I am a driving newbie. Yesterday I was taking a lsesson driving a mini in a 2 wheeled cart that the man giving the lesson had made. Everything was hunky dory until I drove too close to a pylon and the cart wheel went over it and the cart tipped over onto its side. The poor little mini was scared and ran a bit until he could be caught. The cart was righted with the mini still attached. He had one leg over the shaft and was good enough to stand and have his leg picked up and correctly placed on the right side of the shaft. This was the second time I have driven.
I have been toying with the idea of getting a driving mini and playing around on the trails on the farm. Now I'm not so sure.
Give me some advice. The man giving the lessons said that you always need help hitching up, which I usually don't have. I would be interested in a less tippy cart with more suspension...any recommendations? How often do carts tip over?
any cart can tip, and accidents can happen.BUT- Sounds to me like you just need a better quality cart. This guys homemade cart probably was not a good choice. While it is nice to have ahelper when you hitch, it is not required...that is like saying you should always have someone hold your horse while you mount. I would not get scared away from having a mini to drive if you want one, but i might try to find a better driving trainer, or look for a really experienced driving mini to start with.
As a new driver, you do need to learn safety, correct order of doing things. You then have to work with your equine, who may not know these steps or already is very well trained for driving, to get you both working comfortably together.
I am going to say that a helper when you learn, having a second person right there as you hitch and unhitch, for the first few times is a good idea. You are learning your "routine", have to get it firmly in your mind, and they might be helpful if they are quiet and not distracting. Yet they can see if you miss something and say so, BEFORE you get in the vehicle or in unhitching, if you still have something attached to the vehicle while thinking of pulling it off the equine. Do you have any basic Driving books with proper sequence to follow? I always recommend Doris Ganton's book named something like "Training the Driving Horse". Has great photos, is very clear to follow. Often found used on Ebay type places for cheap prices.
Maybe making a posted check-off list of steps for hitching, then read it in reverse order for unhitching, will make sure you don't miss a step as you progress to being alone to hitch and drive.
As many drivers on here will tell you, if you didn't drive alone, you never would get to go out at all. So you concentrate on learning how to do things in a VERY SAFE manner and prevent problems from happening. You don't EVER shortcut your routine. Do that second walk around, looking things over sharply, before entering the vehicle to insure straps are all fastened, buckles tucked in correctly. And ACTUALLY LOOK, not do a quick scan. Being distracted or not paying attention can cause you to MISS the details. Missing something happens to everyone, but with that 2nd inspection you SHOULD notice and fix things. If not, the results can cause an accident.
Various folks have routines that work for them in hitching alone. Some tie the animal outside, using a hitchpost, hitching rail, side of the barn or trailer. Others hitch in the barn with crossties. I don't recommend doing the ground tie method, though I know people who do. I have also seen horses break their training, leave when partially hitched when ground tied. Didn't grab animal fast enough or got the reins pulled out of their driver's hands, so it was a runaway.
I advocate having equine tied firmly with a rope or crossties for harnessing and hitching. Even held by your groom with halter and rope over bridle after harnessing, so he can't leave. Horse gets no choice about standing and waiting during harnessing and hitching at our house, restrained firmly every time here. You will need to see what options will work best for your situation, then develop your routine.
I have seen a number of the cheap little pony carts, all of similar design, flip over. They flip at the drop of a hat, NOTHING you can do to stop the flip. Doesn't seem to matter where you sit, your physical size, large or small, they flip anyway. Usually have the bicycle tires, pipe frame, wood seat, cheap to buy. And once you are tossed out, they flip back down on both wheels, to chase the animal as he runs wildly about. Watched one woman flip 3 TIMES in about 20 minutes, before they told her to LEAVE with her dangerous turnout!! I was behind her walking once, and the tire bounced on a rock, came down, bounced again to flip her over!! Not much of a rock, but enough to start the chain of the flip over. Something about the cart design, makes them REALLY easy to flip. Because they are cheap and APPEAR solid (made of PIPE, thick boards for heaven sake!) there are MANY of these carts around and available.
I would strongly advise you to look around, view other models of carts, for a different design to buy. I would not advise any model with bicycle wheels (spokes and hubs) because they are not designed to take the sideways torque that cart wheels get in turns and at speed with an equine. Those bike wheels often come off the cart at the hub, spokes fail and fold over, tire comes off the wheel itself. Sometimes all at once!!
