late to the topic but also have to put in a good word for the Comfy Fit. I went through the same process as you when I got Mikey and ended up buying the black/brown synthetic Comfy Fit with the deep V breastcollar. I love it and will be getting another one when I get a slightly bigger horse in the near future.

You can't go wrong and won't be buying another harness anytime soon!
 

PintoPalLover

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Thanks for replying dalvers63 ! I was just getting on here to say I ordered my harness today , I decided on Ozarks russet pleasure harness for now but I think a Comfy Fit will probably be in my future, I still really like them and what I've heard about them. I think the Ozark's will make a good starter harness for us though. I'm planning on posting pictures sometime once I get it.
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Marsha Cassada

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Thanks for replying dalvers63 ! I was just getting on here to say I ordered my harness today , I decided on Ozarks russet pleasure harness for now but I think a Comfy Fit will probably be in my future, I still really like them and what I've heard about them. I think the Ozark's will make a good starter harness for us though. I'm planning on posting pictures sometime once I get it.
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I think you'll be pleased. Be sure the bridle fits. Ozark will work with you if it does not. Don't give up until it does. I am not sure what the mystery is about making driving bridles, but there seems to be a hoodoo on them. Sometimes the throat latch seems measured for a chihuahua. Sometimes the headstall seems made for a Belgian. The last one I bought I had to take to a leather guy and have him put thicker gauge wire in the blinders; I think bread ties were used originally. Just keep tweaking.
 

PintoPalLover

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I'm just past the 3 week mark for the harness , out of 3 to 4 weeks , so I'm getting pretty excited to see/feel it
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TICA

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I was wondering if you were pleased with the Ozarks russet pleasure harness? We are in the same dilemma of choosing a harness that is a good starter harness. I have looked at the Ozark one and am considering it. Can you tell me if the russet color is ok to show in or does it need to be black?

I would also like input on a good quality cart.

Thanks
 

PintoPalLover

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The harness hasn't got here yet, but the customer service at Ozark has been good so far. I've never shown a driving horse but, I'd say for most classes black would be better and for some classes/shows I think russet would probably be okay if it's what you want
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, it all kind of depends. I don't think there are any rules about what color your harness has to be but black is more traditional.

Would it be breed shows or 'open' shows more so ?

As for carts, I've heard some good things about Frontier Equestrian's carts and I like some of their options , although I've never had one. I haven't ever looked into show carts so I can't help you much there, but I'd think you'd want a training cart and a show cart if your serious about showing.

I plan to post pictures and say how I like the harness once I get it
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P.P.L.
 
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TICA

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We are going to do open/breed shows on a local level. If you don't mind (after your harness arrives) would you let me know what you think of the leather quality etc. I love the russet color but was thinking, like you stated, that black would probably be preferred. As far as carts we are debating on the metal verses wood for the shafts and don't know about the weight difference. Thanks for your help:)
 

PintoPalLover

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Sure, I don't mind at all . It seems like there isn't as much out there on the two starter harnesses from Ozark.

For local shows I wouldn't be afraid to get the color of harness you want , you might want to buy another harness eventually, just for showing if you really enjoy it .

I haven't actually driven (hitched to a cart) that much before so I can't help you too much with cart stuff, but as far as metal vs wood shafts for weight difference I think metal ones are going to lighter.
 

TICA

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I talked with an Amish harness maker today he is a little more than Ozark. He was talking about bio being cheaper but I have heard mixed reviews on the bio harness. I'm thinking you can't go wrong with leather.

Are handholds something that I should consider adding? Also, is there a preference for the tie verses the buckle to hold the shafts?

I have never driven before and am trying to make an informed decision on a harness that will work to get started and also be good enough for showing.
 

Minimor

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I started out with the pleasure harness (black) from Ozark and was very happy with it. I then purchased 3 of their carriage harnesses and sold the pleasure harness.

Personally I would buy the Camptown harness rather than the Comfy Fit.

On principle.
 

jventresca

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Purchasing a harness is a big investment. If you think you'll only own one harness consider how much time you'll spend showing versus driving for fun. If you're a serious show person you'll want to have a work harness and one that's just for shows.

Everybody loves a russet colored harness. The main reason they're not more popular is its very hard to maintain that wonderful color if you use it at all. It stains from sweat and needs to be oiled to stay supple. Oil will make it darker too. If you truly love the color consider a biothane harness that won't darken with age. I purchased a black harness with russet trim on the breastcollar, breeching, brow band, and nose band. After using it for a few years the russet was almost black and looked like poorly stained black leather. I went ahead and stained it, added a new brow band made with a bead of gold leather, updated the breastcollar and have a new looking harness!


FYI - If you decide to show in ADS shows remember that your carriage fittings need to match your harness, for example with russet harness the leather on the carriage must be russet also, the running gear (any metal parts that aren't brass or chrome) must be painted dark brown. For ADS even a black harness should have ALL brown reins, not reins that are half black and half brown. *Please remember that these ADS rules are only a matter of a few points. I've won a turnout class with a marathon cart and chrome fittings just because my horse went better than all the others.*

For myself I'm hooked on leather. I love how it feels in my hands and on the horse. I get my harnesses directly from the harness maker so I can ask for any bell or whistle I want. BUT you have to know what you want.

TICA - You asked about using a wrap strap or a buckle down over girth. This can make a BIG difference! If you're only going to drive in a ring and planning to show in breed shows only a wrap strap is what you want. The wrap strap basically ties the shafts to the horse's sides. This can allow the horse to pull the cart with his back and can eliminate the need for a breeching. You can tell the horse is pulling with his back when the traces are flapping loosely.

IF you plan to drive outside a ring, down the road, over hill and dale, PLEASE use a buckle down over girth with an open tug. The horse will be able to pull all the weight of the cart with his chest using the breastcollar. The open tug will allow the shafts to "float" meaning as you go over bumps the shafts will go up and down, not jarring the horse or you. The over girth should never be tighter than the girth or they can rub the horse's belly raw. I hope you can see how the shaft can move in the tug in this picture.

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Sorry to go on and on. You can tell I'm passionate about harness!
 

PintoPalLover

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Minimor, I'm glad you liked your harnesses from Ozark , I'm getting anxious for mine to arrive.
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I think jventresca put everything wonderfully
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TICA , is your mini already trained to drive ? Also, if you look back in this post, Strangeaddiction recommended Star Lake tack harnesses and said they were nice enough to show in.

And as to handholds, personally , I don't really like anything that I have my hand 'caught' in that's attached to a horse, but that's just a personal opinion (and I should add, I've never personally used them.), I don't really think they're dangerous and might be helpful in some cases. Gloves are a good idea for driving, too, and don't forget a helmet.
 
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