When choosing a new harness, the question of which material to go for can quickly arise. There are two main types: synthetic and leather. That’s basically the first decision moment.
With leather, you have various possibilities; there are more colors and more models. Leather ranges from more affordable harnesses to the more expensive, handmade ones. In the case of synthetic material, the prominent brands are Ideal Equestrian and Zilco. These are the two largest players in the Dutch market and both brands are offered by De Menner.
Advantages of a synthetic harness
Currently, 60% of the sold harnesses are synthetic. This is because nowadays, people are less inclined to engage in extensive maintenance, which is required with a leather harness. The preference often leans towards synthetic harnesses because of the emphasis on convenience. Just rinse it off with water, and you’re good to go. Particularly, enthusiastic carriage drivers, training multiple times a week in all weather conditions, are not keen on constantly scrubbing the sand off their harness. Zilco employs a very strong synthetic material for their harnesses. Everything looks quite thin, and it’s lightweight. Previously, a harness could weigh up to 20 kilograms. Now, there are synthetic harnesses that weigh less than 10 kilograms. Ideal, among others, produces a synthetic harness that resembles a leather one. However, this is a less robust synthetic material, so it’s made thicker, meaning it’s a bit stiffer.
Advantages of a leather harness
Leather conforms more gracefully to the horse. It molds itself, and when maintained, it becomes softer. Therefore, leather offers a better fit and is available in a much wider range of colors. Of course, it also has a pleasant smell, that typical old-fashioned tack room scent, while synthetic material doesn’t have any scent. Some people simply don’t like synthetic material just for that reason. Concerning repairs, leather is slightly easier to maintain. Synthetic material can theoretically be repaired, but not every harness maker is pleased with it. It’s stiffer, sticks a bit, and demands more effort for repairs. Whether you go for leather or synthetic material is ultimately a very personal choice. Another person cannot decide for you. However, if you already know that you’re not much into maintaining it, then don’t be tempted to choose leather. Opt for synthetic material instead.