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Getting Started...

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  • Getting Started...

    Growing up, I had a Quarter Horse/Morgan pony mare that we drove everywhere. She wasn't ever broke or started to the cart...being dumb kids we just hooked her up and took her out for a drive one day and thank goodness, the pony (bless her heart) took to it and loved it.

    Here I am as an adult with a very similar, young Quarter Horse mare that I'd love to start driving. She's 4, broke to ride, about 15 hands, 1100 pounds, and very gentle and quiet. She ground drives wonderfully, responds to voice cues, and has been my cow pony for the last year on our working ranch. I would love to get a four-wheeled cart and train her to drive. However, I'm not entirely sure if this financially feasible or where to start. We have a bunch of Amish in our area that I figured to ask for some pointers on getting a horse broke to drive, but I doubt they give their horses the chance to learn (like I know I didn't as a youngster with my darling pony) that I'd love to give this mare. So, any suggestions on where to get some guidance on where to get started?

    Also, where to look for low priced cart and harnesses? We have 6 miles of dirt road that's somewhat rocky and uneven between our hay fields and pastures, but should be safe to drive a horse down, just wondering what kind of rig would be best for this type of driving and where to start looking?

    Thank you!

    A picture of my sweet mare as a 3-year-old
    "...through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
    Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings." William Shakespeare

  • #2
    I am way over on the other side of the country, but there is a poster that is somewhere in Az that just started driving her pony. The poster's name is slipping me right now, but I do remember reading that she had some great resources close to her.

    Perhaps edit your title to add your state and she will see it and chime in.

    And I love the photo, the water looks so refreshing!


    • Original Poster

      Thank you! That's a good idea, I'll add my location. However, I'm actually located in MT now, need to update my information.
      "...through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
      Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings." William Shakespeare


      • #4
        Get all notion out of your head of doing this cheaply. Cheap equipment more often then not is poorly constructed or fits poorly.

        Spend as much on a harness as you would on a saddle. Price compared to quality is very similar.

        You can get a new 2 wheeled cart that would be safe for arena use and groomed flat trails for $800. I would be very suspicious of a new cart that cost less than that, the wheels alone cost $200-$400 EACH. 4 wheeled vehicles will be more expensive, but also more suitable for rougher use. Watch for used vehicle on carriage driving sites and forums, but be ready to spend upwards of $1000 for a 4 wheeled vehicle suitable for semi-offroad use.

        Finding a trainer that has their own equipment to break the horse to drive is what I would recommend. If the horse takes to driving then worry about investing in your own equipment. Remember Amish people are just that, people! Just because someone drives a horse does not make them a horse trainer any more than someone who rides a horse is a horse trainer. So please evaluate your horse trainer as a person on their skills.


        • #5
          Always a good idea to contact a local driving club for training resources and potential for used equipment. You can find clubs through www.Americandrivingsociety.org

          Renae had some good info in her post. In particular evaluating any trainers for their horsemanship.

          I don't know where you are in Montana, but Alex and Kayo Fraser are sources of info in Deer Lodge if that's near you. They have been around a while and I haven't heard anything negative.

          If you are going with a 4 wheel, a cut under vehicle (the body has a space for the front wheels to turn under the carriage) gives you a better turning radius.


          • #6
            The Fraser School of Driving is in Deer Lodge...I have heard good things about them. Like you , I had a very kind, forgiving qh as a kid. We also had a training cart and a harness....now I'm amazed how much I didn't know and I am very grateful for my pony (who puts up with me) and the local driving folks (who are amazingly helpful, put on fantastic clinics and truly are the way eventing people were back in the day). Anyway, I highly recommend seeking out local drive rs for help finding a good trainer.


            • #7
              While it is true that driving tends to be an expensive discipline, that doesn't mean that you have to buy the most expensive harness and rig to be safe.

              I agree with holding off on purchases until you have found a trainer or driving mentor. Another good reason is that an experienced driver/trainer may know of quality used equipment available and would certainly be able to judge what is a good, safe buy and what is a waste of money (or potentially deadly). There are some horrendous setups available on Craigslist and Ebay, so please don't buy anything new or used without a knowledgeable second opinion.
              They're not miniatures, they're concentrates.

              Born tongue-in-cheek and foot-in-mouth


              • #8
                Sweet- I wouldn't just make assumptions about how an Amish trainer would operate- there are many different types of horse trainers even within the Amish community and you simply can't know untill you check it out.

                I had my ponies trained by an Amish man who is a fan of John Lyons (gentle). He round penned them, they had lots of sacking out, were trained to drive with open bridles and singly- before they were eventually hitched as a pair. We did have some unexpected issues with the mare and we had lots of in depth conversations about it and how to proceed- he was an incredibly open communicator and not arrogant or opinionated about hearing my thoughts and I feel like together we were working through a problem- it wasn't like "shut up and let me be the expert" nor was it "you behave missy mare or you will regret it!" nor was it, "I'll nod my head at you and do it my way when you go home."

