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Longevity of biothane vs. leather?

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  • #21
    WA, I agree with you about the Driving Essentials leather harness that I've seen. A friend at the barn has their super deluxe model for showing her Paso Fino and it truly is a thing of beauty. I dream about it at night. I think she paid more than $2K for it (single cob) though, so dreaming is about all I'll ever do.

    Re: the FEO harness, I was and am extremely pleased with the pairs marathon harness I got from them. The quality, appearance and durability are awesome. I was a little less thrilled with their single pleasure harness but it's serviceable. It just doesn't make me say 'wow' though. If I lived as close as you do I'd sure pay them a visit to see what kind of deals they can make in person. It's a good thing I don't live that close to them!

    Originally posted by War Admiral View Post

    I'd actually loff to do business w/ FEO b/c they are by far the closest to me (45 mins from my office/1 hour from my barn!) but my take is the same as Butlerfamily's - their harnesses are priced in the same range as Claudette's and the other good ones, but don't look as attractive to me. For example, their basic leather harness is the same price as Driving Essentials' Plus Harness, which is far FAR better made and much more "pleasure showy". If I decide on leather I'm going w/ Driving Essentials again - I loff their stuff and their service!

    I'm more inclined to go take a look at FEO's little Messenger road cart, which is pretty similar to Claudette's but lighter in weight IIRC. It's priced higher but when you take the travel factor into account I might end up considerably ahead on that, since I usually end up renting a Uhaul box truck to pick vehicles up from Claudette. I could probably coax my scary old farm truck to cough its way 2 exits up I-75 to FEO from the barn, and bypass the whole Uhaul rigmarole!

    Thanks for the tip about the bridles, RidesAHaffy. I've never used bio but I can see that here in the South that makes a LOT of sense!

    Thanks all!


    • #22
      My husband and I have had 2 sets of biothane harness. The first set we purchased was made by Plas Equestrian in the UK (I think it was the Crown model) and we were not happy with it at all. It didn't crack but the straps were all very small and we found that they dug into the ponies neck and chest so we had to buy pads for it. We purchased it about 8 years ago and it is holding up, we just hated to add all the extra bulky pads. The ponies tended to heat up more after a CDE...We have "upgraded" to a Zilco pair harness that we have bought second hand, and it has held up really well and we just love it! We use it in all kinds of weather (being in Canada, we get the really hot days and really, really cold days!) and have never had a problem with it. The padding on it is really nice and the padding for the back band is adjustable which is a really nice feature. We also have nice single leather harness with brass made by Smuckers, an old set of Freedman harness (that my mother in law used to drive with 30+ years ago! It is still holding up and we still use pieces of it with my other leather working harness). We also purchased a leather Essential Plus pair harness with brass from Driving Essentials and we love it as well! Looks great and we've been using it for 4 years now and it still looks brand new! I do wish that I paid a little more for it and had the "comfort" backband, but when I ordered the harness I didn't know much about it. My mother in law had a comfort backband made by Smuckers and it fit her cob really well and looked amazing!
      I have also found a great supplier of leather harness that is made pretty well and is an amazing price. I have had a single set for 6 years (and rarely clean it!) and I have had no problems with it. I would never use it to show in, but I use it for breaking ponies and for every day use. Their website is www.ronshorseharness.com We own the Presidential harness and one of the pieces didnt fit our pony and they gladly shipped us a new one... Great customer service.


      • #23
        ^Link above has a really decent looking nylon harness for $170... I wonder if it's similar to the old Tedman or Zilco Tedex. I might like that for a work harness (since i could toss it in the washer!) and buy me a nicer leather one for show...
        Your Horse's Home On The Road!


        • #24
          I agree with butlerfamilyzoo...Their nylon harness doesnt look too bad (they did not have any nylon harness when I was buying, so I purchased the leather set instead). It looks to be good value for your money.
          When I first started to look at the biothane harness, the only thing that worried me was that the idea of that it is very hard to break. I have heard of some horses getting their legs caught in the harness and it not breaking. If it were a leather harness, it would have just broke...Having said that, we have never had a problem with our zilco harness (knock on wood!) and I always carry a knife with me incase I have to cut a piece of the harness.


