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Older pole/pipe cart - worth for entry-level driving?

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  • Older pole/pipe cart - worth for entry-level driving?

    I have a few newbie questions, I'd love to run by more experienced people! Background context: I've grown up with horses, and done pony club, etc, but I've mainly ridden. I had a cool opportunity as a teenager to drive a woman's standardbred for her, so she took me to driving lessons for about a year. I have also taken long lining classes as part of ground work training for my riding horses. Later, in college, I worked at a commercial tourist carriage barn, where I drove the horses for about a year as well.

    So I have a lot of horse knowledge but only a rudimentary memory of driving. Now, I have a large pony I picked up from a local auction, a friend and I went in halfsies on him. Since then, my friend has been diagnosed with some health problems that are making riding hard for her, and I really want to find a way for her to continue to be involved with our pony because it makes her happy. The pony is an older solid citizen type, and I would be willing to bet he came off of an amish farm and has some driving training.

    My neighbor is selling an older, VERY simple pole cart (sorry if that's not the right term?) and a harness that fit a large pony around our guy's size. She only wants a couple hundred for it, everything is in good working order and been taken care of, it's just very basic and simple and older.

    Would it be dumb of me to purchase the cart and the harness? Is there anything I should consider or may be overlooking?

    Also, if I do get the cart, does anyone have any good recommendations for resources in the EPA region? Would be interested in knowing how easy the cart would be to get repaired or serviced if it needed it; as well as a driving instructor?

  • #2
    No idea where the EPA region is located, so can't help there. Try the harness on the pony to check for fit. In a perfect world the buckle should fall in the center hole. If you are already on the tightest hole or the last hole, you can't do any adjusting. Few animals can be fit well using a cheap box harness. Next step is checking for a "tree" in the saddle of harness. Try bending the saddle, holding it under the rein rings. Should get very little flex if it has a tree. If you can easily fold the saddle you have buggy harness, only suitable for a 4-wheel vehicle that puts no weight on the pony back. No tree? Pass on the harness, even if the rest of harness fits well. With a 2-wheeled cart you will have a lot of shaft weight that pony is holding up, so the saddle tree keeps that weight off the bony spine, same as a riding saddle.

    As for the cart, does it have shafts (2) or a single pole sticking out the front? It sounds like this is a cart made of pipe. Many pipe carts are built too lightly, thin tubing that bends easily. Shaft that go on each side of pony may have been adjusted to fit by bending pipes in or out. This causes metal fatigue, to the point where a shaft may just snap off! They are often sold too small for the animal, getting him too close to the vehicle so he can hit it with a hoof. THEN things get exciting with a green driving animal!! What kind of wheels does it have? There are good and bad wheels, which can look very similar.

    Probably it would be best if you can photograph the harness on the pony, get front, side, rear and bridle fit. Also cart pictures, side, front, rear, closeups of paint, seat, wheels. Measure height of level shafts from the ground, wheel size, seat height. Pictures will help us help you better than trying to describe things we are not sure of.


    • #3
      If EPA means Eastern Pennsylvania then look around Lancaster, PA. There is a well known Amish community in the area with several harness and carriage shops.


      • #4
        Does the cart have wire wheels? If so, run away.

        "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


        • #5
          most likely the leather is dry rotted. Post pics to get a better idea.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks for your help, all! It is sounding like this may be a bit over my head as a beginner, but I've attached a picture of the ad (it's just a crappy photo I took with my phone of the print out of it I saw.) I suspect the harness itself is in good condition, but the cart would probably need some work. I have a sneaking suspicion it may be too big, as well. I also attached a picture of my pony in question - he's a small stout guy, about 14.2. The ad states the shafts are 80" which i believe are more suited to a horse?

            Since the cart and harness together are only around $200, I wouldn't mind investing more in it, such as a new harness that fits the pony, or new tires, and pads for the seat and harness. I more just want to make sure it won't hurt him, even if I got work done on it.

            Any further thoughts would be very appreciated!!!


            • #7
              here's a link to measurements, it does indeed sound like a very large cart


              This is one of those "doesn't pass the sniff test" moments as regards price. A new good quality, but by no means top of the line marathon harness costs about $1300. Now that harness has some features that should make it more expensive than an entry level pleasure harness, but not that much more. So a cart and harness for $200 should make you wonder how good a condition or even semi-durable it is.

              My frame of reference is limited to Marathon harness/vehicles recently acquired, 15-20 years ago: early phase beta harness+meadowbrook and a very long time ago (cough cough 70's), pipe carts and inexpensive harnesses.

              All I will say about that pipe cart era was that the harness broke every time it was even remotely stressed and (this comes from direct experience) you absolutely MUST check those bolts holding the shafts on because if (when, really) they shear off, it is very very hard to stop your pony since every time you pull on the reins, the entire basket runs up his hind end. You might actually need a fellow driver to toss his reins to his wife and dive out of his carriage to pull a steer header moment on your terrified pony. Ah the 70's. Fun times. Fun times.
              Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


              • #8
                IIWM, I'd pass on the Too Good To Be True deal.

                Harness alone might be worth that price IF all leather, hardware & stitching are in good shape.
                Anything that has dryrot or corrosion is a huge safety issue - remember: harness is what will connect your pony to the vehicle!

                The cart itself could be a liability as DMK suggests.
                At the very least you would need heavier-duty wheels. A suitable pair could easily run the $200 or more.
                The very least speck of rust would be a huge red flag to me.

                New biothane mini-sized harness runs $200 & up.Metal EZ-Entry carts start at $300+
                But for safety's sake the $500+ outlay is worth Every.Single.Penny.

                Lastly, regarding your friend's health:
                Driving is most definitely NOT safer than riding.

                Think: you have only your voice & hands to control the pony.
                Find a trainer who can work with all of you - pony, friend & yourself.
                Pro can evaluate the pony for (as the Amish say here) Traffic Safe & Sound & suitability for an inexperienced Driver.
                If pony passes those tests, then Pro can work with you & friend to get you safely started.

                I still consider myself a Newb after 5yrs of driving, last 2 with my own mini.
                Before that I had ridden - H/J, Eventing & Dressage - for some 30+yrs.
                Prior to getting him, I drove a trainer's bombproof pony & then a friend's < also worth his weight in uranium.
                Being at the lines is a Whole Nother Ballgame.
                I once asked a BN clinician how to stop a runaway - telling her I felt capable of doing so from the saddle,
                Her advice: "Aim for something solid"

                DMK your "fellow driver" example reminded me of something I witnessed in Amish Country near me.
                Driving along I noticed an Amish buggy with a pair of Morgan-looking horses.
                Odd in itself as Amish generally drive single horses.
                They were going at a nice clip...
                Then I saw a woman was at the lines & her husband was running alongside!
                So, apparently this pair had not passed the TS&S Test yet
                *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