Harness & wagon fitting queries
We undertook a bit of bush engineering today in an attempt to get the shaft assembly for Koby's wagon and harness fitting better.  This entailed taking the assembly to bits and starting again.  Koby was so patient; once the shaft assembly was complete and he was hitched, one of us kept him occupied with corn chips to minimise fidgeting while the other made adjustments to the harness.  So here are a few photos for you to critique.  Still not quite right, but we're getting there.  There is no way one person could have done this alone - one needed to mind Koby at his head and keep him calm while the other stood back to survey the overall picture and then try to fix what didn't look right.  Tying him up with the wagon hitched wouldn't have worked.


Taking the assembly to bits


Apologies for the poor quality of this photo; it's another frame from a video. We've made the corners of the rear section of the shaft assembly squarer than they were.  No parts were available to enable making it completely square but at least now it is more closely aligned to the width of the wagon.  I've removed the nylon rope from the singletree per Nanno's suggestion.  Each trace has been extended by buckling a strong nylon dog collar onto it.  I'm going to have to do something about the carabiners which attach the traces to the singletree though - they are way too small and fiddly to work with when they need to be attached/detached without delay (they came with the harness).  I also need to fashion some keepers for the loose ends. I think the hold back straps are too slack in this photo, is this correct?  And I'm not sure if the traces are the correct tension - we ended up tightening them after this photo. Without the shaft wraps the shafts kept riding up and becoming unstable, so we put the wraps back on, looped them through the shaft loops and it worked much better.



We've tightened the holdback straps in this photo but I'm wondering if we might need to move the footman loops (these are made from pipe clamps).  In any case we need to get bigger pipe clamps because the thickness of the holdback straps means it's tricky to thread them through.  Are you only supposed to thread them through once?  We need to ensure the buckles are facing out so they don't rub Koby.  Is the britchen at the right height?  I also lowered the breast strap because it was very tight over his withers; he seemed happier about that.


We've now covered the bolts attaching the shaft assembly to the steering arm of the wagon with a piece of agricultural pipe (not shown in this photo). I was a bit nervous that the ends of the bolts might cut Koby if the back of his hind legs made contact with the assembly before we had it fitted correctly, or in the event he gets a fright.  The end result doesn't look pretty but it's functional and safer Smile

One thing that became very obvious was how wide an arc we needed to walk Koby in order to turn him successfully. I'm not sure if we were doing something wrong or something is still not fitting correctly, but if we tried to turn him in a tighter circle the britchen slid sideways and the shafts went a bit awry, so that the end result was Koby not positioned squarely in the whole rig and being rather uncomfortable until we straightened it all up. However the final turn we asked him to do was before we tightened the holdback straps so maybe that was the issue and next time it will work better.

When I bought the harness a couple of years ago it didn't come with any instructions. It was fully assembled when I unpacked it and I had no idea what all the extra straps were for (e.g. shaft wraps, holdback straps).  We might be progressing at a glacial pace but at least I'm learning what all the bits are for Big Grin. It's great to read about everything from a theoretical perspective in books but for me it doesn't come together in my head until I'm actually using the equipment and asking questions to you guys.  

As always, any suggestions as to how to improve this set-up would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Ooh, I like how the corners on your shafts look now. They look much neater! However, it looks like the angle on your shafts is steeper now than in the first photo. I'm guessing it's because you shortened the traces a bit? I'd lengthen them back again and get those shafts back to a less steep angle. You don't want the end of the shaft to poke Koby in the shoulder or neck when he turns, and in this position it looks like it could. You also don't want him to be so close to the back of the shafts that he could bump his legs when he trots or runs.

I totally forgot about unwrapped shafts riding up when the goat stops! Shaft wraps are definitely necessary to prevent that! Good thinking.

You said you lowered the breastcollar because the neck strap was too tight. I'm guessing this is because of the angle of draft created by a low singletree. We faced this problem with our team setup and there are a couple of things you can do about it. First, you can lengthen the traces to make the angle of draft less steep. You can also put a small pad (such as a fleece horse halter pad) under the top of the neck strap to pad any weight that falls on it. The other thing you can do is fix a strap between your neck strap and saddle. A small dog collar would probably work. This helps transfer some of the weight from the neck strap to the saddle. The other thing you could do is run the traces through the rings on your britchen if the rings are large enough to allow the traces to slide through fairly freely. This is less efficient because it breaks the line of draft, but it will hold your traces up level with the breastcollar. It will prevent the downward weight from falling on Koby's neck and will put it on the hip strap instead, which he may prefer. A breastcollar set as low as you have it in these photos is going to tire him out once he starts pulling real loads, and it could also chafe since there's a lot more shoulder movement at that height than there is up higher near his neck.

I can't tell from the photos whether Koby is suspended correctly between breastcollar and britchen. This is something you usually have to play with by starting and stopping and feeling. When I'm hitching an animal up for the first time I usually have to walk alongside and play with the harness adjustments a little as we start and stop. Often I slide my hand under the britchen and feel how much play is there when we start and stop. (Yes, your goat will give you funny looks!) Is there a lot of slack in the traces when Koby stops? Then you either have to shorten the traces or the holdbacks. On the other hand, if his hind legs are getting chafed by the britchen as he walks then your traces or holdbacks need to be lengthened.

I'm not sure why the britchen is getting pulled around when you turn. I would hazard a guess that you've got too much play in your holdbacks, or possibly your shafts are too wide for him. The shafts should hug his body pretty close. I'm not sure if too-wide shafts could cause the britchen to slide around on turns because I've never personally experienced this problem, but I'm trying to visualize it in my head and think of reasons why it could occur.

