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Building the sport and getting new drivers involved...

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  • Building the sport and getting new drivers involved...

    Hi Everyone!

    I am reaching out to see how many people out there are new drivers, beginner drivers, would-be drivers, horse people with an interest in driving, long time drivers etc!

    f you are currently driving what kind of driving do you do? How did you hear about driving? What would have helped you get started or learn more about the sport sooner?

    Are you a member of a driving club, national organization? Do you show? Recreationally drive? What type of programs might interest you?

    I am forever on a search to help bring more interest to this awesome sport!

    Thank you in advance for any feedback!

    If you're on Facebook look up Beginner Carriage Driving Group to connect with almost 4,500 drivers from all over the world in a friendly and encouraging place!

  • #2
    I'll bite...

    I had a pony and a pipe cart as a kid, and then a pony and a meadowbrook as an adult until the pony retired about 15 years ago. Sold the cart and harness and made a solemn vow to return to driving at some point. It was a loosely fashioned idea that involved roadster ponies and possibly terrifying junior hunters at Devon, but I digress. Some time in the intervening years I learned (more) about CDE and thought... damn, I wanna do that more than I want to terrify juniors at Devon.

    Fast forward 16 years and I bought a marathon carriage, a harness, and a pony (fjord, totally unbroke). It took a bit longer to get here than I thought, but you have to progress on the horse's schedule so two years later here we are and the extra time was probably worth it, because once I sent him off for driving training, he really never missed a beat and took to it like a pro. And we are having a blast, even if I don't look like it LOL


    But on our journey a few things would have been helpful, here's a wish list of this practical and maybe not really possible:

    1. a list of people who start driving horses/ponies/minis (I had the good fortune to get a recommendation from some very experienced competitors that was spot on, but I can see where that is hit or miss)
    2. what are the things you really want in a carriage/cart and why do you want them (brakes, air ride suspension,delayed steering, and so on)? What are nice to haves versus must have (the pneumatic vs hard wheels depending on what you want to do, for example)
    3. what should you expect to pay for #2 (you know, ranges)
    4. a regional (national?) list of low key/unrecognized starter events to attend (it's really hit or miss looking up all the club's events and not all of them send those kind of events to ADS)
    5. For those of us in areas where driving is not popular, maybe a way to connect with others in our area (case in point, someone started a fb group for Cherokee Co. GA riders and lo and behold I found 3 other "local" drivers, one who sits on the National Drive committee!)
    6. cart/carriage maintenance information is always appreciated, especially if you know someone has "your" brand...
    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


    • #3
      I would love to learn to drive but have no way to get started. I'm not in a position to do so now, but I can imagine doing it one day, and maybe then I'll be aggressive about finding a teacher. A friend of mine started this journey a couple of years ago and I've been watching her jealously.

      I can't say I've ever even seen driving lessons on offer. I wonder if you could get enough interest to have a playday/clinic where people can come and learn how to harness and get a first driving lesson. Could be a terrific horse expo session, for example, maybe you preselect a handful of people and give them a taste and have it open for spectating. Even most horse people really don't know how a harness works or what it is like to cue a horse for fine control with only reins and a whip, and for real fun giving a lesson on what it's like to work with a pair would be even more enlightening.
      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


      • Original Poster

        DMK - Just curious are you a member of any local or national driving organizations? Thank you so much for your input!

        poltroon - I see you are in CA so I'm not much help myself here in NJ but have you looked into local clubs in your area at all? Not sure who is out your way since I don't know CA very well! Did make my first visit last year to judge a show in southern CA and was blown away by how beautiful it is! Here in the mid-Atlantic region we have a lot of driving so instructors are easier to find and people often offer these types of clinics or starter days, but I am definitely more interested in hearing how it is for people who aren't as exposed to the sport as our location is and hopefully in some way help others get started in the sport! Thank you so much for taking the time to response!


        • #5
          I am sure I can find someone in my area if I shake the network hard enough, I just haven't had the time to follow through.

