Recent discussions about the Norwegian sport skijoring brought to mind my Norwegian Harness. I decided to try Norwegian harness because of the Norwegians’ long history of working ponies. I figured they had a better chance than most at getting some of the harnessing challenges right. So far I haven’t been disappointed.
One of the features of the harness is integrated hames and collar with lots of adjustments. This enables me to modify the fit as my pony’s neck changes shape due to weight gain or loss, winter or summer coat, in shape or out of shape. I don’t have to buy different collars for different parts of the year.
Another feature has to do with the angle of draft. I feel the angle of draft is especially crucial to consider when working ponies because I want to maximize efficiency to get the most out of my small equines. The Norwegian Harness, like the D-ring harness from New England, attaches the traces not to the hames but to a ring that is held at the appropriate angle relative to the collar.
Another feature is common to driving harness but not often to draft: the crupper. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of wrapping a harness piece around the base of the tail, but I’ve gotten over that. A crupper provides so much security, keeping the harness from slopping from one side to another, which I’ve seen happen numerous times with my conventional Western brichen harness.
The backpad of my Norwegian harness also has significant padding, which I think is important for comfort. I heard a story once of someone putting a horse in shafts without adequate padding under the backpad and ending up with bad sores there. Padding just makes sense under the backpad. It’s one of the first additions I made to my Western brichen harness when I started working ponies.
Two other features of the Norwegian harness I haven’t put to use yet. For working between shafts, the Norwegian harness is designed for the attachment point to be at the ring rather than at the end of the traces. Unfortunately this requires customizing shafts on my carts, which I haven’t gotten to yet. The Norwegian harness also has a second belly band to act as additional braking against the back of the front legs. Again, since I haven’t hitched to carts, I haven’t been able to evaluate this feature.
Over all I’ve been thrilled with the quality of my Norwegian harness. I have definitely had to make customizations here and there to use it in my situation, but it’s been worth the effort so far.