For your footman loops see if you can find a type of anchor in your hardware store that looks like a miniature cabinet handle. They are basically a piece of metal with a hump in the middle and a screw hole at either end. I think they are called footman loops or strap loops and most hardware stores should carry them. You don't have to thread the holdbacks through more than once. They just need to anchor the straps in place.

Thanks for sharing all these photos! I think it will be very helpful for other folks setting up wagon shafts! I'm hoping to make some for our wagon this year or next. Last summer our boys weren't old enough to pull it single so I put that project off and concentrated on training them as a team. I'm sure when we get around to making shafts I'll be looking at your set-up!
I'm really enjoying this thread!  I liked using quick release snap/shackles on the traces when driving my single and pair (Fjord horses).  I would think the ones for mini horses would work for goats.  They come in a variety of configurations.

Goatberries Happen!
Thanks Taffy, for the link. Those snaps look great, but I think the decimal points in the prices are in the wrong place Huh  They're a bit out of my price range.

Nanno, thanks for your advice.  I will respond to your points in order:

You are correct, the angles of the shafts are now a bit steeper. I suspect that could be because when we "operated" on them, we lost about 4 inches from each one.  I forgot to mention that in my last post. That's easily fixed with a bit more conduit cut and fitted to extend them. Your thoughts?

I see what you mean by the breastcollar being too low for comfort; thanks for the explanation. I like the fleece pad idea more than threading the traces through the rings on the britchen or adding another strap.

We will experiment with the tension of the traces and holdbacks. They didn't seem right to me either.

The shafts could be a little too wide; they're better than when the rear of the assembly was rounded but maybe we need to do more operating.

Good idea about what I can use for the footman loops - I'll check out our local hardware store.

I will post some more photos anon ... thanks again!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Question for Nanno: I've been watching my videos of your harness clinic from last year's Rendy again and I am wondering what the rings on the top of the breeching strap are for on Sputnik's harness?  It looks like they are for the reins to be threaded through but I noticed you didn't use them that way once you attached the reins and started driving him.  Can you please explain what they're for Nanno? Thanks Smile  

Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
I'm actually not sure! I'm thinking they're for threading the reins through as well, but I'm not sure I see any point in that. The other thing they could be used for would be hanging my traces if I were to attach a snap to either side. I love trace hooks because they keep the traces from slipping down and dragging on the ground when you are leading a harnessed goat to the cart or when you're practicing ground driving. But that feature is usually only reserved for heavy duty work harnesses and it's a hook, not a ring. So I'm thinking rein terret as well. I didn't order the harness to have that feature and I never asked about it.
Interesting, thanks. Glad it wasn't a silly question!

This afternoon my friend Kat and I hitched Koby to the cart - finally!  He did really well, despite the "wardrobe malfunctions" with his harness not being fitted quite right. Nan, can you please tell me what needs to be adjusted?  I think the breeching was too low, and perhaps the breast strap too.  The whole set up from the girth back to the breeching looked kind of loose. When Koby was tied up I noticed he could be standing in the shafts on an angle i.e. everything fitting snugly up front but his rump could be over to one side at the back.  Does that mean the shaft straps were too loose?  The traces are on their last/loosest hole but are they still too tight?

Also, when Koby turned sharply the shaft end on the side he was turning into would dig into the muscle in his shoulder and even work its way up under the side of the breast strap.  Towards the end of the lesson he was learning to cross his feet a little in the turns so that helped, but I am wondering if the ill-fitting harness contributed to that problem. 

Unfortunately the photos during the lesson are not taken from the best angle.  I've got some videos which would give you a far better idea but I am hopeless with Vimeo!


Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Awesome! From the first photo it looks like you could stand to raise your breastcollar one hole. Your britchen might be a little low as well but it's hard to tell for sure. You want to shorten your traces so Koby is closer to the cart. This will help keep the shafts from poking him in the shoulder and it will make it easier to tighten your holdback straps. As long as the cart is not hitting Koby's hind legs when he trots, then it's not too close to him. Finally, can you lower the shaft loops at all? It looks like your cart is tipping back a little too much. If you can't lower the shaft loops or raise the height of your shafts, you might look into either adding an extension to your shaft loops or getting larger diameter wheels for your cart. Shaft loop extensions would be cheaper. You'd need to add a billet to the existing strap on your saddle. A billet is a strap with a buckle at one end and holes in the other. It would buckle into your existing strap and give you some holes lower down to buckle your shaft loops to.
Brilliant, thanks so much Nan. Will make those adjustments in time for the next lesson! Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Today we had another lesson with the cart which was short but sweet and full of treats. Koby, whilst not entirely comfortable with the whole idea, seems more relaxed than last week. We need to have more frequent lessons. Smile

I made the adjustments on the harness recommended by Nan and it seems to fit much better, see pics below. We raised the breast strap, lowered the tugs (which are now as low as they can go without adding a billet), raised the breeching strap - perhaps one hole too high now or maybe too tight? - and shortened the traces. We are still having the issue with the shaft poking Koby in the shoulder when we turn, so should we tighten the traces one more hole?  The length between the holes is about 4 inches. We haven't started trotting yet because he is so strong at the walk; I want to get the harness fitting as well as possible before we start going any faster.

The shaft wraps don't seem to be long enough to wind around the shafts both in front and behind the tugs so I've opted for behind only. Last week I started off buckling them in front only but one worked its way up and off the end of the shaft - clearly not securely buckled  Confused .



Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap

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