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Teaching to pull a sleigh

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  • Teaching to pull a sleigh

    I have 2 OTTBs that I event with. Last year we had a ton of snow and the idea to have them pull a sleigh came to mind. This year the thought came to mind again when I saw a fake horse hooked to a sleigh. How hard is it to train to pull a sleigh?
    If at first you don't succeed, get back on the horse and try it again!

  • #2
    We hitched up an old tyre to our pony. Took her no time to get the hang of getting it started, with a slight left-right tug. Kids then sat on the tyre. But she was an older wise pony, not a TB eventer, so my system will make you think we are hokey! It is like driving on long lines.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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    • #3
      Not any different than teaching a horse to pull any vehicle.

      What is different is teaching the driver how to drive in snow vs dry conditions. It's a whole different mindset when one has runners underneath them vs. wheels.

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      • #4
        The rodeo chuckwagon teams that compete places like the Calgary Stampede are all OTTB. Now of course they are also running full blast and happy to do so. But they are clearly harness broke!

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        • #5
          It all depends on how many resources you want to put into it, and how much risk you're willing to take.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by kande04 View Post
            It all depends on how many resources you want to put into it, and how much risk you're willing to take.
            ^
            THIS!


            Even if your horses are used to being longlined, pulling weight is a whole different ballgame.
            Find someone who drives & let them do the training if you have never taught one to drive.

            gothedistance is right. Driving on runners is different - driver has to keep in mind snow depth & changes from deep to icy to bare ground.
            For me, not so much that learning curve, but the fact that when it is cold enough to have snow on the ground, whizzing along in a sleigh at some 5-10mph is too darn cold!
            Froze my butt off on our last Club drive in November, sunny day in the 40s, but the WIND!
            Pics from that drive show a lot of faces with eyes only visible under hats pulled down & tied-shut hoodies!
            *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

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post

              ^
              THIS!


              Even if your horses are used to being longlined, pulling weight is a whole different ballgame.
              Find someone who drives & let them do the training if you have never taught one to drive.

              gothedistance is right. Driving on runners is different - driver has to keep in mind snow depth & changes from deep to icy to bare ground.
              For me, not so much that learning curve, but the fact that when it is cold enough to have snow on the ground, whizzing along in a sleigh at some 5-10mph is too darn cold!
              Froze my butt off on our last Club drive in November, sunny day in the 40s, but the WIND!
              Pics from that drive show a lot of faces with eyes only visible under hats pulled down & tied-shut hoodies!
              The cold doesn't bother me. I have snowmobile gear that's kept me warm in -20'F running up to 100+ MPH.

              So enlighten me as to the resourses involved in this please. I know nothing of driving
              If at first you don't succeed, get back on the horse and try it again!

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              • #8
                My uncle's carriage horses picked it up pretty quick but they were already driving. He usually started a green horse hitched next to an experienced one. The gray is a Shagya Arab!
                http://trainingcupid.blogspot.com/

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                • #9
                  Hitching to a sleigh with runners will require horse to step left one step, then 2 steps right, to "break the runners loose" EVERY START. Metal runners create friction, momentarily thawing snow on road surface. Runners actually slide forward on the layer of water for the gliding ride. That melted water freezes hard about as quick as you stop moving. Runners then freeze to the ground. This makes it hard to just walk off again when starting. With our light wheeled vehicles, few horses are used to resistance of their load when starting, can be VERY surprised when things do not move forward. I have seen a number of horses rear trying to start a frozen down sleigh!

                  The side step breaks the runner ice free again to leave without horse acting badly. So always have horse step sideways a step left, 2 steps right, then walk forward.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Horseman15 View Post
                    So enlighten me as to the resourses involved in this please. I know nothing of driving
                    Then your hands-down BEST resource will be an experienced driver.
                    Even if you have ridden for decades (as I had) Driving is a total 180 from sitting on one.

                    *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

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Horseman15 View Post

                      The cold doesn't bother me. I have snowmobile gear that's kept me warm in -20'F running up to 100+ MPH.

                      So enlighten me as to the resourses involved in this please. I know nothing of driving
                      While I enlighten you in how to get yourself and your horse up to speed to actually do some sleighing, you can enjoy a video I took of one of our ponies out for a sleigh ride. https://vimeo.com/8300445. Another one across the countryside https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AOwb6jWlyVE . I have others on tape, just never uploaded them to a public platform.

