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Quality Leather Harness Brands

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  • Quality Leather Harness Brands

    We are toying with the idea to teach one of our ApHC 2 yr olds to drive as we don't think she will be tall enough for us to ride comfortably. I believe right now she stands about 14.1. More than likely we will have a "good" harness and one to use for work/training. I would like to know which harness brands are the best quality in different price ranges. I really don't know too much about driving and would just like some help. Obviously if we get really serious we will look for some one experienced around here to help us. I've see/heard of Smuckers, Hunts, Freedmans and a few others. Can you give me an idea of other brands and their rankings compared to the best out there. Maybe explanations on why certain brands are better then others? I def. think we will want leather harnesses, does the russet leather darken over time? Probably will start with a breastcollar type instead of a collar for now. Thanks!!

  • #2
    Well you have a wide wide range of spending you can do . . .

    Freedmans Harness is probably the top notch in North America and you pay for it
    a single harness is upwards of $5K

    Hunts Harness is in the upper echelon and again you pay for it

    Bowmanss Harness is real quality too with prices to match

    You can still buy Smucker harness
    The super Deluxe runs $2295 single
    the Delux is more like $1500

    These are all the top brands in LEATHER

    there are a number of brands that are synthetic or beta - prices go to around $1500 from around $600

    Driving Essentials has a real nice quality Essential Harness

    and many many other carriage/harness businesses carry good quality product

    Your real cheap stuff is seen on ebay and it is REAL CHEAP goods - no value in the leather or hardware

    Expect to pay at least $700 for a good show quality leather Amish made harness


    • #3
      I bought a well known brand for 1600.00 and was not at all happy with it. I returned it and had a very nice one custom made through Celine at Carriage driving essentials in the 1100.00 dollar range that you could use every day or it is nice enough to show in show if needed. I have a Hunt for my show though but wanted something nice for every day because I use it more.
      I don't want to post which one I did not like but would privately if you need.


      • Original Poster

        Thank you both for reply! What are some good quality ones that are not as expensive as say the ones I previously mentioned. Somewhere in the 1500 range maybe new? Drive NJ can you tell me some of the others you were referring too?

        If looking at a used harness what are some common areas to check to make sure they are in good shape(maybe areas that can be stressed etc)? How do you know to spot something that may be unsafe? I know how to spot leather thats in poor shape but I didn't know if there are specific areas that should be double checked. Example if looking at an english saddle I always look the billets over really well or on a western saddle I check the stirrup leathers/fenders and the rigging for the cinch etc.

        If say the horse I'm speaking of reaches a mature height of say 14.2 or 3 but weighs in at 1000 or possibly more what size harness should I look into? Do harnesses vary in size by brand ?


        • #5
          I have an Ideal Harness, bought from Coachman's Delight. I don't know if he still sells this brand, but I love my harness. Purchased for around $900 new, good hardy leather yet manageable.

          The much more experienced drivers that mentored me were very wary when I said I purchased a harness of an "unknown" brand but they were pleasantly surprised when they saw it. It's mainly sold in Europe but I'll buy from them again.

          It's a very workmanlike harness, no patent leather, either stainless steel or brass. I think perfect for a beginner (which I was when I bought it.)


          • #6
            I bought my Ideal leather harness from Coachman's Delight last summer. I
            am really happy with the quality of the harness. I am very happy with
            how it fits my gelding.