There are a lot more cart options for the minis, if that is what you plan to own, than there were before in safe vehicles. Safe, better designed vehicles are going to cost more than the poorly designed carts. Used cart shopping can save you money, there are good ones out there. Money spent on a better made, comfortable fitting harness is better for the equine, and usually will be able to resell for about the same price. You might want to think of getting a small pony, bigger than a mini, so you can haul a passenger along, travel a bit faster and farther, on your drives. Either size will not take up much space or feed to own and care for, TOUGH and able to do the work, even if small. You will want to avoid letting the equine get fat, which can be hard. They gain weight looking at food photos! Guess that means you will have to spend more time driving him to stay fit!!
You may want to read the sticky's at the beginning of the Forum, lots of interesting information there. Go back and read the old posts, which also contain plenty of tips and helpful ways of doing things buried in them.
Welcome to Driving, you will have a LOT of fun with this horse activity.
Thanks for all the great info., LD and GH. I knew COTH'ers would be able to help me out. My gut feeling was the the cart was top heavy...and was built with bicycle wheels. I feel sorry for the poor little mini, but he was a trooper. I think if I decide to go the driving route, I will look at a bigger pony...I had to squat to hook up the mini! Driving ponys are few and far between around here though. Now I will have to see if I can find some more info in the stickys...thanks again for you help.
I'd suggest getting a smallish pony vs. a mini....much stronger and you can bring a friend along with the pony not working too hard.
Get a good cart, a home-made cart can be a real piece of crap and unsafe. Get a nice easy entry cart with suspension and wood wheels, no wire/bike/motorcycle wheels--they're unsafe and very weak when side loads are put on them.
Suspension is a good thing, the cart will ride better and any uneveness of the terrain can be somewhat overcome if your cart isn't so stiff it goes right over.
Of course you can harness by yourself, most of us who drive typically can't find people to come along with us when we drive. You can put up a pair of crossties outside for harnessing. Just install two posts with eyelets and crossties attached...you tie the pony, bring up the cart, hitch him up, and then once you unhook the halter, you can drive right through the posts. Piece of cake.
I'd suggest getting an older pony who's driven for years and knows his stuff. Let him provide a lot of safe fun while you learn to drive. Like riding, the old admonition of "Green & Green makes black and blue". Old ponies are wonderful!
Kirsten Brunner at Beaverwoods Farm in Hillsburgh would be worth checking out. She's a distance from you, but might be able to point you to an instructor closer to you.
I started with a very safe nearly bombproof small aged pony. I got lots of instruction and drove alone most of the time. We had a sturdy Bennington cart and never tipped or came close to having an accident.
I've got a new young pony now. If I'm in a situation that calls for it, I make sure that I have assistance with hitching. I take lots of lessons still. I pay close attention to safety at all times.
I love driving! Learn as much as you can. And stay safe.
I have always wanted to get into driving minis as well, that was some great advise goodhors! I am excited to give it a shot, although the cart tipping over story is a bit scary for sure! I think I would be afraid of them bolting with me, and feel that I would have more control riding than driving, although maybe thats just because I haven't tried it yet. Stick with is Paul, I think you will have so much fun! I can't wait to try it out myself!
My 38" mini/pony easily hauls my husband and me on good footing and slight grades -- I've never asked him to do a hill with both of us, but I've yet to find what he cannot do. Keep in mind, there's a world of difference between a 38"mini and one 34" or smaller. That said, I also love the small ponies.
Even when I have company driving, I typically harness and hitch alone. I second the idea of a checklist, and advise that you be especially cautious when something changes your routine. One of the great things about minis/small ponies is that you can reach over their backs, simplifying solo harnessing/hitching.
We have both an easy entry (pipe) cart and a HyperBike. There are EEs that are well-balanced and well-made (CTM, Frontier), although they definitely have their limits. I've taken ours on trails, over stumps, through the waves at the beach, and all manner of terrain without bending the spoke pneumatic tires/wheels.
Balance and quality of metal vary greatly between the better EE carts and the cheap trash sold on Ebay. The latter can bend and break going over a mild bump. Not suggesting that you try this, but a mini-sized pipe cart has much better proportions -- pipe size and density compared to length -- than a horse-sized pipe cart.
I LOVE my HyperBike -- sort of a hybrid sulky/mountainbike. In a schooling CDE, Mingus started down a steep bank into a creek and halfway down changed his mind, putting me at a 45 degree angle poised over the water. Any other cart and I would have been swimming. The HB has a very wide wheelbase and is nearly impossible to tip, despite its ultra light weight. The biggest disadvantages are that it is a one-seater and it's not intended for green horses.