All of my free time the last two weeks has been consumed doing research on harness. The publisher of Rural Heritage magazine asked Doc Hammill and me to write a series of articles on harness, and the deeper I dug, the richer the material got! In one late night session I was able to dissect all the information into separate topics so that I could focus this first article on choosing harness.
I’ve had the distinct privilege of interviewing a large number of very experienced teamsters across the country, as well as a number of harness retailers and harness makers. Harness used to be as ubiquitous as car tires, of course, because it was fundamental to our transportation. Now it’s a specialty topic, and there’s a lot of knowledge slowly fading away as the last of the teamsters who made a living using horses in harness are crossing the rainbow bridge.
I’ve learned that there is a lot of harness of questionable quality on the market, and a lot of people who don’t know how to identify it. One of the key details I learned regarding assessing quality was to look at how the breeching is constructed. While most breeching serves its purpose, there is some that is constructed with the comfort of the horse in mind, and when the horse is comfortable he or she is likely to be a safer workmate than if the harness is uncomfortable somewhere. I learned that the best breeching from the perspective of comfort of the horse is folded breeching. If a harness has this sort of breeching, it’s likely that the harness maker was concerned about the comfort of the horse and made decisions in harness construction accordingly. In a quick survey of the harness hanging here, I have several harness with flat or long-layer-type breeching, and two harness with folded breeching.
I’m really excited about all that I’ve learned so far and the articles that are to come. One of the reasons I created The Partnered Pony™ recently was so that I could share this information with a wider audience. I hope you’ll join me!