                Shortly after my ponies came home from the trainer I became pregnant and didn't want to risk working with such green ponies while pregnant- they did nothing for a year and when I got back to them their training was right there like we had left off yesterday.

                When shopping for a vehicle- remember a cart has 2 wheels- so if you ask for a cart- you won't be offered stuff with 4 wheels. A 2 wheel cart is usually the starter vehicle for a green horse- they are lighter to pull and more maneuverable if the horse gets into trouble- it's less likely to turn into a big wreck. But a 4 wheel vehicle is usually a much more comfortable ride once your horse is going well.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by susanne View Post
                  While it is true that driving tends to be an expensive discipline, that doesn't mean that you have to buy the most expensive harness and rig to be safe.
                  I agree. I'm a newcomer to driving. Only been doing it for a while. I chose the safest well made nylon harness I could find because that's all I can afford at the moment, and I'm pretty happy with it, and it's enabling me to continue to drive, while allowing me to slowly save up for a beta-biothane harness. My cart's nothing special either, but I'm just bumming around right now, getting the experience in an EE training cart.

                  If I had to wait till I could afford the most expensive harness and rig, I probably would still be on the ground. It's like getting a Wintec saddle, if all you want to do is trail ride or get your feet wet in a discipline, it's better to get something sturdy and safe, but not necessarily the best of the best.

                  But do talk to a trainer or a mentor, I agree. Let them help.
                  "My time here is ended. Take what I have taught you and use it well." -- Revan


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you all for the input, as with any discipline, I will be sure to seek out someone for help.

                    I'm curious to know what kind of rig you would suggest looking into for starters? I'm well aware of the cost of safe, quality tack and doing any equestrian sport safely. When I say affordably, I'm not talking a couple hundred dollar rig off of Craigslist, but I'm also not ever going to put out enormous amounts of money for a brand new, fancy rig. Just want something safe and solid, that I can take out on our dirt roads.
                    "...through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
                    Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings." William Shakespeare


                    • #11
                      For what you want to do, get started, there are some things to look at in buying a harness, and a 2-wheel cart.

                      The harness saddle should have a tree in it, which prevents any pressure on horse spine, like a good saddle. Saddle of the harness should be wider, 4", for use with a 2-wheel cart. Straps should be wider, not refined as seen in the QH show ring. You need a harness with breeching, the wide strap going around her rump, which acts as a braking system for halting the vehicle. Reins should be longer than length of the horse, so you can sit comfortably in the vehicle with extra length behind your hands to not lose hold easily. You will want a wide breastcollar strap, probably with a V shape for QH with low set windpipe. Easier to pull into a wide strap than a narrow one that digs in.

                      Bridle doesn't need a check rein to hold her head up, which is a common feature on less expensive harness. Most check reins do not allow a horse to relax, hold head with neck level or even below her chest, should horse have a heavy load to pull. Check rein will NOT prevent her from kicking, so it is not a safety feature either, which a lot of people think it is.

                      An additional piece of equipment recommended for beginner horses, is a kicking strap that goes across the hips or croup, down to the shafts and DOES aid in preventing kicking. This strap is sold as an option, you have to buy it separtely from a harness seller or harness maker. With the kicking strap in place, horse has to pick up the WHOLE vehicle weight, which is very discouraging to the horse. Often nips any kind of kicking before it can happen, so you may not even notice an issue with your horse. Benefits of no hooves flying by your head are GREAT. Here are a couple photos of a kicking strap in place on a young horse.



                      You will want some kind of 2-wheel vehicle to start your animal. They are MUCH less likely to get a new animal in trouble because they go forward and backward right behind the animal. A 4-wheel vehicle has the hinge with front axle, and can jack-knife if backed fast, crooked, so it can turn over easily. 4-wheels are for more experienced animals in Driving, after a good training time in 2-wheels. As you develop driving skills, you have a lot less to deal with using 2-wheels than using a 4-wheeler.

                      Your 2-wheel vehicle should have little weight on the shafts where they go thru the loops on horse saddle. This weight can change GREATLY with movement of the people in the vehicle, going uphill or downhill. But for riding along on flat surfaces, you want the shaft weight light on your horse, not as tiring or hard for them to manage. Shafts should ride level in the loops on saddle, not up or down if the vehicle is the correct size. As a Driver, I prefer the seat high enough to see over my horse's back when we drive. This lets me see ahead for traffic or things in the road to deal with. Having to lean sideways to see around horse gets VERY tiring during a drive.

                      The most inexpensive carts (carts are 2-wheelers ALWAYS) have usually got lightweight bicycle tires and spokes. These kind of wheels do not take much to lose their air, bend sideways, because they are not designed for sideways force that Driving gives them. They are most suitable to groomed conditions of an arena, level ground. I do not suggest buying a vehicle that has these kinds of tires, they don't hold up to stress.

                      I would suggest you get hold of some local Driving Club members through the ADS site above, find out when meetings or activities are going to happen. They can also be helpful in finding suitable equipment that is used, less expensive than new. Maybe help you learn how to size your animal, so you buy correctly fitting harness and a cart with examples of animals you can look at.