Santa, you’re doomed

This is the time of year…


…that Retail lines their shelves with green and red and gold and the floor is full of glitter (also our hair and clothes and shoes and…) and various ornaments and artworks and things and stuffs featuring Santa and his nine reindeer landslide off the shelves.

And I gnash my teeth in eternal irritation.


OK, first there’s Christmas Elves, which I loathe, because NOT ELVES…

Image result for Elsa vs elf on the shelf

Image result for Elsa vs elf on the shelf

Image result for Elsa vs elf on the shelf

Not sure what geniuses did these but I adore them…




these are Elves:


They got your back, they kick ass, they talk to horses.

OK, nuff said. Just go read Lord of the Rings again, OK? Or invite some friends over and have a three day party where you watch all extended versions of the films and drink lots of beer wine meade… beer if you’re Dwarves, wine if you’re Elves… meade for SCAdians.

OK, there’s ONE exception to this…

Image result for hermey rudolph



Then there’s Santa’s dysfunctional team.

Image result for santa's reindeer

Missing Rudolph there, he probably bailed because





By now those deer should have slid right out of those bellyband thingies, leaving Santa suspended in midair for three seconds…




Did I mention that Santa is HOLDING the friggin riggin? He’s got the traces in his hands. Even those of us who hook sleddogs to our belts (for canicross or walkies or training or skijoring) know to HOOK THE DAMN GANGLINE TO SOMETHING SOLID, LIKE YOUR RIG, YOUR SLED, YOUR BELT, A TREE, A GIANT BUTT KICKING SUV not just hold it in your hands…


Here’s a closer look at the Dysfunctional Decorative Bellyband of Doom:

First, some technical terminology:

  • bridle: noseband goes around nose, crownpiece goesover top of head, throatlatch goes under jaw
  • bit: goes into mouth
  • halter: goes around head, no bit
  • Harness: has breastplate/breastband across chest, surcingle/girth around middle behind elbow, and traces connecting it to the sled/cart

Image result for santa's reindeer

  • …there are NO traces connecting this deer to anything,
  • just reins on the reindeer’s lovely noseband/bit
  • which will fall off in two seconds because NO CROWNPIECE/HEADSTALL ON THAT BRIDLE.
  • actual reindeer handlers do not use bits, just halters, the deer’s jaw/teeth is not structured like a horse’s…
  • the deer anatomy is wonky


Dysfunctional bridles, crownpieces missing…

Disney, I’m looking at you…

Image result for cinderella horses

I love Disney, but NO CROWNPIECES, CINDERELLA IS DOOOOOOOMED!!! Basically, the mousehorses are going to spook at the first bit of blowing paper or wolf howl in the woods, the “bridles” will fall off, the mousehorses will gallop off dragging our poor hapless princess to her doom.

At least the live action got it better…

Related image

They just lost the bridle entirely and gave her magical empathic horse powers. Also really awesome horse trainers.

I digress…



This looks a lot like what I did as a four year old…


Image result for pony cart


This is a pony pulling a cart. He looks a lot like the one I had when I was four. The cart has shafts (the big sticks on the sides) that the pony fits between. Santa does not have shafts, because he has a much larger team (he has traces or a gangline). Otherwise, this harness works great for Santa.


Here’s a better look at this kind of harness:

Image result for horse harness

I found this is two seconds on google. When I teach art classes I point out that Mr Google is your friend. This is how we get brilliant stuff like Finding Dory and Zootopia and Brave and Frozen and Moana and Coco: because THE ARTISTS DID THEIR RESEARCH.

Any draft animal requires something around their chest to be able to pull.

Something around the neck chokes, something around the belly (girth) alone just pulls off. (Actually, it slides back to the haunches and the nether parts where it becomes a “bucking girth”).

An alternate horse harness is a heavier one with a collar, for larger horses pulling heavier loads:

Image result for horse harness

Sleddogs are, pound for pound, much stronger than horses.

