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How to Make a Christmas Wreath from an Antique Horse Harness Collar

step by step instructions for turning an old horse harness collar into an elegant christmas wreath


Last fall a friend purchased a fantastic property with an old 19th century stone barn still standing. When I remarked on the old horse collars resting under a thick layer of dust in the old tack room, she immediately gifted me all three collars. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of equestrian decor, so I knew right away I’d make wreaths with them, and thanked her for her generosity by gifting one of the finished wreaths right back to her, keeping one, and selling the third in my flea market booth. “Horse collar”, FYI, is the technical name for large padded portion of an old fashion working/farm horse harness- sometimes incorrectly called the “hames”- that would have rested around a plow horse’s neck and shoulders. While the strap portions of old plow harnesses likely succumbed to age years ago, the collars were made of thicker leather and many survive in great condition.


How to make a wreath from antique horse harness

One variation of this wreath (photo source: unknown)

As I created these wreaths, I took step by step photos of wreath #2 so I could share with my readers a few quick instructions for turning horse collars into neat wreaths. The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes (30 minutes if you are as bad at tying bows as I am, or if you find yourself sharing my compulsive need to overfluff greenery.)

start with an old horse harness


Step 1.

Start by taking a few moments to care for the leather. This step will help keep your wreath looking great much longer- especially if you plan to use outdoors.You can skip A and B if your collar is clean, but do not skip C!

A. Go ahead and WASH the harness thoroughly with water and, yes, even soap. Use saddle soap (available at any farm store) if you have it, but any mild soap (Castile, unscented Dr Bronners, etc) will work. If you found your collar in a similar condition to mine, you may need to scrub to remove layers of dirt and reveal the patina of the aged leather underneath. Be very gentle if the leather of your harness collar is brittle. Do not soak or submerge– these harness collars were often stuffed and padded with straw or newspaper and saturating the stuffing is an easy way to cause the collar to rot from the inside out.

B. Allow to dry. (all the way dry! No cheating! If you’re in a cold climate, do this indoors to prevent water from freezing in the cracks of the leather and causing damage)

C. When fully, 100% dry, you’ll need to oil the leather. Leather has natural oils that dry with age or are removed by soap and water and need to be replaced. You can buy special leather conditioners, but for a decorative piece like this its much faster and easier to use cooking spray. I use olive oil but any shelf stable oil would work.

horse harness wreath how to - first care for the antique leather

old leather prior to conditioning with oil

I started by cleaning and oiling the antique harness before building my horse theme Christmas wreath

Start by conditioning your collar- spray the collar with cooking spray and allow it to soak in completely.

Step 2.

We’ll begin by creating a base that we can easily attach wire to to anchor decorative elements. I cut a narrow strip off a roll of hardware cloth and wrapped that around the bottom of the collar, but you can use whatever material you might have handy that will accomplish the same purpose.

I use wire to attach to the wreath

wire holds the ribbons and garland secure


Step 3.

The next step is to begin attaching greenery. Take 2, roughly 24 inch long pieces of garland and attach them side by side to the wire base you just added to the collar. Leave a space between where you anchor these pieces, as a top piece and decorations will fill this space in later, and it’s important that the top section appear wide, to balance the wreath. You can use the built-in wiring or a zip tie for extra security.


horse harness wreath howto 30


These two pieces will hang separate at this point, like this:

Making a horse themed wreath using a harness

vintage tag is ofter easy to use in equestrian decorations


Step 4:  bring the ends together. Make this bow-shape permanent by intertwining individual pieces of greenery together at the bottom. Fluff your greenery. It is okay at this point for it to appear thin in the center, but the basic outline should balance out the top of the collar.

create visual balance in your wreath


Step 5: take a new piece of greenery, about 12″ shorter than the first pieces and attach to the center of the bottom of the collar, overlaying the sparse portion of the lower layer. Personally, I use a more expensive, higher grade of greenery for this section- because it’s so much more visible. Somehow I managed to miss getting a photo of this step, but you can see the 2nd layer on the photo below, under the pinecones.


Step 6. You’ll want to add some decorations to bring your wreath to life. I used silver ornaments on my first wreath and pinecones on my second. You can wire in each object separately or wire the decorations together into a sort of garland and then anchor the garland to the wreath.


Just choose a few items. Whatever you choose, your horse collar wreath will balance out better if you use larger items towards the top and smaller items where the greenery thins and narrows. So I picked a few large, a few medium, and a few small pinecones:

pinecones added to artificial greenery can create a more authentic look


And using green floral wire I wired them together, largest to smallest, about 4″ apart:Making a big horse Christmas wreath from antique harness parts

horse wreaths are easy to make


horse harness wreath how to 21horse harness wreath how to 20Then anchored my pine cone garland to the top, and nestled my pinecones into the greenery so they’d look natural. Be sure and intertwine the floral wire and the sprigs of greenery, so outdoor display in the wind won’t ruin your careful arrangement.

Step by step horse harness wreath making

OPTIONAL Step 7: You may want to add a bow to finish your wreath. I thought red burlap complimented the aged leather well. And after three tries I came up with a decent, though a bit larger than I’d planned, bow. I’ll skip the bow tutorial since there are literally thousands online and I’m not particularly skilled at that art. This big wreath works great indoors or out


The final result: a horse collar wreath for display for many years to come!

antique horse collar wreath

horse harness wreath howto 8

Here’s a shot of a piece I saw that inspired this full-on-wreath I’ve created and pictured above. In this photo below, a simple red burlap bow makes a canvas-style horse collar christmasy:

horse collar decorated with burlap bow for christmas


See Also:

Follow these instructions to make a simple horse head wreath

Hawk Hill 2014 Christmas Table Setting
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