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Driving a "challenging" welsh cob-is it safe?

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  • Driving a "challenging" welsh cob-is it safe?

    I suppose if I have to ask if its safe in a driving thread, the answer by default should be no?

    Right now Ive been teaching my 9 yo TB to drive. He is lazy, stoic, clever and when uncertain what to do, just stops and stands still and waits for you to help him, no bolting and reactivity, just pretty chill-so seemingly a reasonable horse to teach to drive. We have done long lining, harness wearing and he just started pulling a drag around and seems quite intrigued by everything and is very agreeable.

    The other horse I have is an 18 yo welsh pony/cob cross. She is not fearful, but is a fiery hellion to the other horses. She was given to me for free as she is ruined under saddle and wouldnt take for breeding. But she is a beautiful mover.

    In hand, her stable manners are good. Initially she actually seemed fearful of me, like she was waiting on me to smack her, but that abated quickly. While lunging, she tosses her head around like a little stallion and puts on quite the show, but listens well once corrected. She responds best to direct, but subtle, refined, precise correction. She can be resistant a bit, but has never shown any sign of aggression to humans, even when I had to treat a large cut she got and hoof abcesses.

    Working with her, She initially would act out, then tense up in fear. My assumption and from learning a bit about the previous rider, is that she is by nature a challenging, strong willed very dominant animal who will test you. The previous rider was a rather dramatic person, who then would respond in an overly loud, aggressive way to correct the mare, then hold a grudge. The mare, by nature, would continue to challenge her, and things would escalate. Eventually she was used as a riding school pony but was so bad, she was put to pasture.

    Ive tried her under saddle a few times and she has every possible method to prevent being ridden-its a very predictable catalog of evasive techniques. Balking, cow hops, not standing still etc. Each can be overcome, and we work through them, but what is most obvious is that she HATES the idea of being ridden. Her tail lashes frantically each time she is mounted and she becomes very apprehensive and unhappy. I figure 18 years of being ridden badly likely is the cause as a vet previously owned her and didnt call out health issues.

    I know the general rule is that driving should not be the solution for the horse that cant be ridden, but my thought was that maybe she just needs to try something that hasnt made her miserable in the past. She is calm, energetic, bold, smart, sensitive and responsive, as well as challenging and willful. She is not bolty, fearful, doesnt shy, listens well once corrected, and is not aggressive or ugly to people. Oddly-she wants to be good, once she understands what good is and responds well to subtle praise.

    Red flags, concerns, suggestions about training her to drive?

  • #2
    Only you know her. If you're going to try, ground drive her in a safe enclosure. If you cannot install a real whoa, there's your answer.


    • #3
      I agree with TMares. You know her best and know what she is or isnt capable of.

      I have had ponies who would not drive but were great riding ponies, so I can't see why it couldn't be the other way around. Perhaps driving is more of her calling, but you won't know until you start with the basics with her.

      Start the long lining, instil a good whoa, long line her all over the place so she sees everything and see how she reacts in different situations.

      Then start with a tire and go from there. Good luck with your mare! I've had cobs before and I just love the breed but some can be challenging, thats for sure!


      • #4
        When things go wrong in driving, they can often go spectacularly, dangerously wrong. I agree with TMares. Try ground-driving in a safe enclosure first, if you're going to try. Make absolutely sure that she has a whoa and a stand before you even think about hitching her to a vehicle. Don't be afraid to ask a pro for help.


        • #5
          I'm not sure i would make her into a driving horse. I assume you would need a different cart and harness for her compared with the TB due to size differences. If it were me, i would probably try to teach her to pony off another horse on trails and hope she would be happy outside an arena.

          ​​​​​It probably would not hurt to spend several months ground driving and working with her. When she stops being dramatic, i might try it. If nothing else the ground work should improve her manners.


          • #6
            IME Welsh are sensitive souls who like their person, their place, and respond well to interesting challenges once they trust their person. Give it a whirl, take your time, observe closely. They traditionally are driving ponies.
            "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


            • #7
              I had a pony that was hell to ride. My daughter gave up on him right around the time that I was facing having to retire my Hackney driving pony. So we decided to try training my daughter's pony to drive. It took him a little while to understand ground driving, but once he got it, he was great. He seemed to enjoy the training process (which was weird, because he had no work ethic at all) and he became my solid, relaxed, wonderful driving pony. I drove him for a lot of years, and then retired him when he started losing his sight to cataracts. He lived for about three years after that in happy retirement.

              It was interesting that he had no whoa at all when ridden but was rock solid driving. Just a spoken whoa would get him standing perfectly still and waiting for what was next. I suspect he either had back issues or had been badly treated while being ridden. He was about 13 years old when we got him, and we had no idea what his past life had been like.



              • #8
                I say give it a shot. Do lots of ground driving first. The thing that scares the most green driving horses is the sound of something scraping along behind them. I've seen some horses flip out at pulling tires for that reason. It's hard to stop a frightened horse running from the tire because it's too light to slow them down. So stay relaxed but alert if you go that route.

                If you happen to have a farm forecart like a Pioneer, a trick that some people swear by is to hook something very heavy behind it the first couple times you drive the horse. You want something heavy enough that the horse won't want to expend the effort to run away but not so heavy that he's discouraged from even trying to pull. For full sized draft horses, a pickup truck is what a lot of people will use.


                • #9
                  I would try it. As someone currently taking a horse from driving to riding because of safety issues (he deliberately kicks, much safer to deal with that under saddle) be prepared for some of the same behaviours to pop up. The balking in particular might be an issue. So I agree with the more experienced people on this thread, a lot of patient ground driving!