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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So my gelding is a round, stumpy QH/Morgan currently being trained to drive. Even though we're still quite a ways off from hooking up to a cart, I can't seem to get the breast collar to fit quite right... Its either too close to the point of his shoulder, or up by his windpipe.

He currently has a synthetic Smucker harness with a straight breastcollar. I was thinking a deep V style breastcollar would accomodate his huge shoulders and stout body well, but before going on the hunt for a harness maker I'd like to know if anyone else has experience with them on horses with a stocky build.

I've also heard of euro collars working well for freeing up the shoulder and not restricting the windpipe, and I can adjust the line of draft on his breaking cart. Would those be worth looking into over deep V breastcollars for simple pleasure and trail driving?
 

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Pictures would help. It typically depends on the amount of adjustment as to whether something will work or not. Added holes or ordering custom replacement pieces that are shorter or longer can be an option. And yes, some styles fit better than others. I've never had an issue with my breast collar and it has been adjusted to fit some really narrow animals up to a couple of old time stout (read wide) animals. I did have to change out some of the straps though. All of my harness is made to come apart at every junction though for two reasons - one being an old injury of mine that makes it hard sometimes to lift and the other being I knew I was going to be training and didn't want several sets of different sizes so each set has added adjustments plus completely different strapping pieces that can be switched out.
 

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Some people like Euro collars, but from my point of view, as a harnessmaker (ret) and author of the book, Understanding Harness, they are a complete fraud.

Throat relief would be good, but some of the deep V collars are also poorly designed in an attempt to make breast collars suitable for low draft marathon vehicles, which they'll never accomplish. There is MUCH fashion going on in the driving world to the sacrifice of well researched design. If you're using something like a meadowbrook with a high singletree, some of the deep V collars point down at the ends, and even if the trace buckles are hinged, the fit is crappy. They also have to be tied down in the center with a false martingale, which can be a rub risk. There are some inbetween designs that offer throat relief, lift the collar off the point of shoulder a bit, and have correctly placed neckstrap uptugs, and have a better angle at the ends.

It's a n equipment selection jungle out there.
 

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Is a collar an option? Those seem to work better on horses with wide shoulders and a low-set neck than breastcollars.

It's really about the angle of draft. If the singletree is high, like on a meadowbrook, the horizontal traces on a neck collar will pull the collar into the throat and grind on the shoulders, and above the trace attachments, the top part of the collar will flap around uselessly. The traces need to make as near a 90degree angle as possible from the hames to the singletree in order to use a neck collar.

Conversely, if you try to use a breast collar with a low singletree, the angle of the traces will force the neckstrap to bear down painfully on top of the neck. For that reason, breast collars are more suitable for high draft vehicles. Impeding the shoulder mobility to a certain extent with a breast collar is an unavoidable certainty.

The Euro collar and the super deep v collars are failed attempts to correct the draft on a marathon vehicle without having to fit a neck collar. But they look cool so people buy them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
His cart is an easy entry with a high swingletree akin to a meadowbrook, definitely made for a breastcollar.

According to the lady I got it from, the line of draft is adjustable, but I'm not really sure how to adjust that nor do I have much interest unless a full collar is really my only option for keeping his shoulder free without blocking his windpipe. However something tells me I'd just want to invest in a different, low swingletree cart rather than mucking about with forces I don't fully comprehend.

If the consensus is that eurocollars aren't worth the money, is there a harness brand that makes good deep V breast plates? Could I take measurements and get a breastplate custom from a harness maker?

Sorry if these are all stupid questions, I'm very new to driving.
 

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If you want to go with a deep V, you could look at the Comfy Fit harness at Chimacum Tack. They are known for their customer service. If you ask for Mindy, she's pretty keen on collars and horse comfort. Tell her Barb Lee sent you. LOL! I could explain why I think Euro collars are a bust, but it's a whole ' nother discussion. My opinion may be in the minority.
 

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You could also try Hogbranch Harness in Mississippi. They work with you.
 

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He did all of my custom work when I injured my shoulder. Those harnesses - training, work and show are still in use today 20+ years later. Love, love, love that family. When the Russell's were putting on work horse clinics that was one of the field trips every one would revisit after.


ETA My breast collar from there has a gentle curve to it that combined with placement and adjustability of the straps has meant I have only ever had to have the one.
 

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He did all of my custom work when I injured my shoulder. Those harnesses - training, work and show are still in use today 20+ years later. Love, love, love that family. When the Russell's were putting on work horse clinics that was one of the field trips every one would revisit after.


ETA My breast collar from there has a gentle curve to it that combined with placement and adjustability of the straps has meant I have only ever had to have the one.
Ken was making harness long before me. We just somehow struck up the best long distance friendship. He was alwas helping me and sharing new ideas. Dearly wish I could meet him and Wanda in person some day, but don't think I'll ever make it "down yonder" as Ken jokes. You're so lucky to have attended those clinics!
 

