Buying a Donkey Harness can be complicated! There are different styles of harnesses and donkeys can be hard to fit.
Donkey harnesses have been a focus for me over the last couple of years. I got my start driving with mini horses. I had been thrown from a horse and had some lingering injuries that were preventing me from riding, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to ride again! Ride again, I did! Just got smart and trained a riding donkey! A whole other subject you can read about riding donkeys here Saddle Donkeys
Types of Donkey Harness
There is no “donkey harness” style that’s only made for donkeys. There are many styles of harnesses and some may work better or worse for the donkey. People may rig up a harness slightly different from someone else and there are different styles of harnesses that may be better for particular pulling jobs.
So we can use all harness styles for horse, mules and donkeys. The trick is in the fit. It’s hard to buy an off the rack harness, and it fits a donkey without altering. Most harnesses are made for the average horse, pony or mini and they are built very different from a donkey.
3 Styles of harnesses that work for Donkeys
I recently bought 2 different styles of harness from 2 different harness makers. Previously I have used 2 other styles. To keep this simple a possible, I’m going to talk about the 3 harness styles I use most often lately.
The Breast Strap Style
- The style I started with is a basic breast strap style harness. It’s probably the most common and easiest to find. It’s also easiest to adjust, comes in multiple materials to choose from and is usually the least expensive. This style harness is great for starting and great for pulling a simple cart and other light pleasure driving vehicles. I got this harness from an estate auction. This company does custom work and Similar harness can be bought from Two Horse Tack.
Extended Breast Strap Style
2. I recently bought a style called a Skijoring harness. There was an option to add buckled on traces to make it like the extended breast collar style harness. Very simple and good for pulling lightweight items. The line of draft needs to be right, but I’m finding that this style has a nice ease of pulling for the donkey.
They feature this style harness in a few other overseas articles about helping small farmers provide better harness options for their donkeys.
I admit, I was doubtful when I ordered one… but watching Jeb in this harness, I could see his ease pulling in this harness style. This harness was purchased from Patty’s Pony Place. Make sure she knows its for a donkey if you order from her so she asks for the right measurements!
Link here to watch Jeb in this style harness. Jeb Working
This style harness would be easy to make and there are instructions in a publication online about how to make one. This harness is also more adjustable.
The Hybrid Harness or Euro Collar Style
3. The third style donkey harness I have for Jeb is a hybrid collar type harness or a Euro collar. Jeb seems to move really well in it too! He’s pulled his 2 wheel cart and his 4 wheel viceroy both without issue. This style harness needs to be custom made and its not very adjustable compared to the first 2 options. You want someone who knows donkeys and ask for several measurements so they get it right!
I love the look of this harness! I purchased this from a custom maker who isn’t making tack right now due to health problems.
Jeb pulls well in all 3 of these styles so long as I have the fit dialed in right for him.
What Harness is Right for Your Donkey?
The more adjustable the harness the better chance it will fit of course. Also, you can adjust for weight changes. Your donkeys weight may go up and down. They may fill out and their body change as they age. The more adjustable, the more likely the harness can fit other donkeys too.
Having a harness special made that doesn’t have a lot of adjusting room is sometimes necessary for a heavy farm job or heavy logging. But the more adjustable styles are great for light work and pleasure driving.
Other Donkey Harness Info
Most harnesses will come with a driving bridle made for a bit. I rarely use a bit on a donkey now. I put in the extra time and train them to a bitless driving bridle. To get convince them to really want to hear my voice, I also use clicker training for my donkeys (positive reenforcement).
Here’s a little Donkey Chat video I did on that: Why Use Positive Reenforcement with Driving Donkeys
If I can direct a donkey with my voice just as much or more with my hands, that is the highest accomplishment of training to me.
Driving Donkeys, and other Donkey Harness Info!
If you’re the DIY kind, you can make a simple breast strap style harness from nylon or from braided material. Here are some links on that may help you on this journey!
Of course if you’re looking to start driving and pulling, you may want to check out my Donkey Training Membership Group! Over 100 exclusive donkey training videos, including 3 Case Studies of different donkeys learning to drive from Start to Cart!
Last Bit of Donkey Harness Advice
I mention fit being super important as it is with all tack and equipment. Remember to rig tack properly but also remember to adjust to the donkey individually. Some donkeys have really short thick necks so the harness might look a little different on them than a donkey with a thinner, slender neck. Some donkeys have a skinny, narrow booty but a few have thicker hindquarters. Just because someone has been rigging up longer doesn’t mean they rig perfectly for your individual donkey.
Watch your donkey and take care to look at areas that might look right compared to the picture, but on your donkey, it might need some individual adjustments.
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