I've been working on ground driving with my all-arounder just for a change of scenery. Within five minutes of starting he was trotting on command (respects verbal cues vey well anyway), Stopping, pivoting around me, trotting on command (without verbal), and reversing direction at the trot. He's such an Ali-pleaser, I love him
So... I've been checking out CL in search of a cheap little two-wheel cart he could tote us around in, just for fun and maybe showing at fair just to add on to his resume. I have absolutely zero experience with this, but I've watched and helped out a lady at my barn break the BO's donkies to drive, so I'm not entirely clueless. What size cart do I need to be looking at? How do you measure what shaft (?) length you need? My little man is 14.2 hands, short and stout appaloosa but not "quarter horse wide."
I almost wonder if he could fit into a large pony cart, like a hafflinger sized one.
I like this for a newbie. Allows you to line drive outside the cart and then just step in when you're ready. Shaft tips should come just to the point of his shoulder or a little bit longer and then about 18 inches to 2 feet behind him.
Something to remember with 2-wheeled vehicles, is that shafts should be level, and not be pointing up or down when the animal is hitched. You want those level shafts to come up about midway of the barrel for fitting correctly on the equine.
Racing bikes are a fitting method quite different on the horse, with different harness styles, than Pleasure driving carts and their harness fitting on an equine. Racing bikes are used only on prepared surfaces, under rather controlled situations, not very comparable to Pleasure driving. Different tack (cart and harness) for different activities.
Don't be fooled by an easy acceptance of new things by your horse. Take ALL the time to learn and practice EACH STEP of the driving process, so horse understands and responds CORRECTLY EVERY TIME you give the command. Horses can be big foolers, very accepting, but then have no depth to understanding. He has been doing stuff on "auto pilot", LOOKS good, but often has very little practice with the new equipment and commands to fall back on in the scary new situations he will meet in driving. You and he are building your partnership with the extended training time, learning to work together with the new equipment and requests he gets in driving, which takes time to get smooth and clearly understood on both sides. He will react according to what he knows, so make sure he knows a LOT, waits to to listen to YOU and behaves as asked.
This learning the steps can easily take longer than 30-60 days of work, to get lessons totally understood, horse confident in his work. That is FINE, there is no rush. That is 30-60 days of a WORKING lesson, not 30-60 days since he first started, with 1-2 sessions a week.
You really should plan on a bunch of tire dragging, practice shafts, before considering a cart for hitching him. Tire dragging teaches lots of odd motion of pulling on him, rubbing the harness as tire swings. Horse needs to do this in both directions of BIG circles, walk, trot and canter. Horse needs to drag one long fake shaft (I use saplings about 14ft long) on one side, then the other side, then both shafts at the same time. He has to accept that STIFF thing on his side, the pull of it as he walk, trots, in both directions. Then you lay a crosspiece on the dragging ends, to make a travois, and do the walk and trot in both directions again. That crosspiece with change how EVERYTHING feels, so another new experience for him.
It is not as easy as it looks to be a GOOD driving horse. You don't want him "phoning in" his responses, because he is not actually learning then. These long line sessions are WORK, which you need to keep interesting, while expecting the correct response PROMPTLY from the horse. He is learning his VERBAL commands, accepting whip touches from the LONG whip you hold. Lines ARE long, so his circles are 60-70ft across. Those bends on big circles are easy, will allow him to get tired! He isn't cramped in teeny bends without a break.
A driver has voice, reins, whip, as the ONLY aids to use with the horse. Your training sessions are supposed to be teaching you and horse to communicate well, consistantly. Horse is going to be wearing blinkers in the vehicle, so he should NOT be able to see you for body language. Have to get those voice commands understood before you get into the cart!! Whip touches are like your legs, small flick to bend his barrel in turns, or a push to "leg him over" for a sidestep. As you get more skilled, the whip lash is like a finger pushing on his body parts, to do what you are asking.
There is a LOT to being a driver or a driving horse. The good ones of either kind are really foolers at making observers think "Driving is EASY" because they are so smooth and often almost unflappable in terrible situations. It is easy-looking because they have put in their time to be good partners beforehand. Those horses are not deadheads!
Very good advise from goodhors! When I was teaching my carriage horse, I had him in long lines for 18 months...about 16 months longer than a professional but I wanted a horse that had been exposed to everything imaginable.
I line drove him all over our roads with his indian poles/drag; took him to shows to line drive. I made really good use of those 18 months. At his last show, I was slow trotting him around the far end of the arena after giving an obstacle demo. There were several of us participating...I was killing time while the others were on course.
Afterwards, my husband asked me if "that jet" bothered me. I asked 'what jet'. I knew we were about 500 feet from a runway but didn't pay any attention to the jet that was warming up and getting ready to take off. He was that kind of horse...I never had to worry about anything that was going on. We passed big trucks carrying utility poles on a narrow road. I credit him with understanding the big world because he grew up with it.
I agree that exposing driving horses (or any horse) to anything and everything really pays off. My pony is pretty unflappable. He will stand near any power tool in use, stay calm and focused when we are passed by some very strange, large vehicles out on the road, and loud jets don't bother him either. I can't take credit for the jets--he and my mare came from a rescue that was next to an air force base! We get a lot of military jets directly overhead because we are on the path between the air force base and the Air Force Academy. The horses don't even look up when a whole herd of military jets scream overhead.