          • #25
            I have no experience with synthetic harness.

            I know Hackney Pony people still showing with Freedman leather harnesses that are 40-50 years old.

            My boss has a leather work harness that is used on multiple horses daily and has been used for breaking many colts that is 30 years old. It was made by Mr.Drury, who is no longer around, but Walsh and LaSalle work harnesses are similar quality.

            Also I had gotten a new leather gig style harness from Coachman's Delight that I sure will last 30 years easy.


            • Original Poster

              Thing about biothane is, I'm not sure that a knife would actually cut through it.

              That nylon harness on the Ron's site actually looks quite interesting to me for one particular purpose, that being, to teach greenie how to *wear* the stuff and do a lot of ground-driving in for a year or so, which is the phase I'm at. I wonder what the crupper is made of though? I would think a nylon crupper would be owie.

              ETA: Never mind, I see it's leather. That's pretty cool. This might actually be a great temporary solution for me!
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


              • #27
                I actually think long term it might be nice to have around, even to hitch them. The Zilco Tedex looks very similar and people use it as a starter harness and do compete with it, though it's rather "ugly." However, there's is $500+ as compared to this one for $169.

                You are correct, it would take one heck of a knife to cut some straps on the bio harnesses i've had.

                I've gotten several more replies from larger trainers in the northern Mid-west that have the Iowa Valley harnesses both bio and leather and all of their clients have them too. Out of 30 some replies about it, not a single person has been negative towards them aside from one that said they didnt buy it because they liked the Camptown bridle better. It would be nice if their bridles had the cut back crowns like the camptowns and country carriages do now. (Camptowns is leather, country carriages is bio.)

                I actually seriously looked at a used driving essentials harness, one with all the pretty patent and brass. I wasnt a real huge fan, but maybe it's because the only leather harness i've had was a Hunts. I liked the driving essentials for the price it was being sold for, though it didnt end up fitting my pony so i had to pass on it.

                I "think" i'm going to get the Iowa Valley bio harness. But i have a few weeks to change my mind before tax returns come, so we'll see. lol
                Your Horse's Home On The Road!


                • #28
                  Originally posted by susanne View Post

                  Maureen Harkcom, formerly of Happs, is (or was) a rep for Ideal. Here's a link to try, although she is now managing Chaparosa Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona.


                  or try contacting her through Chaparosa Ranch.

                  Gerard Paagman at the House of Friesians in British Columbia also sells Ideal -- his semi full of Ideal harnesses is a regular feature at northwest CDEs. He is on Facebook.

                  I apologize for the sketchy contact information -- these are both great businesspeople.
                  Celine at Carriage Driving Essentials http://www.carriagedrivingessentials.com
                  is also an Ideal dealer.

                  I'm generally a leather traditionalist, though parts of my everyday harness are beta from Smuckers a few years ago. I don't care for Zilco harness at all, but I'm not a combined driving person.

                  I would not recommend Ron's Harness. Someone recommended it to me a few years ago when I needed a "between" work and show harness. I ordered one, got it, said "Eeek! Indian!" and sent it right back. I would rather have beta than Indian made leather goods, but that's me.


                  • #29
                    Bringing this thread up again because i just ran across this harness:

                    For $550, it "apears" well made and tough to withstand whatever you might need it for... If you want leather. The only thing i can maybe fault it for is that the breeching strap looks a tad narrower than i would prefer, i with it was lined like the breast collar, and the saddle looks like it's made with hard/stiff leather, which will wear well and maybe in the pic just needs a good oiling. It seems to only be offered with a sliding back band, so not for use with independent shafts, which puts it out of the running for me if i want to use it with my marathon carriage too...

                    But anyway, seems like a better harness for the money...
                    Your Horse's Home On The Road!


