May. 1st, 2017

lantairvlea: (Tru-D)
I've been looking at harness options for Tru-D. What I have works for dragging tires and such, but to get her in a vehicle I need something with a breeching (britchen ... brichen ... everything in driving has two or three names) and while I could jury-rig some shaft loops onto my training surcingle it would not be ideal.

I do like my work harnesses despite the fact that the farm hames can be a bit heavy, especially heaving up onto Ruby or Charm-N. I'm a bit of the mind that I'd rather have too much than not enough because I do have some heavy vehicles and I am prone to hooking to the tire or drag and, if ever we get more acerage, I would be inclined to try my hand at some small scale farming.

That all said my Grand Plan for Tru-D also includes doing the occasional pleasure show as well as CDE and ADT/HDTs (Combined Driving and Driving Trials, the driving world's equivalent of 3-day Eventing and Horse Trials respectively). While you do see the occasional neckcollar at these events they are buggy collars and hames that don't stick out beyond the hamebed on the collar so the pleasure people would probably look down their nose at my working hames and it might knock me slightly in the turnout column of the Dressage section. Not 100% sure, but I get the impression.

What to do? Well I do have a breastcollar for my training harness, but aren't particually fond of the idea of building a harness around it. Nor of having two full harnesses for a single horse (not that I don't love you Tru-D). That and Tru-D has grown a bit in the depth of her chest from point of shoulder to elbow so it is a little short on her in that regard anyway. Still functional for what we're doing, but not the supreme ideal.

I started toying with the idea of having a harness I could swap out the neckcollar and breastcollar on. The other downside to my beloved work harnesses is they just have a backpad for the surcingle which consists of a strip of biothane and we have fuzzy faux fleece backpads we shove under them for added cushioning, but really not ideal for working single as the weight of the shafts ends up on the spine.

The other issue is our work harnesses have two straps running from the hames to the top of the hip to prevent the collar from sliding forward or the breeching from falling down so there was a potential stability issue with the collar.

So checklist for my mythical harness:

Swap between working style neckcollar and hames and breastcollar in the front.

Gig saddle to distribute shaft weight and protect the spine.

Biothane (preferrably granite instead of shiny)

Full cavesson on the bridle.

Able to do team or single, which means breaststrap and quarter straps to go with the neckcollar.

Sized so that Tru-D will grow into it and not out of it.

We thought about the New England D-ring harness briefly, but I'm not sure how that would do with a breastcollar instead of the neckcollar. I looked at The Draft Horse Superstore where we got Ruby and Charm-N's harness. They only have one harness that has a gig saddle or full cavesson (though they can put a full nose on their other harnesses) and it wouldn't blend well with their work harness.

Shipshewana does some high quality work (our shaft loops are from them), but they don't really do shaped breastcollars (except for on their $3400 show harness...) and like Draft Horse Superstore, the pleasure driving and combined driving side of harnesses isn't their thing (at least that's my impression, Draft Horse Superstore does have a "marathon harness" now at least, but I don't think it would tie in well to their working harnesses.

I poked around a couple other places, but kept coming back to the Yonies catalog. I had emailed them earlier this year and gotten Kitt a set of shaft loops with quick release loops on it for the Kutzmann vehicles. Nice workmanship and they were great to work with plus happy to customize the lengths to my specifications.

Daydreaming through their catalog they produce pretty much every type of harness except for a Norwegian (and a New England D-ring is somewhat similar to that and they make those) from racing to pleasure and working to performance, mini to draft.

I figured it wouldn't hurt to email them about it. I got a call from one of their harness makers and we played a bit of phone tag before we managed to connect on Saturday. He said it certainly was feasible and even mentiomed putting short tugs on the hames so I can use the same traces between the breastcollar and hames! We both had questions (1.5" or 2" traces?, how to stabilize the neckcollar, etc.) and I think we managed to answer most of them. I want to throw Kitt's harness on Tru-D again and see how she fills it out as that will help me make more of a decision on the width of the neck and hip straps as well as breeching and traces.

The harness maker is going to be out of town this week and I told him no rush. The idea was to get something between now and the fall, definitely not a rush job. He's going to get me some numbers next week and we'll talk and tweak from there. I need to measure Tru-D and see where she is size wise between horse and draft.

Exciting! I should be able to get my two-for-one(ish) harness and have it be perfectly functional.

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