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I met my husband at the first one I attended as a working vacation. Same clinic, same time of year (one week before a particular major holiday) one year later he proposed then the next year, same clinic we got married. He has no clue of the date but if you ask when our anniverserary is he tells the the Saturday before that holiday.
 

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You said you haven't hooked to the cart yet, have you been dragging a pole or something? The reason I ask is a breastcollar isn't for pulling something close to the ground, it makes the draft all wrong. Don't get me wrong, you can do it, however the breastcollar will not sit like it will when its hooked to a cart, which would be more even to the front on the horse.
I hope I explained that right.
 

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You said you haven't hooked to the cart yet, have you been dragging a pole or something? The reason I ask is a breastcollar isn't for pulling something close to the ground, it makes the draft all wrong. Don't get me wrong, you can do it, however the breastcollar will not sit like it will when its hooked to a cart, which would be more even to the front on the horse.
I hope I explained that right.
Good point Gmac.

To elaborate, the weight o f a load on the ground will be transmitted in part to the top of the neck via the neckstrap, so if getting the horse used to dragging a weight with a breast collar, it shouldn't be too heavy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
You said you haven't hooked to the cart yet, have you been dragging a pole or something? The reason I ask is a breastcollar isn't for pulling something close to the ground, it makes the draft all wrong. Don't get me wrong, you can do it, however the breastcollar will not sit like it will when its hooked to a cart, which would be more even to the front on the horse.
I hope I explained that right.
You're right, he hasn't been hooked to a cart yet and he's just been dragging a tire around. But the straight breastcollar is either right up against his windpipe or rubbing the point of his shoulders, whether he's pulling anything or not. Even when the traces are straight out parallel to the ground, it still seems uncomfortably tight on his windpipe.

He hasn't got any rubs from it or anything, but I'd like him to be comfortable as possible when I do finally put him to a cart.
 

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You're right, he hasn't been hooked to a cart yet and he's just been dragging a tire around. But the straight breastcollar is either right up against his windpipe or rubbing the point of his shoulders, whether he's pulling anything or not. Even when the traces are straight out parallel to the ground, it still seems uncomfortably tight on his windpipe.

He hasn't got any rubs from it or anything, but I'd like him to be comfortable as possible when I do finally put him to a cart.
I don't blame you, the more comfortable he is the more agreeable he will be, and you don't want it messing with his breathing. Are there any holes left in the neck collar to drop the breast plate down a notch or two? If not I would say you might need to bump up to the next size.
 

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I would say not just down but the straps may need to be further back on the breast collar to give enough room and create a deeper space.
 

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So I understand the arguments about line of draft, but can someone explain to me why a brollar or Euro collar or whatever people are calling them nowadays are bad? I know that a Euro collar is not sturdy enough to drag heavy things, since it's not built with a padded section reinforced with a solid frame like a true collar. But for dragging light objects and also pulling a cart, why wouldn't a Euro collar be acceptable? I was thinking of getting one for Thunder muffin since he pulls a variety of objects that aren't very heavy, and it would save me from having to have separate collar and breastcollar. Please, o ye experienced driving peoples, give unto me your knowledge! : )

-- Kai
 

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So I understand the arguments about line of draft, but can someone explain to me why a brollar or Euro collar or whatever people are calling them nowadays are bad? I know that a Euro collar is not sturdy enough to drag heavy things, since it's not built with a padded section reinforced with a solid frame like a true collar. But for dragging light objects and also pulling a cart, why wouldn't a Euro collar be acceptable? I was thinking of getting one for Thunder muffin since he pulls a variety of objects that aren't very heavy, and it would save me from having to have separate collar and breastcollar. Please, o ye experienced driving peoples, give unto me your knowledge! : )

-- Kai
If you cast a critical eyeball on the Eurocollar, you will discover that functionally, it works exactly like a breast collar. It is flexible, so it is capable of squeezing the shoulders. The traces attach to the collar in exactly the same spot as a breast collar, in relation to the shoulder blade, meaning that all the load is taken on the highly mobile lower end of the shoulder blade. They are frequently seen to gape badly away from the horse's shoulders. And when hitched to a low draft vehicle as they invariably are, the weight of the load will be partially deflected upward to the top of the neck, exactly like a breast collar. The only saving grace is that the pad on top of the collar is wider than a neckstrap, and so distributes the weight over a larger surface of the top of the horse's neck. From my point of view as a harnessmaker, they are a successfully marketed fashion item that fails utterly to "combine the best of the neck collar and the breast collar." I acknowledge that some people love them, but as a student of harness and driving equipment function, I find the Euro collar to be a seriously flawed concept. Individually, some makers's designs have additional flaws not listed above.

It is very true that a poorly fitted neck collar used with the wrong vehicle can induce injury. The same is true for an incorrectly used breast collar.
 
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