Inappropriate harness design, use and maintenance are key causes of poor donkey welfare, but with good training and advice we can ensure that working donkeys around the world don't suffer.

Chris Garrett, international harness consultant at The Donkey Sanctuary (pictured below) has worked with us since 2007 to develop a global team of harness makers, officers and champions, who improve existing designs and train people to make and use them.

As part of this, Chris has produced a pictorial guide to help donkey owners develop their harness skills and ensure their animals’ welfare. It that covers all the basics, from choosing the right materials to correct fitting and maintenance. You can read the foreword below and download The Good Harness Guide using the link at the bottom of this page.

Chris's excellent technical input and guidance have been fundamental in creating this resource and we are sincerely grateful for his time, energy, skills, passion and good humour.


Harness is a very simple yet complicated topic. It’s simple in that it refers to the way a power source, in our case a donkey, is attached to a load, be it a cart, packsaddle or rider. It’s also simple in that, as long as certain basic rules are followed, it is straightforward. Unfortunately, these simple techniques, when acting together, can become quite complicated. 

I’ve tried to show how harness should work in a mainly pictorial way to overcome language and literacy problems. I’ve also added some suggestions in ‘trainer’s notes’ at the back of the leaflet, which in the past have helped me to explain to donkey owners how harness works

I try to use local materials and construction techniques whenever possible; it’s not always easy to find these, but I’m becoming more and more certain that most of the donkeys’ harnessing problems are a result of modern living. If you talk to the elders in any community you’ll often find that their donkeys didn’t have the massive sores that we see now, and one of the reasons was that the harness was carefully made from natural fibres, and the people had a far greater understanding of both the harness’ and the donkey’s capabilities. 

Look a little deeper and you’ll often find people who can remember how to make this harness, or at least what plants were used to make the materials. I usually learn as much as I teach in any of these communities, and I always try to remember that however much I may think I know, I don’t spend my life working with donkeys in the same way as the donkey owners do, and can never fully understand the whole picture.

Chris Garrett

International harness consultant

The Donkey Sanctuary


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This guide covers everything you need.