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Driving in Small Arenas

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  • Driving in Small Arenas

    I am in the very early stages of shopping for a new cart or carriage for a therapeutic program I am starting, because my big wood road cart is a little less than easy to get in and out of for able bodied people, let alone those with any physical disability.

    Most of the use of said vehicle will be in an arena slightly larger than a 20x40 dressage ring (indoor is about 25x50 and outdoor is slightly narrower but just a hair under 60m long), and mostly walk with a bit of trot on the straight stretches. Most of the drivers will be just starting out and have various disabilities.

    The horses in question are 14hh and 14.3hh. The taller has a shorter natural stride and is more than happy to trot the corners and do circles using the full width of the ring in the road cart. The shorter has a long natural stride and has to be collected a fair bit more through the turns or his big moving shoulders get blocked by the straight shafts.

    I am wondering if I would be better off going with a marathon carriage and having it altered to have a bench seat with movable/removable wedge so teacher can be next to student, rather than getting another cart?

    My other top pick carriage wise would be the Bennington Fun Bug RS, with the "rear steering" functionality. It might actually be better than a marathon type carriage as it looks easier to get in and out of. Has anyone seen one in person or know of any videos that clearly show the rear steering function at work? Bennington says that it would be a viable option for the small spaces we have to work with, but my trainer is unfamiliar with them and is suggesting more of a marathon vehicle.

    The other thought would be to go with a slightly lower but more adjustable balance cart with closed marathon shafts, to give the shorter horse (and bigger built one of the two) a bit more turning freedom in the front end and hopefully make the turns a bit easier for him.

    The other pro to the Fun Bug RS is that Bennington makes a wheelchair accessible version which would be awesome to have for program. They also make an accessible cart, so that would be another option if a cart would be better for the small spaces than the fun bug. There are other carriage makers who build wheelchair accessible carts and carriages, but a lot of the carriages are quite large so I already don't think they would suit the small rings.

    Curious about Trans* issues? Feel free to ask!
    Saving Pennies To Get My Own Canoe

  • #2
    I drive in my riding arena which is 20m by 50. I am more annoyed by the fact that my footing was put in (by me) for dressage and jumping so it's much deeper sand than is good for driving. We are really good at 20m circles and lots of times I have to drive around jumps or ground poles. I was very proud of myself one day for setting a course of 5 fences in a way that I could also drive without having to take them down.

    My other problem is that when I get to a show the ring feels like it's 40 acres and I don't know what to do with all the space.

    Especially if your drivers are mostly walking you shouldn't have any problems with the smaller space.


    • #3
      You will want to consider using some form of pneumatic (air filled) tires on your vehicle. They ride easier over sand, normal riding footing than hard rubber tires on wood spoked wheels. Much easier pulling for the animals, so you can use them longer without tiring.

      Have not seen a Fun Bug in person, but hear good things about them. No idea how rear steering option would work.

      4 wheels versus 2 wheels is always a question. More weight in the 4 wheeler to pull, yet a shorter turning ability with the 5th wheel turn plate, better stability, weight carrying ability. Interesting how they can turn with their full fifth wheel, in a smaller radius than a 2 wheeler, in most cases. While the 2 wheeler pluses are light weight, cheaper, can't fold to tip without a hinge in their one-piece length. Marathon shafts do allow easier horse bending, but may be quite heavy on the saddle if cart is not well balanced. One local facility has two 4 wheelers, both wheelchair accessible for their programs. No 2 wheelers.

      Have you contacted Driving For The Disabled? They might better be able to answer your questions, steer you in vehicle choices. Perhaps even locate a used vehicle to buy!


      • #4
        If it is just a matter of manuverability carriage (four wheels) with a 5th wheel will always be more maneuverable than a cart. I have one very small arena (75x85') and I am actually more confortable driving the *DRAFT TEAM!* with their carriage than my Fjord with her cart. That bending point makes all the difference.


        • #5
          Mine is approx 70M long and about 32M at the widest to under 30M at its narrowest (designed to have a 20x60 dressage arena with room to ride around the perimeter). I have a marathon carriage so turns are easier, but I feel like I'm always on a bend or only have about 3 seconds of lengthening on a diagonal before the next corner comes up (most of the arena is hard packed enough to work quite well with regular wheels once we get into winter weather, with the exception of the bottom narrow end, so my effective length is closer to 60M driving).

          Sometimes the extra work on change of bend with change of direction is awesome, sometimes I have to work on straightening out of a turn because the way too smart for his own good fjord figured out to change his bend in anticipation of the upcoming turn! It would probably be overall Not Good if it was 100% of my drive time, but I can also get out into larger areas and on the road (depends on the time of day) so we have opportunities to practice straightness and turns into long straightaways.
          Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.