Fitting Harness



Fitting the Siwash Carting Harness

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A properly fitted harness rests in front of the shoulder assembly.

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Note how the point of shoulder is able to move freely in a properly fitted siwash harness. A harness that is too large will chafe the shoulder.

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Here, this perfect fit is improperly pulled up onto the throat because the vehicle's POP is too low. The reverse occurs at the withers when the vehicle's POP is too high.

Know the Essential Relationships Among Your Draft Dog, Harness, and Apparatus.

By Beth Ostrander

Most draft enthusiasts understand the importance of having the proper equipment. It is equally important to understand the critical relationships among an individual dog, harness, and apparatus. Ignoring these interdependencies can undermine the best equipment, fit, and intentions!

Fit the neck:

The fit of the "neck" or "collar portion of a harness is the most critical of any element of a proper draft hitch.  In a Siwash style harness (the "V" neck type shown here,) the neck straps extend across the shortest distance between the point of sternum and the center of the withers. The Siwash neck correlates to the draft collars used on horses for farm work and heavy carriages. It is well suited for heavy work or rough terrain (which causes jerking and sometimes heavy force on the dogs chest even with a light freight load.)
In a Parade style harness (with a horizontal breast plate,) the breast plate should extend snugly, but comfortably from behind the bent elbow (allowing for movement) across the chest and sternum. The Parade neck correlates to the "light" and "show" collars used for showing driving horses and ponies. This type of harness is easy to put on and is well suited to parade and therapy work or any kind of light work on smooth level surfaces.

Cart Shafts:

Make sure the shafts are level or pointing slightly upward toward the dog - so that gravity works in your dog's favor and the cart bears the downward pressure of the freight not the dog.  A heavy freight load on a level surface will prove if the angle of your shafts is to steep in either direction. 

Wagon /Pulk Shafts:

On a four wheeled vehicle or pulk, the dog bears almost 100% of the shaft weight and the vehicle bears 100% of the freight load. The dog has the advantage of being unaffected by the gravity factor of the freight so his energy is focused on the horizontal pull.  Thus, the angle of the shafts is irrelevant in that regard.  On any shafted vehicle, it is advantageous to have much more width in the rear so the dogs body can curve into a natural arc on tight turns.

The Girth:

The girth on any harness must not interfere with the pull.  If the body of the harness is being pinched inward, the girth needs to be under the harness or loosened.  if it is being pressed outward, the girth must be put over the harness.  Because the girth is also the dogs brakes, it usually needs to be over to prevent pinching. The shaft loops on the girth determine the height of the shafts. In VERY heavy work (more than the dog's own weight,) the girth is not an adequate brake. Your dog will require your assistance down hills. Harness breaching is used in draft horses to assist their efforts.

Point Of Pull (POP):

The height of your dog in combination with the adjustments to the point of pull on your harness will determine the harness' working point of pull.  This must be compatible with adjusted point of pull on your vehicle.  A tall dog who fits the same harness as a shorter dog will need a POP adjustment because he is not the same height!  The only sure way to determine POP compatibility is to test it with a freight load.  For a Newfoundland, balance a cargo of approximately fifty pounds in your apparatus and have your dog pull over bumps and up a small hill. Halt on the incline and check the neck of your harness.  (see photos)  If the "X" intersection at the top of a Siwash style harness is in front of the withers, then the POP on the vehicle is too much higher than that of the harness.  On a parade harness, it may be more difficult to detect, but the horizontal breast plate will be putting too much pressure on the lower part of the shoulder assembly.  If the POP on the vehicle is too much higher than that of the harness, then both a Siwash and a Parade harness will shift up onto the dogs throat.

The Traces or Tugline:

It is important and often overlooked that the connection between the harness and apparatus POPs be snug enough to keep the shaft loops at the brake and the single tree "flying" even when at rest. The single or "wiffle" tree is either a part of the harness or part of the cart. It should always be wider than the dog. It helps keep the pull balanced and the harness from shifting on the dog.



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