Sledding harness is simple, a woven net of webbing that slides over the dog with no buckles. It attaches to a gangline which attaches to the rig/sled/bike/insane cross country skier/insane canicross person’s belt. (canicross is a sport where you tie yourself to some sled dogs and run after them, hopefully without falling on your face, because they do not stop.)

You do not hold the gangline in your hands unless you want severe rope burn and to see your team vanishing into the horizon while you nurse a concussion.

X-Back Weight Pulling Dog Harness for Bike, Skijoring, Scooter, Sleigh, in red X-Back Weight Pulling Dog Harness for Bike, Skijoring, Scooter, Sleigh, in blue

Above: typical x-back dog harness.

Below: my not so typical 3 1/4 dog team of yesteryear (starring Max the 16 lb. Schipperke);

You can just see the gangline in between the dogs, it is attached to the front of the rig.

Legolas, Willow and Denali on the Rail Trail, you can see the gangline in the middle, and the two dog lines that branch off to the leaders. (the skinny black line is to a flexi lead on my belt… it is not a steering rein, but a safety line in case they take off without me).

This would work fabulously for Santa. The rope gangline allows the teams flexibility to avoid obstacles on the trail, or random drones delivering Yule toys.



I used the sled dog harness on my pygmy goats…

um, maybe not such a great idea…

This sled dog harness maker (link below) has also made goat harness and is emphatic that goats are shaped differently…

He is also adamant that you NEVER have an animal pull a weight by the collar. You can crush the windpipe and kill them. Siberian huskies have a strong desire to pull, even on collar and leash and can develop problems from this. You can solve this issue with Haltis or Gentle Leaders, and more training. They’ll laugh at your pitiful “walking harness”.

Goats have been a thing in harness since…

Image result for thor goat chariot

Thor made it cool.

Image result for thor

In Norse myth, Thor drives a goat chariot. He has done it in the comics too. Can’t wait to see them do this with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor… please…


Image result for goat cart images

Image result for goat cart images


Image result for goat harness

This harness doesn’t have the breeching (the straps around the haunches of the animal). It’s billed as a work harness, you could pull a small wagon or sled with it.

If you have brakes.

Sled dog rigs, by the way, always have brakes. Good ones. They tend to ignore “whoaaaaaa”.



Here is an actual reindeer harness…

Image result for sven frozen

Um yep… Disney got it right in two Frozen movies. Sven (who almost got named Thor, but that was taken by another Disney property) is wearing a traditional reindeer harness. His anatomy is pretty accurate, even tho he’s a cartoon.

Image result for reindeer harness

This one is designed for a cart with shafts, you can see the harness loops along the sides which hold the shafts. It’s very much like the horse harness.


This is a more traditional reindeer harness…

Image result for reindeer harness Image result for reindeer harness

…a collar at the base of neck/top of chest, a girth (around chest)and connecting straps. Note reindeer is in halter, no bit in mouth.


A traditional approach to steering deer seems to be this little headpiece thingie (nothing around the nose) and wide open spaces…

Image result for reindeer harness

There is a tendency for even toed ungulates (like moose on the Iditarod trail) to prefer to stay on the path, not floundering about in deep snow where they could be eaten by wolves.


In mushing, we have a sport called ski-joring…

where you attach yourself to sled dogs and ski…

Image result for ski joring

You can do it with other critters too…

Image result for ski joring

Image result for skijoring with cat

That is Jesper the Norwegian ski-joring cat, he’s for real. He has a nice functional little harness…

Image result for skijoring with cat


They ski-jor with reindeer too…

Image result for reindeer harness

but you don’t tie them to your belt… that would be deadly…

Image result for reindeer racing

Then there’s this…


Image result for reindeer racing

I can’t tell if all those are hooked to her sled but…

Ben Hur’s a wimp by comparison.


Meanwhile, it looks like Santa may have found a functional team…



Image result for reindeer harness



3 thoughts on “Santa, you’re doomed

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