View Full Version : Free Wheelers mini horse rescue for disabled

Oct. 12, 2009, 01:06 AM
Inspired by my best friend who is paralyzed from the chest down,
(she can transfer herself at the perfect height into a miniature horse cart)
she plans to show in combined driving next year.

I founded "Free Wheelers" miniature horse rescue in CT.
I rescue/adopt miniature horses and train them to drive for people with disabilities and/or therapeutic riding/driving centers . Both adults and children can drive miniature horses.
Mini's that can't drive are offered as companions/therapy animals.

Driving is an excellant way to enjoy independance and horsemanship to any extent physically possible. Rein holds and safety harness on the cart, there's also a mini cart that you can roll a wheelchair into.

Oct. 12, 2009, 06:41 PM
I am really keen to learn more about you and the mini driving. My mini would love to have a job and I haven't the knowledge to put all the pieces together. Please tell us more. How about starting a driving thread for us?

My mini, Shazam, is now 8, about 26" or a bit taller at the withers. He is about the size of our Alaskan Malamute sled dog. Shazam is a canny one and will try to sneak into the house through the dog door.:eek: I have taught him to long lines and pony off the ATV. Being an excellent escape artist, he demonstrates bursts of speed of 17 mph through the obstacle course of our yard and garden. Combination jumps, mazes, or stairs are no problem.:winkgrin:

Oct. 12, 2009, 07:46 PM
We adopted Firefly from Sunkissed Acres to be a driving pony for our program. We are so excited!

Oct. 12, 2009, 07:51 PM
Well, if your in a wheelchair your already half way there:-) long lineing from a chair almost simulates driving. You just have to be careful of the abrupt halts. Actually teaching a horse to drive is similar to rideing. You start by long lineing and ground driving, makeing sure they can respond to requests for turning, and stopping halting and backing up. You need to use the whip as you would your leg to ask for bend. So your animal needs to respond to the whip and not be afraid of it. by long lineing and ground driving your horse gets used to the feel of the lines around their legs etc. If they get wrapped up they just need to stand still until untangled. Once this is all going well you move onto haveing them drag something across the ground to get used to pulling weight and hearing stuff on the ground.

I've trained my own from my chair but I do find it useful to send the horse to a trainer for the first month and get the initial hooking out of the way. Currenltly I'm training a 5 year old in a pair and he has been driving for 9 months but hooking him single is still along ways away in the future. I like the safety of a pair with a greenie.

Diane Kastama

Oct. 12, 2009, 08:59 PM
Hey Diane,

I just emailed you after reading about you. Wow! You are a world champion gold medalist! Jasper looked gorgeous at an extended trot with the U.S. flag flying off the back of your carriage.

Are you always in California or do you travel and give clinics? I think that there are quite a few of us who want to know more. Please keep posting!!!

Now another question:

How do you keep from having the shock and bounce come up through the cart/carriage and zap your back? I have spinal issues and I haven't figured this one out. I am sure that Shazam would love to drive. He gets all puffed up with importance when I take him out for a spin.

I am not in a wheelchair. But it is hard for me to do the walking circle that is required to lunge. I lose the feeling in my legs and start staggering, which worries the horse or pony. It is easier for me to have a long line on either side of him and walk in more straight lines or serpentines.

Where do you look for tiny equipment? My lunge equipment is horse sized. Shazam probably will need a 3-3 1/2" bit. I have been working with a foal halter since I don't have a bridle. When he is fit, he weighs about 250 lbs.


DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Oct. 13, 2009, 02:52 AM
cadriver - I'd love for you to elaborate on long reining. I like to do it to as part of ground work, and it helps me enormously in the saddle - I "feel" more through my back when I long rein, and I try and transfer that feeling to the saddle.

How do you do counter bends to help supple? When I'm long reining, I can ask for my horse to step into either rein, and I can circle, but I can't yet change the bend to counter like I can in the saddle.

Of course the fact that I am dyslexic probably doesn't help!!