            • #7
              When purchasing used - I consider that there are three categories
              (all assuming that it was a decent harness to begin with)

              1) bareley out of the box and practically never touched
              You can end up paying anywhere from half its original price to almost full price
              but you can get a really good harness for that

              2) Well used but still in very good using condition
              I expect that you may have to replace a few strap on this harness
              particularly the holdback strap and the reins

              3) really beat up and worn out
              or dry and cracking
              or limp, stretched and sad

              in all cases, a major thing to look at is anywhere that the leather folds over a metal buckle, ring, bit etc
              the bit end of the reins can deteriorate from saliva and chewing
              the reins stretch particularly where they thread the terrets

              EVERYONE should check their reins periodically for stretching and wear

              I prefer buckle in traces and the shoulder buckle end of the traces can wear at the holes - or the swingle tree ends can wear if they are a slot end and not a ring (the ring only works for harness setup to use that way)

              Compared to saddle billets there really arent any parts of the harness that get brutal use except the aforementioned holdbacks and reins

              Your neck and hip straps could stretch
              as can the back strap - they are not expensive to replace

              Where the tug-girth attaches to the saddle (AND HOW) are something to keep an eye on but not like riding billets

              Quality and condition of the leather is the key

              as to size - a nice thing about most harness sellers is that they will work with you to somewhat customise a harness to fit your equine
              A large pony like a Haffie or Fjord and take a cob or a horse size - generally the bridle can cause fit issues here

              We have draftX and had to work on Crown and browband sized (Xlarge) mixed with cheek size (horse)

              I can highly recommend if you have an option - to get the shaped crown with cutbacks for the ears
              Our boys really appreciate that getting over their drafty knobheaded poll

              Many harness sellers have a harness measuring chart on their website
              take the time to fill one out and use it for looking at used harness sizes
              ALSO if you have a wide horse - a back tracing at the wither can give you an idea if you will have any saddle fit issues


              • Original Poster

                Thanks again everyone you've all been really helpful!!


                • #9
                  Where are you located? Perhaps we on the board can help you locate good harness makers for your working set among more localized areas.


                  • #10
                    I've had several brands, but I'll only buy from Ideal Harness now - lovely leather, good craftsmanship and I liked the price. I've got 4 of them (single horse, single cob and a pairs). They sell out of Canada now, have a rolling shop that goes to all the big CDE's and some of the smaller ones too. Gerald is so helpful and he has buckle nosed halters which are a must for drivers (IMO!)

                    At 14.1 and weight, a cob size will fit.

                    I also have a Smuckers synthetic harness for everyday wear. Love that I can hose off horse and harness at the same time.

                    One other piece that I like is that is not standard on most harness is a strap that connects the throat latch to the nose band. It will stop a horse from slipping his bridle off without having to crank down on the throat latch. A great safety piece and unobtrusive.

                    Happy Shopping!
                    Horse Feathers Farm


                    • Original Poster

                      Sorry I haven't responded in a while! We were very busy this weekend watching some other peoples horses and animals, and just now took on another set until friday. I live in between rochester and syracuse, NY. Any help would be appreciated. Not sure how soon we will be getting into all of this but I really like to research things well before I need them. I'm trying to learn as much as possible about harnesses, driving etc as I can. To be honest I don't even know of any other driving shows in the area besides the one at Walnut Hill. I actually barrel raced during one of their breaks/intermission a few years ago. I really enjoyed being there.


                      • #12
                        The weekend of July 16-17 is a big and nice show at Lorenzo NY

                        also sometime in the summer (not sure when) is a Haflinger show in Skeneateles (may be spelled wrong)
                        and there is a lot of nice driving in that - but all the horses are gold with lots of blond mane (haha)
                        not sure if this is the show in July or not? a friend sometimes goes up there. . .

                        BTW - I know of a good quality Smuckers harness for sale now (- no not mine) I could pass on the info


                        • #13
                          Walsh is another goos brand not yet mentioned. Do you know how to drive? If not my first suggestion would be to take driving lessons. Then familiarize yourself with the different types of driving available, what you would buy to show at an ApHC breed show is completely different from what you would buy for carriage driving shows like Walnut Hill. Then before you buy anything I would bring the horse to a qualified trainer for that type of driving and have them start the horse in long lines and evaluate it.


