I’m working on a presentation entitled “The Economics of Carriage Driving”. It is intended to help the new and potential driver understand what will be necessary to get started in this wonderful sport. One of the major expenses is a harness, of course. I see too many people get “suckered” into purchasing ill-fitting, ill-suited, poorly made leather harness because it is inexpensive, only to find out later that it doesn’t fit, isn’t what they need for how they want to drive, and (unfortunately) watch it break after only a couple of uses! Here are some dead giveaways for those harnesses.
- Lack of “shape”. The blinders “fold” into the eyes without any structure to keep them away, even when just hanging on the wall. The saddles don’t have any support to keep the spine clear of pressure or have a very narrow tree which will pinch the back. Felt spots on the inside of the saddle are also a dead giveaway.
- Narrow material. Many foreign harness makers look to the high-end harnesses to get their “patterns”, so Fine Harness styles made for the breed show ring get “copied” into cheap harness. Fine Harness is suitable for a horse put to a VERY light cart and driven around on a flat surface for a very short period of time, not for a trail horse to be using to pull a heavier load for hours. Using these narrow leather pieces will “cut into” your horse’s body instead of disperse the pressure over a larger surface. The narrow material is also cheaper for the harness maker to use.
- Extra “bling”. Again, those foreign makers think that Americans want more decoration, which comes from looking at higher end draft harnesses. Typical carriage harness has very little “decoration” comparatively, and Fine Harness has more subtle colored trim, if any. But the cheap harness makers think if a little is good, a lot is better, so you see cheap harnesses with bold colors and extra decoration. So why does all this matter and why should you not purchase an inexpensive harness? Frankly, you and your horse’s safety. I have seen brand new cheap harnesses basically explode under pressure.
- The leather is tanned in urine, hence the sour, musty smell that never goes away. The leather is gross. If it isn’t stiff, it is “butter soft” (boy, do I love that description 🙄) which translates to “will melt in your hand and break/rip at the slightest pressure”.
So take that $250-300 and put it towards a harness that fits your horse comfortably, and will last you for years to come instead of a month. Buy one that will be appropriate for what you want to do, be it compete or drive recreationally, or both! Don’t waste your hard-earned money on cheap harness! 🥰 (The photo included is a cheap, imported harness, just in case someone might be confused.)