What is a harness?
Harnesses are the key piece of equipment that allow working animals to pull carriages, wagons, sleights, or farm equipment. Working animals ‘pull’ their loads by pushing against a neck collar – a padded loop fitting snugly around an animal’s neck – or a breast collar – which runs across the animal’s chest and is supported on a ‘saddle’ which rests over the animals withers. There are different variations on these designs used as show, carriage, or plow harnesses and depending on the weight of the load being carried, help to distribute weight evenly across a working animal’s body.
Most harnesses used in the UK were designed for the comfort of the animal, and are custom made from leather to fit correctly preventing harness rubs and injuries. However in the countries in which SPANA works, like Morocco, Tunisia, and Mali owners cannot afford equipment of this standard if it is even available, and resort to rope, plastic, or in some cases even metal. Harnesses tend to be cobbled together from whatever materials are available, and when they break, wire is often used to rejoin the ends of two pieces. Owners are often unaware of how a harness should fit, or how it should be used properly.
When these ‘make do’ harnesses are used on animals working long hours under heavy loads, these painful harnesses can start to rub or cut the animals and create open wounds. Certain areas of the animal are more sensitive to this irritation and serious conditions such as fistulous withers can develop.