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Found pressure points under harness saddle

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  • Found pressure points under harness saddle

    Are there multiple things that can cause a pressure point with harness fit? I body clipped my donkey a month ago and she has been sitting around since then. This evening I hooked up her and there they were- on both sides but more so on one side. The saddle has a firm tree & my donkey is not overweight. I have used a neoprene pad under the saddle since I began driving her 4 years ago.

    The one change that happened in late June was that my new cart arrived and I've been dinking around with getting the shafts to fit just right. In the beginning I had the adjustment wrong and when the donkey was put to the cart the tugs were quite tight. I fiddled with that through July and just tonight drove her with new hold back straps; I made the shafts longer and the pony size straps did not work with the cart. Tonight for the first time I had a good float in the shafts with the new adjustments. Would marathon make any difference?

    So, I have maybe solved my problem or do I need to focus on a different harness saddle? Also, I have my cart seat in the position to provide the least amount of weight on the shafts. I should add that all work done this May, June & July was on flat ground, no hills.

    Any ideas or thoughts would be valued!

  • #2
    Can you post photos of donkey and rub marks, saddle on back, and fully put to the vehicle? Hard to envision where and how much rubbing there is.

    Does your harness have a sliding back band thru the saddle for the tugs, or stationary?
    "When I look back on my life, the times I have been stingy or unappreciative haunt me. I don't regret one instance of generosity." --PeteyPie


    • Original Poster

      The tugs are stationary.
      Here is a photo from a show in July where I still had too might tightness in the tugs. I had only had this cart about 7 days.

      There are not rub marks as in hair loss but rather white hairs from pressure like you would see with an ill fitting riding saddle. I will snap some photos of those tomorrow.


      • #4
        Originally posted by SLW View Post
        The tugs are stationary.
        Here is a photo from a show in July where I still had too might tightness in the tugs. I had only had this cart about 7 days.

        There are not rub marks as in hair loss but rather white hairs from pressure like you would see with an ill fitting riding saddle. I will snap some photos of those tomorrow.
        Given your description of the white hairs, I don’t think Marathon shafts would make much difference. The white hairs, as you mention, are from pressure. So either there is something in the shape of the saddle/tree of the saddle that concentrates pressure, or the weight of the shafts in the tugs is too great. But then you mentioned that you had a good float in the shafts once you fine-tuned your harness and balance. So that would suggest looking at the saddle itself, IMO.

        Of course, I could be way off on that, and I will look forward to seeing photos to get some more info. And I hope others with more experience will chime in. You have a lovely donkey, BTW.
        "When I look back on my life, the times I have been stingy or unappreciative haunt me. I don't regret one instance of generosity." --PeteyPie


        • #5
          Agree that saddle needs attention. True as with riding saddles, stuffing gets compressed, worn out, shifts with use. We had some harness saddles restuffed after lots of use. The horse hair stuffing had compressed over time, needed more stuffing to protect the horse backs because we could feel the ends of rein terret and screws holding straps for breastcollars. Our harness fixer used wool for adding more stuffing.

          The photo looks pretty nice. Do you have a second person to help you in fitting cart? I am wondering if there is some consistant shaft weight in the tugs, even with you seeing some float. Second person can sit in cart while you try lifting shaft end on hitched donkey. What kind of weight do you feel on the shaft, standing still? I am being super picky of the photo (and photos are a moment of time, may be lying) seeing a downhill built donkey, with your seat/thighs also looking fractionally lower in front than back of cart. This might add weight to the shafts in saddle. I wonder if you can lift tug loops a hole, making shafts and you, travel "more level" and thus lighter on the harness saddle? May not help, just an idea.

          I know folks talk about shaft float as being the perfect setting, most desirable way to drive a horse to the cart. In real life, the perfect moments are fleeting, not going to be possible all the time, even in a ring. So I applaud your getting some float some of the time! Just do not despair because it is not there 100%of the time. That is why cart animals wear wider saddles as back protection, just being nicer to them in work. Roads are often bumpy, slanted to drain well, not the perfect driving surface to get a continued float. And ANYTHING the driver does can kill the float, even breathing it seems! Shaft lengths, wood or metal, tug loop design, animal gait movement, can each affect how easy (or not!) it can be to get floating shafts. Some modifications or settings on vehicles just do not work for showing or with how you drive daily. Have to say constantly wiggling around to maintain a float is not relaxing, not attractive to watch showing, takes the fun away from driving being relaxing for you or the animal. I was part of Barb Lee's discussion group as she explored things before writing her book. Hunting for the float was plain hard work, did not sound fun at all in her posts, if that is where you were influenced. She was more active in her sliding cart seats, trying to stay balanced for shaft float, than if she had been doing an exercise class! She also was trying to use an uncommon vehicle, not available to folks in the USA, for her rsearch results.

