Updated: Aug 29, 2019
If you drive horses you are all too familiar with harness adjustments. And the fact that it is a constant thing!
Sometimes when a harness is adjusted incorrectly it can be a small adjustment that needs to happen. Sometimes it’s glaringly obvious that things need to change! The horse will appreciate the smallest effort to make them more comfortable.
Before & Afters
This is one I see all. the. time. It still surprises me because of all the information out there about saddle fit. We know that a horse will be more comfortable and able to perform if the saddle isn’t interfering with the shoulder. And yet I see people putting the driving saddle on the pony’s withers often. If you move it back, you will see better results! I promise.
Lots of things going on in the above photo! One of the things I am asked about most often is how to adjust the breast collar. In the above photo the breast collar is too high. Being too high will interfere with the pony’s movement almost as much as it will if it’s too low.
In the above photo the breast collar is a bit too low and without the false martingale, when they push into the breast collar, the top edge will dig into them. If you use a false martingale the breast collar will be able to lay flat and better help the pony pull.
The saddle is correctly placed here but the breeching is a touch high. This is my opinion because some people will drive with the breeching in this position and it will work just fine. But if I have it this high on some of our steeper hills it will want to work up and get under his tail.
–>Breast collar: GOOD! –>Saddle: GOOD! –>Breeching: GOOD!
All things adjusted as they should be. Now onto a different breast collar!
The Standard Curve breast collar has a little curve to it but is not as extreme as the Deluxe breast collar. I like this one as it doesn’t interfere with the shoulder at all!
Now onto another breast collar option! The SuperFlex collar. This breast collar is really nice because it does make fitting a bit easier. It’s so soft it allows for some misadjusting. (I don’t think that’s word! LOL!)
Another thing is that I don’t have the ends of the collar tucked into the collar cap. I actually see this all the time! The collar cap has pockets in it for the padded ends of the collar to slide into:
The photo on the left shows the ends of the breast collar NOT tucked into the collar cap. The photo on the right shows the ends of the breast collar tucked neatly into the collar cap, as it's designed to do.
It’s hard to tell but in the above photo the collar is too big. It’s sloppy and there is a gap under his neck. This would move around a lot if I drove him like this.
I would like to note: The SuperFlex collar is pretty forgiving even if you use one that is a bit too big. It will slide around a bit but the pony doesn’t seem to overly mind that because of how soft the collar is. I highly suggest measuring and getting the BEST fit you can but if your horse is obese when you order your collar and then loses some weight once driving, the collar will still work.
In the above photo things are looking really good! The saddle is back off the shoulders, the hip straps are adjusted correctly and the breeching is hanging where I like it to be.
I would like to note: I do NOT suggest using the neck connector strap with the SuperFlex collar but please do use a false martingale with it!
Hmmmm. Things don’t look quite right here! The eye is too high in the blinders and the nose band is far too low. If my bridle wasn’t such a nicely fitting bridle this would look closer to what I usually see, which is winker stays that are too long and brow bands that are too short. It’s a weird juxtaposition!
Here Zorro’s eyes are in the middle of the blinders, the nose band is at the correct spot on the nose and the blinders are a good distance from the eye, not interfering with the eyelashes.
The Back Band
Now this is what I see the most often and it’s one of my pet peeves!! I can’t stand it when people drive with their back strap this loose:
When you have the back strap this loose it will allow too much movement of the crupper under the tail which can cause sores. Not to mention how annoying it must be for the pony to have the harness so crooked. Note that the breeching is also crooked because of the back strap dragging off to the side.
It not only looks better but I’m sure it must feel better to them as well!
Sometimes you can see right away that something needs to be adjusted. Other times it’s actually a bit hard to tell! If I’m not sure I’ll drive for a little while and see how things are working. It’s not unusual for me to stop and adjust my harness when I’m out on a drive. Even if it was working fine the drive before! Nothing is set in stone with harness fit and cart balance.
It’s all a balancing act... Pun intended!