                      Now to the enlightening part:

                      Cold is the least of your concerns. If you know nothing of driving, and your horse knows nothing of driving, then your "resources" should be a series of lessons with an accomplished driving instructor AND a driving trainer for your horse. That should take...oh...about 3 or more months with weekly instruction for you (especially harnessing lessons) and daily for the horse. They will coach you on buying the correct harness for your horse.

                      Then you need to find and purchase an appropriate (useable and safe) sleigh with all the necessary parts. You would need a qualified carriage person who knows sleighs to look over your proposed purchase to make sure the struts aren't rotted, nor are the floorboards, the curl, or any metal pieces (which is highly probable since sleighs tend to be in the range of well over 100 years old). You will need to acclimate your sleigh out in the cold for at least 1 hour for the metal runners to become cold enough to slide over the snow without binding, or cover the bottom of the runners with ski wax designed for downhill skis (the type people wear for skiing slopes).

                      THEN (most important of all) you will need the CORRECT type of snow for sleighing. It has to be cold, dry "fast" snow, about 3-4" in depth. The ground also needs to be very very cold, not wet or soggy. It needs to support the sleigh and the narrow runners, and not allow either to sink down below the level of snow. If you try to sleigh in wet snow, it will be a disaster. Your sleigh won't move except by brute force and your runners will catch if you try to turn, ending up with your sleigh tipping over. Too deep of snow won't allow you to turn, either. To sleigh requires the correct depth of snow , and cold fast dry snow. This is why, back in the good old days, the snow covered roads would be rolled with big rollers pulled by teams of draft horses to flatten the snow for sleighs.

                      YOU WILL ALSO need appropriate footwear for your horse to prevent it from sliding on the slick ground, to prevent snowballs forming in the foot (very dangerous for the horse), and for traction for going up or down slopes. There are specialized pads (called snowball pads) for shod horses that prevent the snowballs, and borium can be used as "studs", or caulks (drill in or screw in - such as those used for foxhunting). Snow is treacherous, and a horse slipping and sliding because it doesn't have traction is both scary and dangerous.

                      Once you have all the above elements in place- trained horse, trained driver, proper sleigh and harness, correct snow - well, then you can put it all together and have a blast.

                      BTW - The sleigh in the video was made in Watertown, N.Y. in the 1880s (+/-130 years ago), completely restored in the 1980s (costing about $1,500 plus purchase price of $500). Pony (aged) was very experienced in pairs and singles driving, as well as being a kids foxhunting pony. Easily 30 years before this video I had a 16h OTT thoroughbred I drove to this sleigh who was a gentle sweetheart (Lord rest his dear soul). I have a video of a foxhunting neighbor and I sleighing with him for 9 miles way back in 1988. Over lightly plowed, tamped down snowy roads and open fields. I let her drive (terrified her at first and then she was in heaven) while I videotaped with one of those huge shoulder cameras they had back then. Someday I'll get that film out and transfer it to digital.

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                      • #12
                        gothedistance Great vids!
                        You are a hardier soul than I!
                        My single sleighride experience was with a friend who wanted to sell her sleigh - after a single season & 1 use.
                        Brand new sleigh, but even here in the Midwest, snow conditions were rarely good for sleighing.

                        Sigh... My Carriage Club is doing a Driving demo in December at a nearby Military school with an equine program.
                        H-U-G-E indoor, so we will be out of the cold.
                        My assignment is Pleasure Turnout.
                        At least wearing all the clothes (me) will be a nice change from Summer when we sweat beneath apron, jacket, hat & gloves.
                        But mini is - if possible - even fuzzier than your Andy & I fear the nice leather show harness is going to be all but invisible beneath the floof.
                        I may neaten him up a touch - trim goathairs & fetlocks - and perhaps putting a blanket on a couple days beforehand will help flatten the hair a bit.
                        *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

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Blanketing will certainly help, especially if you can get one with a neck piece! So will leg wraps to keep the leg fuzzies down. Have fun!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My first thought is when you say "pull a sleigh" are you referring to a vehicle with runners instead of wheels or more like a bobsled for kicks? A full on vehicle with will take much more work than a sled.

                            The first steps include long lining and a good deal of time you pulling the object around to get the horse used to the sound of it moving against the ground. Then teaching the horse to push into pressure followed by it finally being (loosely with a quick release!) attached to the object to be pulled and building from there.

                            Anything with a low line of draft (passing at or below the hocks) I would highly recommend collar and hames. A high line of draft (horizontal across the horse's body) a breastcollar is fine.

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