We will be teaching our 31" mini to drive this year. We are experienced horse handlers, but not experienced in driving. We are looking forward to the fun! We are not looking to be a top competitor but my kids would like to show in 4-H and small AMHA/AMHR shows.
My question is to those who have shown miniatures. Would we be able to show in a biothene harness or should we not? Are there any pointers anyone would like to share on this topic?
I'm beginning my research and have always found that those who participate are those who can offer the most/best advice.
I would think your synthetic harness would be fine for 4-H. Harness should be VERY clean, metal brightly polished and metals all matching in color. Bit is considered a neutral color metal. Bit does not need to match a brass trimmed harness, for instance. Harness should have no obvious weak spots or repairs, reins long enough to sit on the ends, not too wide for small hands. Shiny, unpainted trim like shaft ends on cart should match the harness metal or cart metal is painted. Painted metal on cart could also be the footman loops, hubs, seat uprights, bolts on the singletree.
Next advice is to READ THE RULES. Our State 4-H Rulebook is available online, so you print off a copy and go thru the DETAILS. Highlight them if you want, makes them easy to find if you want to check them later or at a show. KNOWING the rules means you are less likely to do things incorrectly.
There might be a set of COUNTY rules that you need to ask for and read also. One local County here, requires all kids to have an adult in the vehicle with them for safety. A County can have some additional safety features but not directly contradict the State 4-H rules. If you see a problem, don't understand stuff, ASK right away. Start with your Leader, and if Leader can't help then go to the County Horse Committee to get things clarified. Our County had some rules in direct violation of State Rules that had to be changed because they excluded some kids from participating in certain classes. We had to change them, then get the correct information out to all the Horse Clubs, so everyone was clear on changes. Sorry, State Rules win over County rules like that. Get problems settled BEFORE local shows or the Fair, so there is no disruption.
Many folks THINK they know the 4-H rules, "we have always done it this way!" but they are WRONG when you have the written book to show them. I take my Rule Book with me to EVERY 4-H show in case it is needed to clarify some issue.
Our Michigan State 4-H Rules require the Driving kids to have a checkrein on their driving animals. Probably thought of as a safety feature from older times, to prevent kicking. Opposite of what the ADS has developed, where checkreins are not required, but kids DO need an adult to be in the carriage if child driver is under 18yrs. We put the checkrein on, but fitted really loose so horse never feels it. So that is one detail, your rules may have other interesting items as you read thru. I understand mini Breed shows also require a checkrein in Driving. Rules change when you go to play in different groups!
We have kind of made our own County rules for the classes not covered by the State rules, in our Driving Obstacles, Ground Driving. They are loose rules, but safety oriented to protect the children and their animals. We have a couple minis come to compete in the Driving now and some other mini classes.
I would recommend your child wear a helmet when driving, brown gloves, and carry a whip to use as an aid in bending the mini. A lap robe is nice on both genders in a neutral color, with no-slip, dark shoes. My DD wears "church or business" type clothes of nice slacks, vest or blazer, pretty long sleeved blouse in a bright color. A boy could wear a blazer, tan pants, shirt and tie. Clothes are easy to find and cheap at Goodwill or reuse stores. And you don't feel bad if pony blows snot on them!
Pony and cart are immaculately clean, braided forelock if it gets all over under the bridle, covers his vision. Throatlatch should be snug so bridle can't come off. Nicely trimmed bridlepath, face and legs to neaten things up.
Thanks so much for the great response. Our county will be offering mini classes for the first time this year! I see that it is being proposed that an adult does NOT have to ride with the kids. Luckily, I have older kids and I'm not so worried about it, but I sure would be worried if my children were just starting in 4-H. I've often wondered about the clothing. I have seen a variety of outfits and couldn't detect what was appropriate and what was not! I have seen the 4-H kids wear a helmet but it is covered by an adorning hat.
goodhors thank you for the excellent advice. We too are getting started in driving with our minis and we are deliriously giddy with excitement about it. It is a whole new world for us and our kids (and the minis!).
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Can't help you with the 4-h requirements. When I've shown AMHR driving, you will see both biothane and leather harnesses in the show ring. They are not typical carriage style harnesses though (not that they are prohibited, just not the norm). AMHR driving classes typically use fine harness appointments...overcheck or sidecheck required, narrow straight breast collar and saddle..reins are black or black/brown combo versus traditional brown used in carriage...no breeching and show sulkies. Goal is to show off the horse, so harness is minimized where possible. Lutke is the synthetic harness maker of choice, but it is expensive. Hard hats and safety gear are not seen in registered shows..good idea, but not typically done. Braiding of mane/forelock not allowed (except in roadster and Park Horse). Think arabian, ASB fine harness...that is the "look" they are going for. Best of luck.