The most important piece of sledding equipment
The harness is an essential part of equipment for any mushing sport, such as sledding, canicross, bikejoring, and scooterjoring. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musher, having the right harness is key to getting the most out of your experience. You could say, what about the running belt for canicross or the bicycle for bikejoring? The answer would be always – nope, it’s the harness. The harness is the most important piece of mushing gear and here’s why: because dogs don’t speak.
We can tell if the running belt fits us and feels good on our body when running, and we certainly make sure our bicycle (or sled, or scooter) is impeccable so that we prevent potential mishaps on the trail. But we can’t ask our dog how the harness feels on its body, we need to rely on our observation and listen to the way dogs can speak: with the movement of their bodies.
So what should we look for?
The harness should be like a second skin to our dog. Soft and padded enough not to press into the dog’s skin, and shaped in a way to distribute the pulling force optimally without restricting the dog’s movement.
Traditional long harness vs. short harness
Let’s start with the type of harness that used to be most common. The long traditional x-back sled harness that is still widely used and is essential for teams with many dogs, where the towline needs to connect to a sled or a cart at a lower angle. But we can see increase of shorter sled harness models for dryland sports. In urban mushing usually only one dog is used and the angle of a towline is higher, attached to a runner or bike/scooter. There is no need for a harness to connect to the towline behind a dog’s body, so these new models end somewhere on the dog’s body, preferably before the dog’s hips, but keep the overall shape of a traditional sled harness. The pulling force remains distributed optimally around the dog’s whole chest, there is no pressure on the neck, and the impact on the dog’s hind part is minimal or none. The big advantage is that hips and hind legs are completely free to move.
V-neck, vs. O-neck harness
So we established that for urban mushing the shorter harness is the way to go, but what kind? There are lots of different models on the market. One thing is the shape of the neck opening. It can be V- shaped or O-shaped, so what’s the difference? Well, first off, no V-shaped neck opening can be very tight. It will always lay lower on the dog’s neck, usually all the way down, while the O-shaped neck opening can be both smaller and higher on the neck, as well as wider and lower down – depends on the design. If you have a dog with big strong head you should definitively go for a harness that has wider neck opening, so V-neck is a safer way to go, while you should be more careful picking the O-neck for your bighead. Slimmer dogs with more delicate heads can wear high or low neck more easily, so you can pick the design according to your dog’s preferences, testing different models. Or follow your own preferences – a wider neck harness is always easier to put on the dog.
X-back, H-back, Open-back harness
The H-back harness transmits the dog’s power horizontally along the dog’s back. There are no x-crossing straps or if there are, they don’t carry much of the power transmission. This type of harness doesn’t have a wide range of different models on the market. The most common type is X-back that utilizes the power of the dog arching it’s back against the straps crossed on its back in addition to the dog’s towing force generated by leaning into the harness. This helps most dogs to produce more power, but it’s not for every dog. Some dogs prefer to pull with their weight, not liking the resistance on the back. For these dogs, an Open-back harness is the better option. Open-back harness ensures complete freedom of motion of the back and is especially suitable for older dogs that are gaining some age related back stiffness. Due to it’s openness It’s also easier to put on the dog than other models, which is another benefit of putting it on an oldie.
Trop urban mushing harnesses
We offer two different models in our collection. Core is an Open-back harness with wider V-neck opening for broader-bodied dogs and oldies. Our Backbone is an X-back model, it has one of the smallest O-shaped neck openings on the market that should lay higher on the neck. Both harnesses are padded allover with softshell, there is not a single spot where webbing is in direct contact with the dog’s skin. With light padding and no bulkiness from extra straps or plastic parts for adjusting, Trop harnesses are the most lightweight on the market, designed to be like the dog’s second skin, ensuring the freedom of motion.