                          • #14
                            As far as training/work harness goes, the "house brands" at World Champion and National Bridle Shop are very good values. I got mine at World Champion and they made me a britching to match (It is marketed toward saddle seat people who generally don't use one)
                            Visit my Spoonflower shop


                            • #15
                              Coming from the Saddlebred and Hackney world where we drive quite a lot, for a work harness World Champion and National Bridle Shop have very high quality (but not flashy), inexpensive work equipment. We have a few long-lining surcingles, and a wonderful driving harness from them, and they have stood up to years and years of abuse beautifully.

                              Other the Freedman and Hunt for the high-end stuff, you might want to look into Kennedy Harnesses - they're a smaller harness-maker based out of Indiana. I can't speak for their prices now, but I have a lovely show harness from them that at 15+ years old looks as good as the day it was made, and looks just as nice (if not nicer, since the brass is better quality than a 2-year-old Hunt) as a Hunt.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by ex1730 View Post
                                Sorry I haven't responded in a while! We were very busy this weekend watching some other peoples horses and animals, and just now took on another set until friday. I live in between rochester and syracuse, NY. Any help would be appreciated. Not sure how soon we will be getting into all of this but I really like to research things well before I need them. I'm trying to learn as much as possible about harnesses, driving etc as I can. To be honest I don't even know of any other driving shows in the area besides the one at Walnut Hill. I actually barrel raced during one of their breaks/intermission a few years ago. I really enjoyed being there.
                                I will send a PM with a couple of Amish harness makers in WNY.

                                There are at least 2 more driving shows coming up in July:

                                Lorenzo, in Cazenovia NY just east of Syracuse on July 16-17 and

                                East Aurora, In East Aurora, NY south of Buffalo on July 30-31 - I will be at this with my pony pair if anybody wants to say Hi. Look for the Roan POA pair.



                                • #17
                                  I have two harness from Driving Essentials. The Basic harness I use for everyday use (my horse is their model in the magazine!) and the Essential harness for show.

                                  Good prices on both and a good company to buy from. Easy to work with. They even custom made me a kicking strap as the one they sell didn't fit my needs.


                                  • #18
                                    I have a harness from Ron's Harness, was around $500 and it has served me well. They were terrific to order from, putting up with all my questions, even sent me extenders at no charge and it was my mistake so they really could have charged me. I have used this harness in clinics where it was pointed out as a well made harness, exceptional backpad/saddle and nice comfortable crupper....I felt pretty good since the clinician was internationally known. He even asked if I would loan out parts to those folks whose harnesses weren't 'right' so they could see the difference.


                                    • #19
                                      Depending on your needs, different brands may or may not be appropriate for certain disciplines. My next harness will be a Lasalle. http://www.lasalleharness.com/

                                      I currently have a Schneider's harness which is great, high quality for a medium/low price. they have 2 harnesses, one of which is a little higher quality than the other, and honestly I don't know which one I have. It doesn't have breeching. I would only question if it can fit on a really big horse, i have some parts on the biggest notch for my Saddlebred gelding. . . many of the pieces of the harness are not original though, I bought it used and had to buy some separate pieces, for whatever reason (new tugs, reins, martingale). Overall I really like it. http://www.sstack.com/Western_Traini...ining-Harness/


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Thank you all for the replies!! You all have been so helpful. I again had a very busy weekend took some of our friends kids to a Jr Rodeo and Youth Fun show weekend. We do plan on finding someone to help us with instruction/training. I have drove before but it was with a horse that already had been trained etc. and only for a short amount of time. I have no intention of just setting out to train her myself !
                                        " what you would buy to show at an ApHC breed show is completely different from what you would buy for carriage driving shows like Walnut Hill."
                                        Can you explain to me the difference needed for each? It would be nice to show ApHC and at driving shows.. why is it necessary to have different harnesses for each? or is it you are required to have different vehicles so the need for different harness? If this is the case do different breeds have different expectations for how they travel when being driven? (like a AQHA vs a Morgan)