Friday, June 4, 2010

Harness Options—Weighing Public Opinion

As you surely know by now, I dream of being a driving mule and making FarmWife's dreams come true. With the help of my beloved and gracious friends, I have raised over $300 towards a beta biothane harness for the furthering of this cause. I am a lucky mule, and have the best fans in the world. Ears to you!

FarmWife's history as a driver includes starting wee Sir Lancelittle, a miniature gelding, in harness when she was a teen on beautiful Whidbey Island. That went well, and she came away confident in her ability to drive a larger animal. I have volunteered to be her next guinea pig! I have learned to ground drive, and now I walk and trot, between the lines, hither and thither through Wickersham with a proud step and glinting eye.

I have come up with some options, and because I am making a publicly-funded purchase I have decided to put it to you, my readers, to weigh them. I will give particular importance to the responses of A) kind donors, of which there have been many, and B) experienced drivers, from whom we seek to learn.

Option A:

The Comfy Fit harness from Chimacum Tack. Chimacum is a sponsor of, donating a generous commission on purchases via referral from the blog. It is a good company of great reputation, and its owner and founder is always willing to share her wisdom and insight with green drivers like FarmWife. The Comfy Fit is reputed to be a harness of wonderful comfort, which would certainly please me. Nothing is too good for Fenway Bartholomule!

With $321 in hand, we are well on our way to our monetary goal of $795 to buy the Comfy Fit harness, as was our original intention.

Option B:

There is a harness for sale, second hand but little-used, by a private party. It is Amish-made beta, haflinger sized, stainless steel hardware, complete with brown lines, a bridle, and green fleecey pads. It sounds great, and the price is right! I could afford it now, with the funds already raised. I will guess that it lacks the wide, shaped breastplate and the high-tech weight-bearing tree of the Comfy Fit, being more traditionally designed, but it is a good harness.

Option C:

A collar harness. It has occurred to me that a collar is harder to fit, but it might be a good choice for me. After all, farm work—skidding small logs for firewood, for instance, and learning to plow—may be in my future, and to use a marathon-type harness for such work would be unconventional! Chimacum, like other distributors, sells a lovely harness and collar setup for something in the range of $600-700 altogether, and I'm sure that the correct sizing could be managed with advice and careful measurement.

Now, if I haven't bored you to tears already I will tell you what it is I intend to do with this harness once I have it. It will help you in the rendering of Good Advice.

To start, I plan to drag tires about. Why FarmWife wants me to do this I cannot imagine, but she does and I will.

I will then move up to dragging the pasture, which could use some dragging anyway and which can be done with the equipment on hand. I may also be able to procure some sort of homemade training vehicle, since my human grandpa is a mechanic and welder of immense creativity and resourcefulness. We shall see.

I will save up to buy a vehicle, but it is more likely to be one of the cheaper two-wheeled types than not. I understand that these require careful balance so as not weigh the saddle to heavily, so we will resist the urge to buy a $400 bicycle-wheeled cart off Ebay and instead watch and save for a quality used cart or wagon. I will also save for lessons and clinics, and as FarmWife's children grow, her income and her discretionary funds will grow too. Perhaps by the time she is 40, and I am 25, we can have a real driving budget and some more competitive aspirations. Maybe even a green mule to bring along as my disciple!

In the immediate future, our means are limited. When it comes to buying a $6000 marathon carriage I simply must be realistic and admit that it's not part of our current plan. For now, FarmWife dreams to drive me on the gravel logging roads and paved backroads of Wickersham, take family drives to the restaurants and friends' houses, and do a bit of work around the farm.

So, there you have it. What I want, why I want it, and by what means I might be able to get it. Advice welcome . . . please, bring on your thoughts and comments!

Fenway Bartholomule


  1. Dear Fenway,

    You are chomping at the bit. My abundant pragmatism would advise that you stick it out and purchase the harness of FW's desire so that it will truly be the gift of the century.

  2. I recommend the collar harness for versatility. A collar harness can be used to pull a cart, wagon, or various farm implements. The collar does a much better job at distributing load weight than a breastcollar, so if your intention is to ever pull more weight than a light vehicle, look into a collar. A collar harness may even be considered more desirable/stylish if you consider going to shows, given that mules are more commonly considered draft animals. For fitting help, seek out local experience. If there are any local Amish or Mennonite communities, they could help you. Otherwise, Shipshewanna Harness in Indiana is very helpful ( over the phone or email. Also, try the folks at Draft Horse Village ( - there's a driving board and a work horse board that often helps folks with collar fitting. Good luck!

  3. Dear Fenway,
    I know a bit about a lot of things, but nothing about driving, so I give my proxy vote to FW as it is her gift, after all!

    Ever your friend,


  4. I think you should get what you and your FW want, FB!

  5. Well I was going to say everything that equerystrian said, so now I don't have to. :)

    btw mule in need:

  6. Dear Mr. Bartholomule,

    If you truly plan to pull farm implements than a Collar is pretty much your only choice. That said, you may want to consider that it is possible to switch back and forth between a collar and a breastcollar. I would suggest looking into either a Hungarian style collar or Scotch collar. Both of which are (I believe) a little more flexible about how they can be configured.

    So, you may want to consider starting with a breast collar (which is cheaper) for training and getting up to speed on the whole driving concept. You can drag small poles, tires and other reasonably light objects with a breast collar. Just use a couple of carabiners to hook your traces up to a chain hooked to your item of choice. You'll just need to make sure the traces go through the tugs on your harness saddle so they don't get caught in your legs.

    Once you're comfortable with dragging small items about, then you can consider upgrading to a collar. Collars can be a bit of a pain to deal with and, if you just want to go for a quick jaunt, a breast collar is much faster. Collars are also overkill for a light vehicle. You may end up looking a little....ummm.... undignified as the leather you'll have around your neck may be bigger than the cart you're pulling!

    As for which harness to go for, if the inexpensive one is in good condition, go for it. Save some money now and then you can spend it on a cute little easy entry cart. They run around $750 new!

  7. Thank you all for the wonderful advice! Janie at Chimacum Tack has offered a 15% discount and free shipping on the Comfy-Fit harness, custom fitted for Yours Truly, in order to further the Muleness! She has also promised to help with the future attainment of a collar, hames and short tugs at such a time as I would like to start pulling heavier loads. We are well on our way to having the harness of FarmWife's dreams.

    Additional advice and input is welcome. Meanwhile, I am going to go out and practice pulling milk jugs and other scary things.



Thanks in Advance for Your Mulish Opinion!