The last time I did any harness buying, biothane & its variants hadn't really been out all that long... 4-5 years maybe... So I'm wondering, now that biothane has been around for a while longer than that, how is the longevity looking as opposed to leather?
I'm buying for a *very* young horse, and I'm poor, so stuff I buy has to last for a while. Assuming good care, which is my better bet to be still functional when 5 y/o horsie hits 20 - bio or leather?
Also, who are the "A" list bio harness makers currently, esp. ones that make stuff you could get away with at the odd pleasure show? I'm not seeing as many harness makers' posts on CD-L as in the past...
As always, many thanks!!
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I am a traditionalist, so I always lean towards leather. I have worked with a set of 4 in hand harness that is older than me ( I am (36) and is in great condition, you would never know its age. It is a Freedman (made by David's father). As long as the harness has been taken care of a leather set can last you a life time. That said you would have to splash out and buy a really nice set.
Advanced Equine has some nice stuff, I think they sell Zilco.
I am too (a traditionalist), but OTOH my late "Driving TB" has been gone for 5 years and I am *still* sick of cleaning the stuff!!!
I haven't yet decided whether to rock the russet, as has been suggested, but it looks like Claudette's maker does a nice line in bio russet, and I bet it holds its color too - which my leather russet did not. Also, I do remember someone here warning me that russet leather stretches more, which indeed proved to be the case after I owned mine for a while. By the time HRH Avery passed away I didn't have a judge's hole on the traces any more... I'm thinking that replacing traces on a russet leather harness in 10 years could be a b*tch because you're never going to get it to be *quite* the same color...
ETA: Georgia, China Doll. Probably keep the harness indoors.
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We have 3 sets of Claudette beta-bi harness and love them. We do keep them inside ... because they do feel stiff when cold. But we live in NC ... so our cold may not be your cold.
We have an older set of Zilco harness. We've replaced some pieces with the new Zilco and have been quite satisfied with it. Zilco has made major improvements in their harness since ours was first made.
For us beta-bi /biothane has been out long enough that we felt comfortable buying it. We are also not good about the routine maintenance that leather requires.
The low maintenance is a major feature of beta-bi /biothane for us. We literally wash it and go. Plus, I don't worry about it if we go through water.
Like any harness be sure of its quality. I've seen some biothane I wouldn't use. But the same thing is true of some leather harness.
The other female in my husband's life has four legs
I have had 3 Claudette Bio's, an older pony one in two tone that was really plastic feeling, i just sold it, a 3yr old Mini harness that was great, and my 7 month old cob harness with brass that is lovely and i havent gotten to use (except her bridle) cause my mare went lame... Her newer stuff is not cold and crappy feeling, even here in IL and though its been "warmer" i worked with it yesterday in 28 degrees and it felt no different.
I also had a Carriage House bio that was great too.
I'm kinda teatering on the same issue... I need a new pony harness. I too am broker than broke... I really cant afford another Claudette harness right now though i want one badly... I'm looking at Iowa Valley's bio or leather show harness. I'm figuring my primary use is going to be daily wear on trails, pleasure shows, and welsh shows, maybe a CDE, but we'll see. So i think for me, i could do the leather, but would rather the maintenance of the bio. Iowa Valley's bio/leather harness are cheaper than everywhere else, a good reputable company who i've bought bits from, but i havent SEEN her harnesses, sooooo.... It's hard to take the plunge
I recently saw a Zilco and the bridle was terribly plastic feeling, the empathy collar and reins were fine, similary in feel to Claudettes, but i hated that bridle.
Camptown makes nice stuff and a bonus that you can get treated leather padding and a cut back crown on the bridle...
Ideal Harness is a super hard wearing, long lasting buffalo leather harness.
I have leather riding bridles and they arent a pain at all to keep up... But i recently bought a Tekna dressage saddle, which is synthetic, and i LOVE that i dont have to do anything with it but ride and throw a cover over it. I never want a leather saddle again... So looking at harnesses, i just really dont know i want a leather one! I had a Hunt's russet harness, the quality was nice, but to be honest, i expected more out of it and would have put it on par with my Country Carriages bio in the terms of stitching quality and looks and for that, i would rather not have the maintenance!
Bio "russet" is a little different shade of brown than a russet harness. But i guess that depends on the individual maker's russet color. Some lean much more towards red, and others are more of a brown tone. The bio is more brown than reddish, but not as dark as a havana. The two tone look is popular for CDEs, but not so much for pleasure shows. Brass is going out of style it seems except for those with antique vehicles... Most the harness makers are charging extra for brass and it's not returnable since it's special order, so if you go with brass, make sure the measurements are right!