          My daughter's outgrown pony is allegedly trained to drive ... And she is off to college soon...
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


          • #6
            DMK "terrify Juniors at Devon" Tsk Tsk
            Why, you could have come to the local A show here when I was showing my TB Hunter & terrorized him for a lot less $$.
            I had to avoid the Warmup on Sundays because that's where the - Horror of Horrors! - Drivers were working before their morning classes.
            If he so much as glimpsed the Carriages of Death, all bets were off for our classes.

            singletreestable My Voyage began watching an Andy Marcoux clinic.
            It had never occurred to me Dressage could be DRIVEN .
            Eyes opened, I took a short series of lessons with the resident trainer & her BrokeBeyondDeath pony.
            We went out on the local backroads & he taught me even Ginormous, noisy farm equipment could be faced, passed & given no nevernind. We also played with Cones.
            Last lesson she turned me loose in a field and amazingly I was able to drive Solo
            Lessons culminated in a clinic with Muffy Seaton & I was HOOKED,

            Circumstances took me away from Driving for several years, then I made the acquaintance of a down-the-road neighbor who drove.
            She graciously lent me her also BrokeBeyondDeath pony to drive at the local County Fair.
            We took a 4th of 7 & then no prize, but survived in a class of 12. Hooked became Addicted.

            In the meantime I also hitchhiked on Drives with my local Club.
            Members were always generous & anyone with room offered a seat & even occasionally the lines.

            3yrs later I bought myself a 2yo mini & sent him to be trained to drive.
            I had no delusion that my half dozen lessons & experience with Guardian Angel ponies qualified me to get him started right.
            He came back to me as bombproof as the older ponies who had got me started & has continued to prove he is All That.
            A fellow Club member - with decades of experience - told me: "He's the complete package, cute & safe."
            So far he debuted at Fair last Summer, then went on to do the ADS-rated Villa Louis Carriage Classic.
            We finished a respectable 12th of 14 against ponies with many more show miles.
            Just the 3 Ring classes: Turnout, Reinsmanship & Working
            He did me proud & hopefully we can do a repeat this year.
            Maybe even add Cones. as he played nicely with those in Warmup.
            Also aiming for the National Drive Spring Fling since it has relocated a mere 2h from my farm.
            And, of course, Fair.
            Where we not only show with friends & get a cash payback, but I can get a corndog & root beer float,

            In between shows we'll go on Drives with the Club,
            He's already proved he can handle that on a 6mi outing in the company of horses he could have walked beneath.
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


            • #7
              Twodogs, I firmly believe if you want to do something, you should do it well, so terrifying juniors at Devon? #lifegoals

              I have been inadvertently responsible for the parting of ways betwwen horse and rider since 1978, starting in the orange groves of SFL, and moving up to terrifying hunters in Sunshine ranches (a few HOTYs have died a million deaths thanks to me)

              Singletree, so far ADS, NFHR and I'll also join the regional clubs close to me (FL whips, Aiken Driving, maybe CCA), and hey, if we do eventually get good enough at this stuff, maybe I can bitch about USEF fees again...
              Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


              • #8
                Like DMK I came from the hunter world doing rated shows throughout the southeast. I inherited a Fjord and thought “what in the world Am I going to do with this?” I decided driving would be perfect so I audited Camp Prong in Florida. I ordered a harness and talked to other drivers about their carriages. I had purchased my equipment and broke the pony to driving. 3 months later I did my first CDE and was hooked. I have to say that the Florida Whips are outstanding. Clinics are offered throughout the year along with fun activities. Drivers are a friendly, helpful group. I just wish I had started this journey earlier!


                • #9
                  yes, I would kill to have FL activities closer, the FL Whips were well known even back in the dark ages when I had my pony plus a pipe cart and read about them in the Horse and Pony! #weisold
                  Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                  • #10
                    Count me in as another accidental driving person. I'm not a driver myself but I board with a driving group and have an accidental driving pony.

                    Despite living a life with horses, until two years ago I had no exposure at all to combined driving. And even that first exposure didn't come through horses per se. A friend was visiting and we had lunch with a high school friend of hers who is a driving trainer. I was looking to move to a barn with an indoor for the winter so I moved my fat pinto (coincidentally a horse that started in driving) to his barn.

                    At the time, I had a tiny horse who was competing very successfully in eventing. Prelim was easy for her but I was concerned that the bigger courses weren't always suitable for a tiny, bold equine. I was looking for a new career for her due to the risks of XC but felt she'd be bored with FEI dressage and we don't have FEI pony showjumping here in the US. When I saw driving's version of XC, I thought she might enjoy it. This mare is like a terrier - she needs a job, loves to work, and takes her 'career' very, very seriously.

                    She started training in the spring last year, was first hitched to a carriage in July and went to her first competitions a couple of months later. In her three CDEs last fall, she was marathon champion at two of them and only missed out at the third because of pilot error at a hazard. She loves driving - and we had her measured so she is officially a pony now. This is the first time she's competed against equines smaller than herself.

                    So far, I really like the driving world. Marathon has real endurance, requires considerable skill and is a great mental challenge for the horse. And if you're an adult who loves cute little ponies, if you drive you can justify keeping one for yourself.

