About Goat Harnesses
There are several types of harnesses that can be used on a goat. The best harness is a well fitting harness on the individual goat that is made for the task you are asking the goat to preform.
Goat All Purpose Harnesses are made much like a horse harness usually out of leather or nylon webbing. Goat Wagon Harnesses can be made quite differently but still need the major parts and the same good fit of the Multipurpose Goat Harness. Every goat harness, unless you are plowing, riding on a dog sled or scooter or dog rig, standing upright with breaks on the vehicle, needs a breachin, that is a back piece so that the animal's rear stops the vehicle.
I will try to describe as best I can.
Some people will put anything on their animals, goats, dogs, llamas and yes even ponies to have them pull. It would make you shutter to think they would get in such a "trap" (play on words, in England they call Pony Carts - Traps). I have even heard of people that will tie baling string to a dogs collar on each side then have the poor dog pull a child's saucer sled in the winter........oh wait, that was me as a young kid. Forgive me and see how far I have come.
REMEMBER, JUST BECAUSE YOU OWN A GOAT HARNESS DOES NOT MEAN YOUR GOAT IS READY TO HOOK UP TO A VEHICLE AND GO. YOU STILL HAVE TO TRAIN THE GOAT AND TRAIN IT WELL.
Multi Purpose or Cart Harnesses:
If you are planning for your goat to pull not only a wagon but also a cart, spend the money and buy the Cart Harness. The Cart Harnesses are expensive for a reason. THEY ARE A LOT OF WORK, it takes a lot of time to put them together and you must own a very expensive sewing machine to make that type of harness. All the straps have a purpose and when hooking to a cart each needs to be in place correctly. There are many buckles and buckle holes on a Cart Harness and that not only takes time, they are costly even at wholesale prices. A cart harness looks like a horse harness. It seems it has straps everywhere, and it does, for you and your goats safety.
It is not safe or comfortable for a goat/dog or any other animal to pull a cart that dose not have the correct straps and correct straps in use. A goat cart harness has two sets of looped straps at each side. One set of these loops are to hold the cart up and the other set are to hold the cart down. Stand in front of a goat cart where a goat would stand. Pick up the cart shafts at the very end of the cart and slowly move the shafts up and down. Now move back into the shafts where the goat would be hooked in and move the shafts the same way from there. Have someone sit in the cart as you hold it. Now, hold it so that the balance on it is a bit high and pull the cart forward, and do the same for the low balance. It is important that a cart be balanced but to be honest, many carts aren't balanced because goats come in different and/or many sizes.
Now, pull the person in the cart down hill and up hill. You will soon see how important the front breast straps are and how the butt straps work. The butt straps will also become your goat's brake on the cart (or wagon too really).
Goat Wagon Harnesses:
Wagon Harnesses are (or should be) much like a cart harness. It will have a chest strap and a butt strap. They do not however need the hold straps because the wagon shafts are attached to the vehicle in a different manner and the wagon has four wheels for balance. A wagon harness like any of the harnesses should be adjustable and it should also have a stabilizer strap down the back of the goat.
This type Harness as well as the D type harness should not be used with a cart, they should only be used for a wagon or a travois or sled/sleigh. They should not be used because they do not have the straps required for the cart to hook safely to the cart.
If you hold the wagon shafts as I have described above for getting the feel of the cart, you will see the vast difference between the wagon shafts from the cart shafts as far as balance and pull.
D Type Dog Harnesses:
Dogs are bigger in the chest area and smaller in the waist area then goats. I have been a sled dog harness maker for well over 20 years, from time to time I get people asking me if they could use my dog harnesses for goats (Recreational sled dog types) they won't fit, dogs are different and goats could not get it over their heads if they have horns.
The D type dog harness will work in that it has adjustability. But it will slide forward after the goat has the wagon in motion because it does not have the butt straps or stability strap/s to stop it form moving WITH the vehicle. On a downhill the chest piece will slide down the front of the goat (or slide up). You might be able to add a butt strap to these harnesses and straighten that out. Otherwise, the chest strap is the traditional type and should work on flat areas.
The photo is of six day old Octavian who is only wearing this harness for the photo. He will not be pulling any wagons or carts for quite some time.
There is a goat harness that some suppliers sell that they call a "Work Harness". It is, one half of a harness, the front half. This harness is only good for plowing or for uphill pulling. If you hook a vehicle to this type of harness you will have no break and on any, even slight, inclines the vehicle will run up on the goat. On the down hill the vehicle will literally crash into or run over your goat. For pulling any type of vehicle you need both ends of a harness...ie the butt strap (that is for slowing and stopping the vehicle).
