Working Goats: Beginning the Long Haul

By Elyse Nicholson

Halter & Harness Training

Working goat halter/harness training

Welcome back! In Part 1, we discussed all the basics of selecting a goat and acquiring the equipment. We also went over preliminary training for your selected goat. Now we’re ready to start training, so let’s get to it!


Before you begin training, you will want to establish some solid commands that your goat will respond to for going forward, stopping, backing, turning and more. Here are some suggestions:

  • Going forward: Walk on, forward, step up! hike! move on
  • Halting: Whoa, halt, hold, stop
  • Left: Come left, Haw! left
  • Right: Come right, gee, right
  • Back: Back, *click*

Whatever words you chose, make sure you stay consistent with your choices. This will come in handy later on.

Training note: Make sure training is always a positive experience for you and the goat. Goats can tell when you are stressed, which makes the experience negative. Keep it fun and upbeat to get the most out of your goat! And make sure you are rewarding your goat with vocal praise and a pet. Treats may be used, but can be dangerous when the goat is on harness and cart and believes it deserves a treat. Take caution in how food is used as a reward.

Halter/Harness Training

working goat harness

Once your goat is collar trained, you can begin working with your goat on halter. Begin by allowing your goat to become familiar with the halter. Let the goat wear it for a few minutes SUPERVISED for 1-2 days. Once it becomes calm with a halter, attach a lead-line to the center ring and begin walking your goat on halter with a firm grip on the line and standing very near to the goat. Let it adjust to the feel of being led from its head, rather than its neck.

When you start moving, make a turn, stop, or back-up, reinforce this with your vocal command. Work with your goat 5-10mins each day for a 1-2weeks on halter training until it becomes comfortable and is responding to commands. Always make sure you and your goat are both ready to move onto the next step before proceeding. This is the slowest part of training but pays off in the end when are ready for a harness and cart.

working goat harness training

Once halter-trained, begin standing behind the shoulder of your goat and use the vocal commands like before. Work with your goat to a point where you are standing behind the goat completely and it is following commands in front of you. At this point, you will want to have the both reins attached to each side of the halter as if you were actually driving your goat — because you are! Keep the reins loose unless you are turning or halting your goat. This will take another 1-2weeks or more, depending on your goat’s personality. The point of this step is to simulate actual driving and prepares them for what’s next.

After you have successfully trained your goat to drive on halter, harness the goat up fully with reins running through the loops on the back pad. Begin driving your goat with a full harness to get your goat comfortable with the source of the rein tension, which becomes its back. Remember to keep lead-lines loose at all times unless turning, backing, or stopping. This should take no more than a week to reinforce the training.

Harness trained goat

Once you have reached this point, you have successfully harness trained your goat. Your next step will be cart training, which we will discuss at greater length in PART 3.

Continue reading about training your goat to be the next great working goat:

Part 1: Your Journey Begins Here

Part 3: Putting the Cart Before the Goat

Part 4: What Now?

14 thoughts on “Working Goats: Beginning the Long Haul”

  1. Hi your series is great. Would you mind if we shared it with our 4-H kids? Our county is growing its harness and pack program and you have lots of great insight?

    • You are always free to email links to blog or forward posts or post on Facebook or other social media. If you are wondering about printing out the posts and sharing them with the 4-H students, I'd want to ask the author about that.

    • Yes! You are quite welcome to share these posts with your 4-H group and anyone else who wants to learn! After training my goats, my local county 4-H has also added this to their fair as well — exciting to see it grow in other programs! Best of luck! And let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Hi there, Love the series about training a goat to cart…please can you tell me where I can purchase the goat halter/bridle shown in the photo above?

    • Hi Carla,

      Your halter is very similar to the ones that come with goat harnesses, except that it is missing the side rings, which I am guessing is why you sewed some on. This is okay for learning purposes, but this will not the same as what a true harness halter will. These halters act kind of like those choke collars your see on dogs, where when you pull it tightens. So the side rings on these halters are actually a separate part of the halter — it’s the under part of the halter that rests under the chin and it feeds through those side rings and has rings of it’s own on the ends. This is what you connect your lead lines too and they help direct the goat.

      So for training purposes, yes, it would be the side rings you would want to attach to — one line on either side so that you can direct them left or right. Alternatively, you could feed a strip of thick fabric under the chin and then out those two rings you sewed on, then add rings to that fabric so that your halter behaves more like a harness halter, if that makes sense?

      Hope that helps!


  3. Dear Elyse,

    Thank you so much for the plethora of wonderful guidance you share and for answering technical questions like the harness halter design: these are useful ALL AROUND THE WORLD! Persevering with the initial basics with goat on a collar, getting it to go where you want without stopping to eat everything it comes across, surely remains the hardest part?! Dependent on goat character of course! Perhaps I should stick to trying to train the one that don’t present a problem!


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