                    But I'm amazed that I'd never stumbled on this world in a lifetime with horses. I've done all kinds of things - fox hunting, cattle, endurance, natural horsemanship, modern pentathlon - and will generally show up for anything that has a horse in it.

                    CDE is a natural fit for eventers. I actually think it's way more badass. I think it's odd that it's usually older people that get into the sport because it's so hard and you have to use your brain so much. Seriously, I run the marathon courses (on foot, I'm a runner) and I can barely get through the obstacles.

                    One big barrier to driving is the equipment. I've been fortunate in that I haven't had to buy anything. And then there's the learning curve. You want to have a first go with a seasoned horse who will put up with your mistakes (I ran over a jump standard, which was interesting) and also so you can get a feel for 'real' driving.

                    What seems ideal to me is have a driving taster day, maybe a cooperative thing between local driving and eventing associations, where horse people of the riding persuasion could have a go with an experienced horse.

                    Also, driving seems to me like a great couples sport. You and your SO can have your driving horse/pony/VSEs and take turns driving and navigating. I know a number of men who got into driving that way and now drive on their own.

                    Like others here, I wish I'd discovered CDE much earlier in life. But whatever, I'm here now, and maybe I'll even learn to drive someday.


                    • #11
                      JER I am here to Out you!
                      Having read your previous posts about your WunderMare (sorry, I forget her name) & droooooled over the vids of her on Marathon & upon hearing the eminent Sterling Graburn is driving her...,,,,
                      All I can suggest is Get Thee Some Lessons!
                      And then a VSE <VEG> so you too can become the Addict I now am - beginning in my 60s < so you got that Aged Thing correct.

                      IMHO: I think riders who are no longer able for whatever reason, gravitate to Driving thinking it is easier.
                      Then the actual Facts weed the goats from the sheep & only the tough Old Broads & Gents carry on.

                      My local Club does a free clinic like you describe - where non-drivers can get a lesson in harnessing & driving.
                      Includes riding along & in some cases, even taking the lines themselves.
                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JER View Post
                        What seems ideal to me is have a driving taster day, maybe a cooperative thing between local driving and eventing associations, where horse people of the riding persuasion could have a go with an experienced horse.
                        Along those lines, it would be awesome if there were more events like Live Oak where it is jumpers/CDE and then (because they are brilliant at Live Oak) a 5K run on the marathon course on Sunday, which gets lots of horse but not driving people there for the jumpers and lots of non horse people end up staying for cones and the grand prix after the 5K.

                        Since CDE is a fixed location thing (except the indoor driving season), it would be interesting if they could attract some jumper classes because the timing and facilities can complement each other.

                        An amusing side story about Live Oak. I was making my way back to the stabling on Saturday as the last of the 4 in hands were coming home, so they were overlapping with the first jumpers making the loooong walk to the ring (and they shared a warm up area by stabling, so lots of opportunities for jumpers and carriages to meet each other). We were at a hold waiting for a team to go through and I was talking to two grooms. I asked them how that "interaction" was going since these guys were handling it really well especially considering they were a bit on their toes knowing they were going to the ring. I was thinking back to my plans to terrify juniors at Devon how much more bang for your buck can you get with 4 DHH versus one small hackney pony! The grooms cracked me up, they said these horses have mostly been to Europe before so this is old hat, but oh my god, you should have seen it on Friday with the speed division! (the speed horses usually don't travel to Europe so many bug eyed jumpers had to make it past the warm up and lower level driven dressage tests)

                        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DMK View Post
                          I was thinking back to my plans to terrify juniors at Devon how much more bang for your buck can you get with 4 DHH versus one small hackney pony!
                          This is a multifaceted issue.

                          1. A Friesian four-in-hand would probably be scarier than DHH. DHH can pass for normal WBs. Friesians are a bit more Game of Thrones.

                          2. I suspect you could scare the pants off many jumper WBs by confronting them with a loud-colored VSE and a tiny cart stocked with a large, whip-carrying human.

                          3. If you really want to scare junior and their expensive mounts, put some bells on your carriage.


                          • #14
                            JER you make some very valid points.

                            Also consider the size of the "Scarriage" - a 4IH Rooftop Break complete with correctly-attired passengers & Groom could be a simple solution.... dependent, of course, on the budget of the Scarer

                            But those Sissy GP Jumpers would probably be equally traumatized by the VSE
                            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                            • #15
                              yeah, no you guys are TOTALLY missing out on the current fad to have one of those dwarf minis as your traveling mascot in the h/j world. Ten years ago, you could probably have some solid scare factor, now they are like Jack Russels, one in every golf cart.

