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How to pick a starter cart

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  • How to pick a starter cart

    I am thinking about pursuing driving. How did you pick an affordable, yet safe cart for your horse. At this point, said horse has not been driven. I have a place to get a harness from, but will be on a budget looking for affordable gear.

  • #2
    You may want to work with a driving trainer, use their equipment to find out if your prospect actually will drive. A harness that fits can be inexpensive, yet still safe and usable. Both leather and synthetic harness can work well for you. Safe carts come at a higher price, which you may want to wait on purchasing until horse is actually driving. By then I would expect you have more cart knowledge, the help of trainer, to find a cart (2-wheels) to purchase. If you enjoy driving, spend time with your green horse to improve his training, your handling skills. He needs to stand well for long times, obey your voice and rein directions, back easily in a controlled fashion, to move out of the "green" stage. He has to be reliable and obedient in various situations with his cart. You might then consider moving up to 4-wheels.

    I like Road Carts, which sit up higher to see ahead of the horse, not any leaning sideways to see forward! Carts do need some width to the wheels for stability, more than most 4-Wheeler will track. Easy entry refers to having an open space to reach the seat when getting in from the side. No shaft to step over in the design. Split seats lift to the side, allowing entry from the rear of cart. Some carts have steps to help you step up. You can also add a step if you want, to make it easier getting in. I like leaf springs for a comfortable ride and a cushoned seat. Also a seatback to support my back. It is very tiring to drive without back support.

    Both wooden carts and modern styled metal carts with metal spoked wheels can both be good choices to start with. There are always used vehicles for sale, for various prices. Finding a local driving club in your area will help you connect with other drivers for Clinics and items for sale, fun driving activities. The harness you need for a cart SHOULD have a tree in the saddle part to protect the horse's back from shaft weight. Ask about a tree if you are buying new harness or try folding the saddle if buying used harness. Saddle should stay stiff like a riding saddle, not fold at all. Saddle should also be wide, 4", to spread shaft weight out on a larger surface of his back. Narrow saddles are for 4-wheelers, with minimal, independent shaft weight on the horse.

    Movable seats allow adjusting to aid cart balance. However you probably won't find that feature on basic carts.

    Shafts for carts usually should be level on the animal sides, with tips ending at the point of shoulder. Tips pointing up or down may need harness adjustment or actually be too high or low, making the vehicle the wrong size for this animal. Animal should be far enough ahead so he can't reach the cart body to hit it or a wheel at his most extended gait.


    • #3
      goodhors has pretty much outlined everything you need to know.

      I'll just add my vote for synthetic harness.
      Why spend time cleaning leather until you're committed to the sport.
      And, for safety's sake, you do need to clean leather after every use.
      Synthetic can be wiped clean easily & even hosed off.
      Rated ADS shows now sanction synthetic harness.

      Stainless fittings mean no polishing brass.
      I avoid Conway buckles as my aged fingers fumble with them longer than my patience allows.

      If you plan on showing your cart should have the heavier metal-spoked wheels, not the motorcycle type. Those are fine for trails & roads*, but usually not allowed for show, unless a Utility class is offered. Local non-rated shows may allow.
      Pneumatic gives you a softer ride, but no-flats mean... well, no flat tires.

      *I know a lot of Drivers caution against the bike tires, but mine have held up to miles of roads & trails over the last 3yrs.
      *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


      • #4
        Beta (synthetic) harness all day long! (I like my yonies, and the general advice I have heard in the deep south is Zilco isn't wonderful... which is odd, being an Aussie company, but it may be the humidity)

        Personally I would invest initially with someone who starts horses to drive, because they have the sort of equipment you need, and it's a given that a horse tearing up their equipment is part of the game...

        Then if you both take to driving, I would invest in a 4 wheel carriage if at all possible. I see a fair number of pleasure type vehicles for sale, and Peter at A-Z Driving (Central FL) brings in used ones from the Netherlands regularly and they are very budget friendly. Either way, join the fb pages, carriage driving classifieds and carriage driving equipment are the two I follow. That will give you a good idea of what is out there and how much it costs.
        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


        • #5
          Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
          If you plan on showing your cart should have the heavier metal-spoked wheels, not the motorcycle type. Those are fine for trails & roads*, but usually not allowed for show, unless a Utility class is offered. Local non-rated shows may allow.
          Pneumatic gives you a softer ride, but no-flats mean... well, no flat tires.

          *I know a lot of Drivers caution against the bike tires, but mine have held up to miles of roads & trails over the last 3yrs.
          I take it you haven't had a bike tire warp on you yet. I would strongly advise against bicycle spoked tires. I have had them warp and we didn't notice the day of, but definitely felt it and saw it the next drive! It wasn't a catastrophic failure, but it was still a failure.

          If you are buying new I would avoid anything under $1k and if it is larger than mini size I would be wary of anything under $1500 new. Used vehicles vary and sometimes you can snatch up a really good deal (I've seen good carts go for $500 used).

          I would save up for a cart until you are reasonably positive your equine will drive. To me this means that they are comfortable dragging a tire and false shafts around (not necessarily at the same time) at a walk and trot, canter would be nice too, but not absolutely necessary. The horse should also be comfortable with and understand the basic voice, whip, and rein aids and have an excellent "whoa" and "stand." Once all that is met then you can search for a cart in earnest.

          I do recommend two wheels for the first year in harness. Hard rubber or pneumatics can go either way. Pneumatics offer a slightly softer ride, but they can get flat. If you do foam inserts you are then flat proof, but you lose some of the cushion. As a desert dweller with pokey plants abounding (cacti and trees and shrubs and weeds!) I stay away from the pneumatics (except on our forecart that uses car tires).

          Mentioned above I would avoid small spokes. Metal or wood are good so long as nothing is rusting through or rotted respectively. A welding inclined friend might be able to help assess the soundness of a metal cart. Checking welds for cracks, assessing the thickness of the metal. I recently worked with a client's cart that was not made of thick enough metal and you could feel it give under weight as you stepped into it (you can have someone hold the shafts as you step in and out).

          I would also look at something that has shock absorbtion and not just for my butt, I want my horse to be protected from dips and bumps as well! I have seen some elaborate shocks for the driver's seat on some vehicles, but nothing offered for the poor horse as it gets bumped and jostled by the shafts.

          Short version with bullet points
          *Be sure your horse is right ready to hook before you go shopping
          *Get something STURDY and well-made
          *Look used first, save for new as you look if necessary
          *Shock absorption is good for both you and the horse!


          • #6
            Just want to say...excellent advice!


            • #7
              Second the above advice.