I am asked many questions about harnesses and carts every day. One of the most popular questions is "What is your favorite harness?" When I tell them I love the Trail Harness and the Pleasure Harness they typically ask me the question again and again, just worded a little differently.
Something I have learned over the last few years is if someone asks me the same question, in different ways, they don't like my answer. lol.
The reason I designed the Trail harness is because there were things about the ComfyFit that weren't working for the type of driving I was doing. There were also things about the MaraFUN harness that weren't working for the type of driving I was doing. (Side Note: The MaraFUN harness is exactly the same as the Pleasure harness EXCEPT it comes in colored strapping, for the minis and small ponies.) So I decided to get some parts from the ComfyFit and some parts from the MaraFUN and put them together to build a harness that would be comfortable for my pony to climb mountains in.
I know that people want me to tell them that the ComfyFit is my favorite harness. I think that harness is amazing and beautiful and perfectly designed for the show ring and combined driving. But there were a few things I noticed happening when we were out climbing trails that I didn't like.
The main one happened when we were coming back down the mountain. (Because what comes up must come down!) I noticed that the two hip straps would rub A LOT - back and forth across the top of Zorro's hips. This caused some hair loss/breakage on the tops of his hips. Not something anyone would like to see.
I noticed that the Deluxe Breast Collar seemed to make him shorten his stride, both when coming down the mountain and when climbing them. Not ideal, as this shortening of stride was causing him to use his body incorrectly. Of course, I have mostly used the Euro style breast collar called the SuperFlex with Zorro and this is why. But I like to switch things up to see how the other breast collars we sell, work. **Keep in mind that just because it doesn't work for my pony doesn't mean it won't work for yours. Keep an open mind about these things!
I wasn't thrilled with the size of the saddle that comes with the Pleasure/MaraFUN harness. It isn't as wide as the ComfyFit saddle and it's not padded down the sides as the ComfyFit saddle is. I did use an extra long back pad to help with this but when our harness shop started making the Treeless ComfyFit saddle I jumped at the chance to upgrade my saddle to that one!
I find it interesting that once in a awhile I get a message from a professional trainer over on Facebook explaining to me that I am harnessing and hitching incorrectly. I tell them thank you for reaching out and ask for their suggestions. I am never surprised when their suggestions will not work with my vehicle or the type of driving I do. Though there are many things that are the same about harnessing and hitching for show versus trail driving, there are also a few things that differ. Not to mention the fact that we often have to adjust our harnessing to the individual horse or pony. This is exactly why it's difficult to make a blanket statement about things being correct or incorrect. Obviously, there are times when things are BLATANTLY wrong! lol. Believe me I see these hitches all the time.But when it comes to the fine tuning, height of the breeching, tightness of the throat latch, positioning of the hip straps, these are very individual. And are things that often require a bit of fumbling around with adjustments to get just right.
One thing I do that just infuriates people, is hitch Zorro to the bike without a bridle on. He is tied to the tie wall, I hitch him up and then slip the bridle over his halter and then get in the vehicle. I feel safe doing it this way because Zorro drives in an open bridle and always sees the cart behind him. And because I am NOT removing his halter to put his bridle on. (I also remove the cavesson from the English bridle I drive in because he is not comfortable with the nose band and the halter. I find the halter easier for trail driving because I often allow him some grazing time on our long mountain drives and slipping the bridle off and on over the halter is so much faster/easier than switching the bridle for the halter.)
We all have to choose how to do things for ourselves, our ponies and our situation. As I say often, it's a good idea to train them for many different scenarios because we can't always guarantee that things will be set up in a way our ponies are used to. A well rounded pony = a wonderful driving pony!
Here is a video of our drive yesterday. There was a storm brewing but we got a little bit of drive time in before the rain started. Zorro did great even though it was thundering and there was lightning. We were giving the Standard Curve Breast collar a try. I like this little breast collar for easy drives like this, but will not expect him to pull up steep trails with it. It's just too narrow for that...