                              However, safe to say I know a fjord who hit Level 8 spook when he saw his first pasture full of minis (what with his lack of quality WEF time). Fortunately a Level 8 Fjord Spook is roughly equivalent to 0.5 WB spook, so no carriages, drivers, passengers or fjords were damaged, or really even jostled.

                              Friesians could definitely up the ante, but seriously, it depends on how extravagantly your dutch horses move. For instance, CW's could not be confused with the hack winner and except for the lack of fluffy stuff flipping about, look quit alarming (Hattie's horse died a few deaths the first time she saw a team). Still overall I think it really comes down to the giant monster that has successfully captured 1 to 4 minis, ponies or horses (or up to 40 mules, I guess). Prudent horses try to make their escape to keep the body count down has always been my theory.
                              Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                              • #16
                                DMK Pls tell me the minis become so Au Courant are not truly the dwarved variety.
                                Those tend to have a boatload of physical problems & I wonder if the H/J Royalty are ready, willing & able to shell out for vet help when not if they occur.

                                ETA: I saw the article on Kaley Cuoco's Shmooshy, but she has the checkbook, others maybe not so much

                                You got the Fear Factor right otherwise.
                                My TB was able to trot an entire 20m circle with his head permanently swiveled in the direction of the single Morgan driven to a simple cart by a friend.
                                His attitude plainly said:
                                "Dude! That thing is gaining on you!! Run FASTER!!!"
                                ^ ^
                                // \\
                                He wanted to be sure after it ate the ill-fated Morgan, he was not next on the menu
                                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                • #17
                                  Yeah, I think a lot of dwarf types, but the good news is they mostly seem to come from a rescue (the same one Kaley got hers from) and it seems it is catching on like Ron & Danny's dog rescue. The good news here is that as rescued medically troubled equines go, these have landed in (low calorie, high controlled) clover. Pocketbooks are flush if you are bringing them to WEF.

                                  But yeah, dwarf minis. Sigh...
                                  Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                                  • #18
                                    A friend had attended an exotic animal auction last week. Dwarf minis were selling for 4-7K


                                    • #19
                                      I am the president of our local driving club here in Ohio. I've often thought about how to get more people interested as well. As I talk to horse people, it tends to be a lot of "where do I even begin". I was fortunate to have gotten a job as a city carriage driver years ago, they taught me to drive (I already had riding experience) and how to harness a horse and hitch. This isn't something that's available to everyone. So, this year, I've worked with a local trainer and we're going to be having an "Intro to Driving" clinic in the fall. The day will start with harnessing and ground driving, teaching people hands-on how to harness a horse and ground drive. Then there will be a driving demo, and horse suitability evaluations/private lessons in the afternoon. I will let you all know how this works out for us! It's the first time we've attempted such a clinic in our area. I've often wondered too about putting on some type of demo day to show everyone the fun that can be had while driving. Those looking for speed.... ought to see my mini tear up a cones or marathon course!


                                      • #20
                                        I'm very new to driving. I'm picking up my VSE this weekend, along with a borrowed easy entry cart and a harness from a friend until I can find my own.

                                        I currently have my childrens' pony and my coming 2 year old gelding at home. I realized that when my gelding goes for training, my pony will be alone, so it seemed to make sense to get a mini companion. Over the years I have driven just a handful of times. I used to board and show at an Arabian training barn, and I got the opportunity to drive a fine harness/country English pleasure horse there. It was exhilarating. As a kid I drove a friend's show morgan, and it is still one of my favorite memories. And I've driven a Standardbred at a training farm. I also have taken my kids for a driving lesson with a friend who has a mini. And of course they begged for their own after that one lesson.

                                        We owned a mini years ago and I did a lot of research on carts and harnesses, but we ended up selling her so it never came to fruition. Whether or not my kids stick with it, I plan to do some driving myself so hopefully I won't end up with a cart and harness gathering dust in my indoor and a mini getting fat sitting around. I have ground driven my pony and considered sending her for driving training since she is too small for me to ride and could use the extra work. She is the unflappable type that I think would make an excellent driving candidate, although I doubt I would have enough time to keep both her and the mini in work.

                                        I don't have any aspirations to show, although there are several local options. I'm sad that I missed our driving club's clinic which was held on a freezing day earlier this year. I hope they have another one. I'm fortunate that I have some friends who are willing to help me because there really isn't anyone who advertises driving lessons locally. That may be one of the reasons why it is hard to recruit new drivers, at least in my area.