I've had my biothane harness over four years now, and it still feels just as good as the day I got it. I do very little cleaning (just wipe it down with a damp paper towel after each drive), and I drive in all sorts of weather--rain, snow, lots of freezing temperatures in the winter, lots of heat in the summer. Ahhh, gotta love Colorado's climate--lots of extremes. My tackroom has no insulation so it gets the temperature fluctuations as well.
I had leather harness for my other pony, and I found the leather tended to stiffness in the cold much more than the biothane. I hated harnessing with leather after a really cold night--I was always afraid I would crack it, it would get so stiff. Sometimes I resorted to bringing it in the house or laying it out in the sun before harnessing. I've never had to do that with the biothane harness.
I bought the biothane harness from Troyer's (who may not be well known outside of Colorado) and it was a great value for the money I spent.
It's not 20 years worth of experience, but I hope this helps anyway.
Butlerfamily - thanks SO much for the tip on Iowa Valley Harness. That is a lot less money, and if I got the show style beta I'd get a wider saddle with it too, which I like, given that greenie will be pulling a 2-wheeler for a good bit of time.
Have you posted on CD-L asking people for reviews yet?
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I like the Beta harness just because it's so much easier to take care of. If I had my own place where I could hang/store my harness then leather would be better. Beta doesn't mold, it's light and I've found it to last pretty well except where the buckles are used a lot (e.g. the saddle girth...cheap to replace though).
Leather is prettier and my show harness is leather.
I LOVE biothane. I have headstalls and breastcollars made of it, as well as dog collars. Cleans easily, isn't hurt by mud or water, keeps it's color. The dog collars even work on my long hair dogs --- because the biothane is slick and smooth, it doesn't get caught in the hair or cause mats. Plus, you can choose bright obnoxious color combinations for your schooling tack and no one will ever steal it because it's too obvious who it belongs to! (Uh, yes, I have a headstall where every piece of it is a different color...)
I havent asked for reviews on it yet cause i cant afford it yet... lol But i will ask that today and let you know what i receive (if they write me off list that is).
I was looking at the show style beta too. I WISH they would put a little more patent on it, but Claudette's only has patent blinkers and it still looks real nice. I cant tell if the Iowa Valley one has patent blinkers or not. Really, for the price, i dont care. I could always come back and buy the leather show harness and combined spend the same as i would have on a new Claudette harness! Or at least with all the options/special orders i got on my cob harness this last time! It cost me a little over 1300, but i do LOVE that harness. I was gonna sell it and get a stainless one, but no one wanted to pay enough, so i'm stuck with it and i honestly dont care cause it fits my mare perfect, looks great, and i love the brass on her. Even if it's going out of style everywhere else, it's still popular in the welsh ring and that's all that matters to me in the end.
Brass is NEVER "out of style" in harness. Just that for the same reasons you want beta harness, other folks want stainless hardware. Less work. So with most folks purchasing harness for fun, the makers put stainless or steel for the metals, have brass as the option. Most newer vehicles come with silver metals, to match the stainless hardware, so newer Drivers think silver colors are normal.
We had brass hardware, back in the day. It took a fair amount of time, labor, to clean and polish the brass for competition standards. Great care in handling at the show to prevent tarnishing, we wore cotton gloves to hitch and unhitch. Still needed touchups. You wanted to HIT the person "touchy feeling" all the brass during presentations!! They put on their gloves AFTER doing the brass, to check inside of straps for dirt! They REALLY did do white glove inspections back then. What got the Judge worst, was our yellow horse had a dark spot on one side, looked JUST LIKE a manure stain and they ALWAYS would touch it with the white gloves, never got any dirt off it. Then they would RUB the glove on the mark trying to make it dirty, until husband would say "That is a black spot on her." We did pretty well in standing Presentation then, but it really made for a lot of hours.
You had to keep up a minimal level of brass cleaning during daily use, so that show polishing was not an all day job! And that was on a single harness! Lots less choices in EFFECTIVE cleaning agents, often had to use the buffing wheel out in the shop to remove the tarnish, and that was WITH regular wiping down and all. There was one nice old harness with terrible brass. We got it because it was so cheap, then put in about 12 hours of HARD work cleaning the metal with TOOLS. I was done with brass after that, sold all the brass stuff and got stainless.
At the time, we were the BIG exception with our silver metals out competing. Of course we had moved into Multiples then, so any brass polishing time saved, was used for cleaning more leather! I was SO HAPPY when we got our Tedman harness made of nylon webbing. So easy to care for, I actually washed it in the washing machine. Still do when we need to clean it. That harness is still in excellent shape, easily one of the best purchases we ever made, custom fitted to our oddly sized horses. Lucky they are ALL the same odd measurements, so harness fits them all well. Good match to their breed standards!!