                    • Original Poster

                      I think I'm actually going to go w/ the Ron's nylon one as a temporary thang (but I repeat, NOT to hitch in!). Before I got him, someone allegedly tried to put a crupper on Quattro and said Q damn near KILLED him - so Q may have to wear harness pieces every night over dinner for a *good* long while. If he gets *really* stupid about it and kills the harness, well... at that price point no big deal really. And if I take the hardware off the saddle (for fear of Q potentially going upside down) and can't get it back on... well... at that price point no big deal really! Time enough to save up and get good stuff later, once I know for sure this isn't going to be a complete train wreck.
                      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                      • #31
                        That's a Ron's Harness, they sell to other dealers. It is a pretty good deal for the price, but it is what it is and no matter how much you oil it or love on it, it will never be nice supple leather. It does look good from a distance though!


                        • #32
                          I dont think you can go wrong with the cheap nylon harness for your uses War Admiral! I'm kinda considering it myself, to hitch with. My biggest issue is that the first show i hope to take her to is end of April... which we are cutting it close at this point to get enough hitched experience to go! But, if i spend $200 to get the nylon one, it's not fit to show in and takes $200 out of the budget to get something nicer to show in...

                          I dont know if we are gonna make it to the April show or not at this point. It was my goal... But we'll see. She's going super ground driving/long lining walk/trot/canter and i've been trail riding her out on the good days with other horses. Turns out she's traffic safe, no spook, will herd the deer, doesnt give a squat about strange horses, jumps logs, trail blazes and doesnt mind getting wacked with twigs, plunks through any water and mud, just some of the big tree trunk shadows across her path make her put her nose down to investigate... lol And she has no issues with other horses in the arena with her. So i think she'll be alright once hitched. Crossing fingers... She's been dragging tires without issue too, though i'm banned from doing that anymore in the indoor, people werent appreciating my tire drag marks/trenches... She doesnt care about the PVC poles thumping out of the tugs, waits for me to fix them. She's so ready to hitch at this point it's not funny. Just wish her last harness would have fit her better and we would be off driving! Well maybe not the past few days since winter has officially hit and i'm a wimp...
                          Your Horse's Home On The Road!


                          • #33
                            Raises hand! "We" have broken biothane work harness -about as heavy duty as it comes. It was a few years ago but The horse in question 19.1 or 192 hands (first time we hitched her but she was young but broke), spooked while being hitched and I couldn't hold the lines from the ground (actually had blisters from the event). She galloped around the arena with cart attached and then went through a fence -cart got caught on a corner post (the corner post that I had put my nice camera on, imploded into literally in a million pieces). Of course, the hardware always breaks before the leather or bio/beta in my experience and did on this harness too. The pins that attach the hames to the traces bent (it was a draft horse harness -so the hames don't have tugs, like a light horse harness).

                            The cart stopped on the huge corner post and so did she!

                            At 2300 pounds, she broke a few pieces (the quarter straps for instance) but she walked away without a scratch.

                            My dear husband put a different harness on her and drove her 30 minutes later. Scared the heck out of me but she never spooked again and was a rock solid citizen (as in ground tied, never moved an inch when being hitched again). I ended up selling her because she was just a little lazy for me.

                            So, it CAN break. Over time, I have found that I really like both leather and beta. No question that beta or bio lasts and lasts without a lot of care. Leather can IF and only IF it is kept from humidity, regularly oiled and kept out of extreme heat and cold.
                            Last edited by Cielo Azure; Jan. 15, 2012, 02:32 PM.
                            Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF


                            • #34
                              nylon versus bio

                              As an aside, I always heard that biothane breaks easier than nylon and in fact it does. I know many draft horse people won't use nylon harness for this reason.

                              The breaking strength of midweight biothane ranges from 400 to 3000 -with the midrange being 1000 pounds

                              The breaking strength of nylon webbing ranges from 650 to 10,000 pounds -with the midweight grade about 5000 pounds (which is what looks like is used for horse harness). The 650 pound breaking nylon is only 3/8 of an inch wide and much smaller than is used on horse harness.
                              Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF


                              • Original Poster

                                Update - I just ordered the Ron's Nylon Harness in black and will post reviews/pics when I get it. The bridle does look kinda cr*ppy but I'm not planning to use the bridle anyway, so no biggie. The measurements check out fine for my horse, so he can at least use it for dragging "stuff" around the farmyard.
                                "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                                • #36
                                  You may want to be sure the crupper is really warmed up before trying to put it on the horse. I have seen some wrapped in sheepskin, no chance of being cold on that thin tailbone skin.