Using a Horse Halter:
Some folks use a horse halter on their goat for a harness. If you decide to got this make sure it fits correctly and you might want to add a bit of padding. I have used them on kids just for training, not hooked to anything, just so that the goat gets the feel of having something on it's body as if follows me around and does a few tricks and tasks.
The kid in this photo, Jacob, is wearing a pony sized halter sideways just for getting used to the feel or a harness on his body...a bit of baby training.
Most Goat Harnesses have adjustability. Most goat harnesses, when buying, will tell you the size goats the harness will fit. GOATS or any animal NEEDS A HARNESS THAT IS WELL FITTING AND PADDED TO PULL A VEHICLE SAFELY. Sled Dog Harnesses will NOT fit or work for a goat. A dog D type harness, the old style walking harness with a ring on each side, CAN be used on a goat, but is not really a safe harness for a goat. Unless you have a really big goat, a pony harness will not work for a goat.
Making Your Own Harness:
If you decide to make your own Goat Harness keep in mind that the stitches MUST be very strong. Your harness is only as strong as your sewing machines weakest sewn area. I get a kick out of "webbing strength" being used to describe harnesses, it should be "stitch strength", because the area that is most likely to break on an animal harness is where it has been sewn together. You also must use a good strength thread.
You can buy nylon webbing where you can buy fabrics and craft items. But before you buy the webbing you are looking at, double it over and decide if your home sewing machine can handle and/or pull the webbing though as it stitches. Now, keep in mind that you will have areas on the harness that not only has two or three layers of the webbing but also a doubled amount of padding too. NOW?? Can your machine handle that?
You must use a heavy duty needles. Your new needles will break the thread over and over while sewing the webbing until the needle head is "broke in". I have sanded the head of the needle to stop this, but you must remember that you DO need a needle head. If you file the needle do so a little at a time.
By the time you have bought you webbing, padding, needles (get at least a four pack because you WILL break needles), buckles, slides, thread and whatever else needed for the type of harness you will be making, you may be spending as much as you would to just buy the harness. Price everything you need before you start buying parts. If you decide to make your own harness, prepare to be frustrated.
Making a Goat Harness will take some time, probably more of your time then you think. Not trying to scare you off, really I am not, but I have met far too many people over the years that have decided to make their own dog harnesses (way easier then goat harnesses) that have just thrown or given away the stuff they bought to make their own and bought a harness professionally crafted outright.
Now, what are you using for a pattern for your harness? It is very hard to make a correct harness by looking at a photo.
Other Side of the Coin:
Making your own Goat and other animal equipment is fun and rewarding. If you have the time and can sew you might just save a bunch of money making your own equipment. You will be able to pick out your favorite colors right down to the snaps. You can make the item the way YOU want it to be made. You can make it a bit bigger if you have an unusually large or make it smaller for a little bitty goat. You can make matching harnesses in bright colors for each of your goats. You can ad buttons, bows, bells, thicker padding or whatever to your item. You can also surprise a friend of yours with a nice Christmas or other Holiday gift.
Finding Goat Harness Patterns:
Patterns can be a problem to find. If you have a friend with a goat that owns equipment you might be able to borrow the items from them to use for your pattern.
HOWEVER! MOST HARNESS MAKERS, INCLUDING MYSELF HAVE COPYRIGHTED PATTERNS AND EQUIPMENT. BE KIND, DO YOU SELF A FAVOR AND DO NOT JUST STEEL PATTERNS AND IDEAS! If you are a seamstress you may be able to just figure out how to make something for your animals by measuring the animal and "winging it". Check on line for "how to" web sites. Read through the instructions FIRST and make sure you understand what you are doing before you start.
What ever you decide, to buy or build, do it. Harness goats are a lot of fun. Goats that are trained to pull a cart or wagon can also help out around the farm or take human kids for a little ride. You can show off your animals in Parades and participate in home town fairs. Training goats to pull is really not that hard and is quite rewarding.
NEVER HAVE AN ANIMAL PULL YOU BY THE COLLAR YOU IT WALK THE WITH. If you have an animal pull you by their collar you could crush their tracial (wind pipe) and there is nothing you can do but watch them suffer as they die. You will not have time to call a vet.
Your animal's count of you for their health and safety. Please do not let them down. If you are going to have them work, use the correct equipment and keep all training safe and fair for the animals. Your animals trust you, do not let them down.