          My big moving horses get a lot of "air time" doing an extended trot, that makes shaft float impossible with them going up and down as much as 8 inches! Tug loops only have 2 inches of open room, so lifting and falling of trot forces shafts up and down, giving a very rough ride to driver. No escape doing extended gaits! This is why we move new driving prospects to 4 wheels ASAP! The ride so much better with no shaft influence. Ha ha


          • Original Poster

            keysfin, thank you again for the ideas. Below I share that I *think* I may have found my error.

            Goodhors you keen eye is spot on. Donkey is built downhill and your remark about my seat/thighs stuck with me as I went out to the barn just now to hook up. Upon examining the axle setting on the cart I feel certain that I have it in the most incorrect position. This evening I will get Mr SLW to help me move it "forward" which will bring the axle more forward and (in theory) should give me lift in the shafts. When I adjusted this setting shortly after getting the cart I misunderstood the effect of the direction we moved it to.

            Back to this morning. I sat in the cart and no matter which way I adjusted the seat itself- forward or back- I could not get the shafts to move. Dead weight. That reminded me that with my other cart when two adults sit in it, it will tip back. That helped me connect the dots with this cart and how I adjusted the axle early on. Hope this makes sense.

            Meanwhile I am humbled by this animal that for at least a month was dealing with an ill fitting cart arrangement and yet never complained or demonstrated discomfort. Sigh.

            Your other remark begs a question: are there harness saddles that are wider to use with a cart? Mine is standard firm tree harness saddle but no extra width.


            • Original Poster

              I found the problem, owner error. Hubba & I adjusted the axle setting this evening and BOOM, everything worked! I can wiggle the shafts while seated & it pulls lighter.

              Still, it was remarks made here that caused me to rethink things and get to the right conclusion. Thanks again.


              • #8
                I'm glad you got the cart balamce resolved!

                As to wider saddles the widest I have seen is a 5" from Yonie's designed for drafts. Their warmblood and horse sized are 4" and I believe they have a 3 or 4" option at the cob size. I got a 5" for our HaflingerxBelgian, just needed a slightly smaller girth and it works well (now I just need the time to finish off getting her in the cart!).


                • #9
                  Glad to hear you got things fixed up! I still would get the saddle restuffed, you and donkey should feel nothing poking back when pressing on the padding.

                  Any harness saddle I use on a 2-Wheeler is at least 4 inches wide, measured on the top width.. This gives more padded surface on the animal side of saddle. Some harness makers have designs of saddle padding from edge to edge. While other makers have a 'seam allowance' on edges where leather pieces come together so there is a narrower padding area. I think I have about 3 1/2 nches of pad face with my Smuckers harness because it has the seam allowance of stitching. Some of the edge to edge models use foam, which can break down sooner in use, hard to replace. Padding should be firm, not crushable as you aqueeze it, so it actually is protecting the animal. Again, use, animal body heat, sweat, will change the padding fit, so it can need attention, fixing again. If you drive a lot, check fit, padding, more often.

                  I was taught that narrow saddles, 2 or 3inches wide were 'buggy harness' because with a 4-wheeler, the saddle only carries shaft weight of a pound or two. Doesn't put any real weight on the horses back. Some inexpensive buggy harness is treeless too, again because it does not carry weight, saves money with less work to build. Horses in multiples will have narrow saddles because the have no weight on their backs.

                  Gig saddle is wide, usually 6 inches for horses. Has a tree, spreads out the load of heavy Gig carts on the horse. The sliding back band holding tug loops or special French or Tilbury tugs, was for balancing shafts on non-level roads. As wheel went up or down on one side, tug loop rose or lowered too, while saddle stayed in place in the horse. More common in the UK where heavier vehicles were more common. Same wide saddle was seen on other big 2-wheel carts, White Chapel, Irish Jaunt ing Car, Village Carts, that carried 4 people, lots of weight. I think there was a tax on axles in the UK, which is why 2-wheelers were so popular in the horse days. They had so many designs available for every use.

                  You MUST NOT use a sliding back band with modern independent shaft vehicles!! Shafts will not balance themselves like the old 2-wheeler. One shaft will go high, other shaft low and poke the horse. Then you are in the middle of an accident!


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you CERT & Goodhors for the information. The information about the Gig saddle and carts was very interesting!!

                    I will keep a keen eye on the harness saddle fit this fall. I was not having problems until I hooked her to the incorrectly balanced cart. With the correct adjustment in place I hope the problems are done.

                    I did measure my harness saddle width and it was 3 1/2" on the top, 2 3/4" underneath. This is for a 12.2 equine so the ratio seems on target. The padding remains firm and there is plenty of clearance over her spine.


                    • #11
                      You're using the wrong type of saddle for a cart. You truly do need floating tugs. They slide back and forth vs. putting weight unevenly on their backs. tug version of a swingletree, where it moves back and forth to keep the shoulders from rubbing, no different with tugs.

                      Balance is important...keeps the load from pulling up on the belly or down on the back...the grinding of the saddle on their back is equally taxing for the horse.

                      Good luck
                      "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"