                                  Have to say it "IS NOT PRETTY" when the big horses squat down behind and hunch their backs after you put on that COLD leather crupper! And they have no crupper issues to start with!! We try to remember to warm cruppers up these days, just a nicer way of doing things for them. And they are not so lively to drive that day, when not being rudely surprised during harnessing!


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by goodhors View Post
                                    You may want to be sure the crupper is really warmed up before trying to put it on the horse. I have seen some wrapped in sheepskin, no chance of being cold on that thin tailbone skin.
                                    You forget - I owned and drove a thin-skinned TB. I know ALL about it. What I always found worked was to put Vaseline on both the crupper AND the skin under the dock of the tail. Hold crupper in hand until Vaseline all nice & warm, put it on - voila, no snarky comments from His Editorialness. Messy but it worked!
                                    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                                    • Original Poster

                                      OK, so the Ron's nylon harness is here, and I'm more favorably impressed than I ever expected. For a breaking/training harness I think it will do the job VERY nicely - so a huge THANK YOU to whoever pointed this thread in that direction!

                                      In the pics on the website, you can't really tell that the blinkers ARE adjustable, so I was assuming they weren't but they ARE. Everything has LOTS of holes for adjustment. Hardware looks sturdy enough. I *suspect* that if you got a lot of water on the sort of plasticy lining it would eventually crack - but I've had stuff with this type of lining before and have not had any issues. It will definitely have to live indoors in order not to crack in wintry weather, but hey, that's why my tack room is my car!

                                      I was worried about the quality of the crupper but it's nicely shaped, leather over rubber, with no crooked stitching in irritating places or anything like that. It's a bit stiff - I almost wish that it were stuffed with rice like the ASB fine harness cruppers are, instead of leather-over-rubber (no reason I can't switch for one that is though) - but once I know it fits, I'll just soak it in neatsfoot for a week and that should solve that.

                                      The harness saddle is a lot better than it looks in the illustrations too. It looks in the pics on the website as if the lining part is very short, but in fact it goes a GOOD long ways down and is nicely shaped. The saddle actually comes with the hardware OFF, and given prior posts/myths and legends about Q trying to kill people, I see no reason to put it *on* at this particular moment in time, so you'll have to wait a few months for my verdict on ease of use.

                                      Customer service was great - I couldn't decide whether Q needed the Horse or the Cob; we ended up going w/ the cob after we sent sent relevant photos back and forth.

                                      Looking forward to trying it on Q, but (story of my life!) snow and ice are predicted for the next couple days, making travel over the mountain to the next valley (where Q lives) NOT something I want to try! But when I get it over there I'll take pics.

                                      I had originally said I would not care to hitch in this, just going off the pics on the website... and I'm going to *cautiously* revise that to say I would certainly TRY hitching, a few times anyway, assuming I'm putting to nothing heavier than a lightweight M'brook or road cart.

                                      For me personally, this harness was a good spend. I've got a young horse who needs to spend a year just *wearing* it and ground driving around the roads, and maybe learning to pull "stuff" inside the arena with it. This will be useful for my purposes and I'll probably keep it around for future use on greenies even after I upgrade.

                                      Thanks again, whoever linked to this!!!
                                      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                                      • #39
                                        i think it was Cielo Azure above that posted the breaking strength of nylon vs bio/beta, and nylon is MUCH stronger. So if you were to hitch even something heavier, i dont think you'll have a breakage problem. Only thing that might concern me is breast collar fit and comfort, but that concerns me on any harness!

                                        Glad to hear it was a good buy! I thought it looked pretty decent for a work harness from the photos! Maybe now we all know of a "cheap" option that's decent quality and safer than the cardboard ebay stuff, to show the newbies that come here.
                                        Your Horse's Home On The Road!


                                        • #40
                                          Add a waffle pad to that breast collar and there should be no discomfort.
                                          They're not miniatures, they're concentrates.

                                          Born tongue-in-cheek and foot-in-mouth