Oct. 13, 2009, 11:19 AM
Well, I have 3 carriages a carriage haveing 4 wheels a cart is 2 wheels. I have a variety of suspension on my carriages, the oldest one has torsion suspension, my pair carriage has leaf spring suspension and my newest carriage has airbags. And airbags are the way to go, for everyday driving, I can have the suspension soft, then in competition I might put a bit more air in it for the marathon phase so there is less risk of turning over...

A 2 wheel cart is going to by bouncy because the shafts take every bounce straight back to the cart, you need to make sure it is balanced correctly, which to do that you need to have someone hold the shafts of the cart at the height they will be on the mini or horse and then have someone climb in the wieght in the shafts should only be a few pounds, this will help the mini and the person driving. Many 2 wheel carts have no suspension or very little so very bouncy. Look for something with shock absorbers of for a way to ad them to take away bounce.

Diane Kastama

Oct. 13, 2009, 11:24 AM
Thanks for the compliments on Jasper, that picture was taken at the 2006 WEG in Aachen at the closeing ceremonies. I was there driving to support Para-driving and the inclusion of Para-equestrian at the WEG in KY. The FEI then later decided to only include Para-riding at the WEG. The following weekend was when we won the gold medal. 2008 summer we won individual bronze and team silver. I lost Jasper last year in a tragic accident and his pair mate Rupert was hurt very bad and had 300 stiches, Rupert has made a full recovery and I have managed to get him back showing at the FEI level as a single in an amazingly amount of short time.

Oct. 13, 2009, 11:41 AM
you can search for mini driving equipment and you come up with a bunch of site. Also most of the regular suppliers can get you equipment.
to name a few.

Long lineing, Since it is difficult and I often get lines tangled up in my wheels, I usually start with a side rein on the outside and one line on the inside and work on bend and suppleness. The line on the inside runs from the bit to the shaft loop or a ring on a surcingle or stirrup on a saddle. Then when I add an outside rein, I still often keep the outside side rein on because of the difficulty of managing long lines in a chair:) I have to be on a hard packed surface to be most affective if I'm in sand I am stationary but I can still accomplish some stuff. You have to be adept at the lines going over your head because I cannot walk in a circle (goes against a lot of how things are taught) but one must make adjustments with what they can do. I don't get to advanced with my long lineing or ground driving. Because it is to easy to lose forward and no one can walk as fast as a horse can. I don't care how able-bodied you might be:-)

As for changeing bend while long lineing I suck at that:-) I wait until I'm driving the horse. But driving is the same as long lineing. You would start to change the bend of the horse by half-halting the outside rein as the horse starts to change bend you give with the inside rein a tad but not to much this is now your new outside rein, then if you need more aide for bend you use your whip on the new inside hip of your horse to ask him to step underneath himself. If the horse needs more bend at the poll, I half-halt when the inside front leg hits the ground, if the horse needs more bend in the body I half-halt with the inside hind leg when it hits the ground.

So after the initial basic work they understand, turning, basic bending and some contact and they don't seem like they are going to run away, I feel it is time to move on to getting them hitched because driving them because I can accomplish more. When you go to hitch you need extra bodies....

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Oct. 13, 2009, 12:29 PM
That was helpful, thanks!!

I am also working on him trotting and cantering without me going on my forehand...not so easy! We can do the trot, not the canter yet!

Oct. 14, 2009, 05:54 PM
The driving threads often have postings particularly relating to those who drive and who have such as limited mobility of some other special requirement.

One of the huge advantages of driving is that it can be very inclusive.

I run a programme for those who want to drive and have either severe physical impairment or learning difficulties.

I have specially adapted equipment and including carriages with wheelchair access and ramps and low wide steps in to the seat. I even have a customer who is blind and who drives assisted by a sighted passenger.

These photos were taken at my Open Day during National Disability Week and when I showcased how inclusive and accessible driving could be and how it opens up learning and experiential opportunity for people including those with most severe impairment.






DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Oct. 14, 2009, 07:04 PM
Thomas - those pics are incredible!!! I don't know much at all about driving, but I can see we're going to have to call on all the driving afficionados as we try and network all our groups.

Of course, if you saw how bad I was just long reining, you'd see why me driving a cart would be a scary thing! I know only a little about such programs here, clearly we need to be educated!