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Last month, we started talking about training a goat to harness. These three installments were taken from an article previously written by Dianne Armond for the Homesteaders Connection. We appreciate the permission of Trish McKee to reprint the article. The 1st installment covered the selection of the harness wether, and its training up to the age of 10-12 weeks.

We're now at the fun part (actually - its all fun). Goats naturally want to follow people or other goats, not to be followed. Now you must teach your goat to walk in front of you. Begin with the two lead lines attached to the halter and stand behind your goat, with one line in each hand. You may need to hold your arms slightly spread out with enough gentle tension on the lines to keep the goat from turning to face you. Stand close enough to the goat so that your legs are touching its rump. This will also help to keep the goat in place. As soon as the goat is comfortable with this position (take several days if necessary), begin telling it "Forward", "Go", "Walk", or some form of verbal command to move forward, and bump it with your legs. He should automatically move with every bump. Be gentle - don't kick your goat or step on its feet to make him move or he will become scared every time you begin a training session. If your goat absolutely refuses to move, have someone hold the goats collar or halter, leading it forward, left or right, as you, the driver, give the commands. Do this a few times, or just until the goat gets the idea. If your helper continues to lead the goat, it will learn to move only if someone is standing at its head. This is not good, and can become a bad habit which is impossible to break. Continue working your goat in this manner until he will move freely, following the commands of "Forward", "Left", "Right", "Whoa", and "Back Up". Take your time with your goat through this training period, so that it will be willing to please you and become cooperative and well-mannered. Keep the training periods limited to 15-30 minutes with kids , always rewarded afterwards with play time. By now, your kid (if thats what you started with) should be 4-6 months of age and weaned or about to be weaned. It is time to move on to the next step.

You now need to purchase or make a Training Harness. If you are beginning with a kid, a simple training harness will be all that is needed since you will not yet be training the kid to pull a cart. A kid has a lot of growing to do and muscle strength to gain before it can pull any amount of weight. Once again, you can use braided bailing twine or any suitable material which is available to make it comfortable and adjustable. If you are unable to find a goat training harness, a large dog harness can be used for a limited time, but they are not sufficiently adjustable for the rapid growth of a kid goat. The purchased goat training harness should consist of a Saddle Pad or band (the part which goes over the back), Girth Strap (goes under the body), and a Breast or Chest Band. It should also have rings on the saddle for the reins to pass through and rings at the intersection of the three straps to which the traces or ropes may be attached. Begin as before by letting the goat inspect the new harness until its curiosity is satisfied. Put the harness on your goat, and allow it to wear it for a short time. Repeat this until the goat is fully comfortable with it on and no longer pays attention to it. Now put the halter and harness on together and practice the driving commands. The goat may need a little "reminding" of the driving commands while it gets used to driving with the harness on. Continue practicing driving your goat until both of you work smoothly as a team. Now you are ready for the cart.

If you began with a kid (and thats easiest), you trained your goat to follow commands and to wear a small handmade or purchased training harness. Now you will need a complete Driving Harness designed for pulling carts. This harness should be properly fitted to your goat so that it will be comfortable and not cause any sore spots. If you have it custom made, you may need to provide certain measurements of the goats body so that the harness maker can properly fit it to your goat. If it is a standard type of harness, there should be enough adjustments in it to allow for a proper fit. A complete harness should include a Breeching, which goes around the rump and aids in stopping the cart, in addition to the saddle, breast collar, and girth strap.

There are many styles of halters, and some may look more like a horses bridle and may even contain a mouth bit. Most goats will not accept a bit because they have a very tender and sensitive mouth. Bits are not necessary, and goats can be properly trained without them. They are a matter of choice and considered optional equipment. If you do use a bit, be very careful because too much hard pulling will give the goat sores in the corner of its mouth causing the goats mouth to get tough and callused. "Hard Mouth" refers to an animal that has these calluses and does not respond to gentle pulls of the reins. A hard mouthed animal is also harder to manage. Some people consider it a good idea to use a bridle with a bit if the goat is to be driven in an area with a lot of road traffic. Without a bit, it may be difficult to control a frightened animal. Safety, for both the goat and driver, is very important and should always be considered first.

And finally the cart. It should be a two wheeled vehicle designed for goats or miniature horses. Some pony carts may be a little too big for a goat to pull with a passenger. Try to find one that is light weight yet capable of carrying an older child, small teenager, or woman as a passenger. Carts can be homemade, also. Be careful when making a cart that the wheels turn freely and smoothly with a passenger and that the cart is not made of heavy materials. If the cart is too heavy, the goat will simply not be able to move it, or could possibly injure itself trying. Be sure the cart is well balanced so that the weight of the driver is not putting pressure on the goats back. If the goat is dropping or arching its back and "slinking" along, then the cart is not properly balanced. The axle of a two wheeled cart should be under the thighs of the rider or closer to the knees to balance more weight onto the cart and off the goat.

So now that we have all the pieces parts, we'll next month discuss the final steps of getting your goat to pull the cart. Thats the final payoff.


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