We now own a Zilco Pairs harness, think it is pretty nice. No problems with it cracking or other issues in the cold. This is the second winter using it. It is synthetic, will never shape and form to the horse like leather. But being able to wipe it off with damp rag and be ready to go out looking very good, is great. Lighter weight, can be hung outside the tackroom with no ill-effects in cold is a huge plus. The person I got at Advanced Equine, Ms. Schneider, to ask about cleaning, said to use only Ivory liquid dish soap as the cleaner. Not a synthetic detergent like other dish soaps. They recommend nothing else for the special material in Zilco equipment. She said folks do use other things, but Ivory is the only recommended soap. Wash it down, wipe it dry. She gets excellent Presentation scores using her Zilco harness under some TOUGH Judges.
I was looking at the zilco tedex harness, is that like the Tedmans? I had a cheap nylon starter harness for my mini, I agree, upkeep was easy! It frayed though.
I know I'll sorta regret my brass on my country carriages harness... But I have to say that I love the brass look. I did rub it with olive oil and it's stayed pretty good but probably needs a cleaning soon.
I went with synthetic and stainless steel fittings so my harness would be low maintenance. I actually enjoy cleaning my riding tack but the idea of cleaning all those yards of harness times two isn't very appealing. It's very nice to pull sweaty, yucky harness off the ponies and simply turn the hose on it to clean it. If I were going in for pleasure-showing in a big way I'd buy good leather harness with brass fittings for that but for everyday use, you can't beat the ease of synthetic. Can't comment about stiffness and synthetics with cold weather since we don't have much of that. As someone else mentioned, though, leather can get pretty stiff in very cold weather too.
I've gotten harness from various places. The ones I have now (pairs marathon harness and single pleasure harness) came from: http://www.feonow.com/harness_shop.html Very nice quality and the prices were quite good when I bought mine a few years ago. Haven't checked them lately. It's Amish-made (as the majority of harness in the U.S. is) but the quality is superior to other Amish-made harness I've had.
I prefer leather driving bridles because I've found the synthetic ones to be very stiff and unyielding. A driving bridle is already a hot, cumbersome thing for a horse to have on its head for long periods of time, so I use good leather bridles. Got mine at Coachmen's Delight, another good supplier: http://www.coachmansdelight.com/
I'm not sure what the status of their harness shop is currently.
feonow.com was kinda pricey or at least on par with camptown, country carriages, the carriage house, etc... Maybe they upped prices with them. Some nice features, but not exactly a "deal" compared to the others like Iowa Valley is for a "fancier" bio.
I REALLY wanted the Ideal bridles from Coachman's Delight. I emailed Andy several times and was hoping to buy a brass marathon pony harness from him that was discontinued, but sadly he never wrote back to my nurmerous emails. So i posted on the CD-L asking the status of his shop... It seems as though he has inventory left, but no time to deal with it and is no longer taking orders. I would love to take that pony harness off his hands if he still has it, but i'll continue looking elsewhere.
OP- the emails i've gotten so far have been very positive about the Iowa Valley harnesses. The bio seems popular though one person said they didnt quite like it as well as their camptown, i asked if they could give me specifics on that. Many say her leather show harness is refined and very nice quality for pleasure shows/breed shows to blend in with the more expensive smuckers, hunts, freidmans, etc that are in the ring with you. And of course, they all say it's exceptional customer service, which i can attest to having ordered from her before myself.
I'd actually loff to do business w/ FEO b/c they are by far the closest to me (45 mins from my office/1 hour from my barn!) but my take is the same as Butlerfamily's - their harnesses are priced in the same range as Claudette's and the other good ones, but don't look as attractive to me. For example, their basic leather harness is the same price as Driving Essentials' Plus Harness, which is far FAR better made and much more "pleasure showy". If I decide on leather I'm going w/ Driving Essentials again - I loff their stuff and their service!
I'm more inclined to go take a look at FEO's little Messenger road cart, which is pretty similar to Claudette's but lighter in weight IIRC. It's priced higher but when you take the travel factor into account I might end up considerably ahead on that, since I usually end up renting a Uhaul box truck to pick vehicles up from Claudette. I could probably coax my scary old farm truck to cough its way 2 exits up I-75 to FEO from the barn, and bypass the whole Uhaul rigmarole!
Thanks for the tip about the bridles, RidesAHaffy. I've never used bio but I can see that here in the South that makes a LOT of sense!
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I have 3 biothane harnesses. One is the old style bio, the shiney stuff, and it is going on 13 years old. I don;t use it a lot, but it is very usable. It is presently loaned out to someone for training. It is spotted and stained but no issues.
The other two I have are beta, one is about 5 years old, a Yani harness. It is black with russet trim. I keep it in my tack room and it is fine. Throw it into a muck tub of horse shampoo and hit it with a brush.
Also an older black beta about 9 years old, it is fine. All of these harness have come from Amish harness makers, not that it makes a difference.
So if you are looking for training, and longevity , beta bio is the way to go.