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Driving FAQs -- copy, link, add useful info here!

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  • #21

    The main thing to appreciate is that a full collar HAS to fit well. If it doesn't then friction will eventually cause the horse to jib. You must of course ensure you don't have a fixed swingletree for a full collar. I've never personally found that one full collar does a horse through it's lifetime and indeed have often found a horse needed two collars just to accommodate the difference in musculature and size between in good hard condition and well muscled and with a little more weight on as per say in winter.

    A breast collar on the other hand is much easier to fit and though of course it has to be in the right place it just doesn't touch the areas affected by a full collar. That means you can save a lot of money because you don't have spare collars just sitting on the shelf. These aren't suitable at all though if it's a heavy load because the weight tends to be localized rather than spread over the whole shoulder.

    For showing it was rare that I used anything other than a full collar. I always particularly liked a patent leather Kay full collar. Also known as the Prince of Wales collar. Because of it's shape it shows a good horse off to the greatest advantage. You really do need to have a nice light gig for that too.

    Full collars can also be difficult when you're driving a pair if britching isn't used and because they're next to the pole and if the vehicle runs forward, so can the pole and which tightens the pole straps and in turn puts pressure on the horses' necks.

    I personally never drive my pairs without britching nowadays and it's a heck of a long time since I drove using full collars too. I normally only get them out nowadays to show pupils how to fit them and what they do.


    • #22
      Cantering a horse in harness?

      Cantering a harness horse is not new. Its been done for centuries. Think Boadica's chariots! Then think coaching: it used to be called "springing" and you'd put the team to canter and for extra zoom! (think turbo charged) and likewise in the Wells Fargo days! Think of hunt followers in the early days..... Always in a carriage and often in a 2 wheeler and often at canter too.

      Some 2 wheeler carriages are indeed immensely uncomfortable at canter and that's the reason why "some" drivers seem to think that its something you don't or shouldn't do and for sure if you're showing a horse in harness you don't want it to break into a canter stride because you will be marked down for it.

      But going from that into believing that its the "norm" not to permit a harness horse to canter is merely demonstrating a lack of true understanding. Likewise checking and punishing or never permitting a horse to break into a canter seems bizarre to me.

      At the end of the day you don't canter a horse if its not adequately schooled and prepared. And a driver/rider shouldn't canter a horse if they don't know what to do and aren't in control. If the horse PLUS the driver is calm and confident in harness there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and indeed a horse than can calmly canter in harness is going to be better balanced in trot.

      Furthermore it will not compound panic, accident or anything else if something happens. No different in driving than riding. Horses don't panic more or become more predisposed to "flight and fright" mode just because they're in canter gait.

      Rather a horse should be schooled and prepared to be calm and well-behaved in as many scanarios as possible.

      Hence as part of driving training it's prudent and wise to teach the horse in controlled and safe circumstances how to canter in harness: to feel the motion of the harness and carriage when it transitions up and maintains a canter pace. Then to bring it to transition back to trot and walk and stand calmly. A canter should be a no issue for a horse and whether it's a riding or a driving horse you don't want to the horse to first experience a canter when it's say doing a few strides as part of a spook.

      Particularly so when it's a harness horse because the carriage will likely bump about and make more noise and so it's considered good practice by traditionalist or old school harness horse trainers to ensure that canter is part of training and normal experience.

      Dependent on what you intend to do you may have to train to canter. e.g. for just every day driving on VERY steep hills to make it easier on the horse/s, for advanced driven dressage tests, for obstacles in the marathon phase of Horse Driving Trials (CDE).


      • #23
        This was posted on a thread about sleighing, and I thought it would be a good idea to post it here, too, for anyone interested.....

        Sleighing can be tons of fun! What could be better than "dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh" and all the memories later of jingling bells and the whoosh of snow under the runners. If you want to experience just a touch of the fun watch this video of us sleighing. We've been sleighing for over 32 years in the Eastern US. Got to learn all the tricks...and pitfalls... in that time!

        For yourself - Dress WARM! Have a thick, warm lap robe (blanket, whatever), warm boots(!!!) warm gloves that can still let you finger the reins, close-fitting wool hat, and a friend along to enjoy the sleighing.

        Tack - see if you can purchase a set of extra long reins.

        For the pony/horse - trace clipped, set of bells (I dress the ponies in the bells before putting them to. I don't run the bells over the shafts), studs on shoes (if shod). Make sure the pony/horse fit in the shafts with plenty of room to comfortably trot an extended stride without touching the sleigh at all!! Very important!! Go ONLY at a walk or trot - no cantering unless on a straight line as the sleigh may tip if you try to canter and turn. Also the hooves will create "snowballs" which will be thrown back onto the curl (hence the reason for the height and the curving) and it can make a very loud "crack!!". Just so you know.

        For the sleigh - (first time use) good check-over to make sure the wooden struts are solid, that the metal runners are also solid, curl is solid and on tight.

        For weather conditions - that the snow is "sleigh-worthy": ie: "fast" (dry) and deep enough (at least 1-2") but not too deep (over 4") so that it will snag the runners if you try to turn too fast. Temps should hover at or below freezing. Too warm will create wet snow which will "grab" the runners and make it almost impossible to turn, even if you treat them with the commercial ski wax (which you can pick up at a ski store). You don't need to treat the runners -- any wax coating you put on will wear off too quickly anyway. Be aware, if the surface is too icy or too packed, you risk your horse/pony slipping and sliding ...even on flat surfaces. If you have to use this type of surface, try to drag at least one runner in the snow to provide some resistance.

        Terrain - as flat and as object-free as possible. Preferably a gravel road, a farm track, or a pasture. If you sleigh cross country be aware -the traditional sleigh has no springs so you will feel EVERY bump and dip under the snow.

        There is no sound of the sleigh running on the snow except a very very soft "shhhhhhhhh". The pony/horse won't even hear it with bells on, or even if not wearing bells.

        The effort to start a sleigh is minimal if it is on a patch of fast snow. The metal runners won't freeze to the ground if the temps are below freezing; the friction created by the runners going over snow don't create heat. It is simply the dead weight (full unassisted resistance) of the object that makes it appear to be difficult to start from a standstill. But in decent snow conditions, it is minimal - easy as pie for an experienced driving animal.

        In the meantime, check out your sleigh thoroughly to make sure it is sound, start conditioning your pony/horse to the bells, and get ready for some snow to get that sleigh out.....and enjoy!


        • #24
          Storing your carriage whip and whip reels.

          winfieldfarm posted an excellent question -- and received excellent responses -- regarding whip reels and storing and caring for a carriage whip.

          Here are the responses:

          You should not try to place the bow on the reel. The bow should rest an inch or so below the reel. Your whip reel should have a series of channels on it for the thong to rest. Simply wrap the thong around the reel twice, and then let the remaining thong length drop on the far side. It should stay in place.

          However, if it slips off you can cross over your thong to help hold it in place on the reel, but this also prevents you from easily removing the whip without having to handle the thong all the time.

          Here is a better suggestion:

          Take a piece of black carpet thread (it is thicker and stronger than regular sewing thread - but still virtually invisible from a few steps away) and tie it at the top of your whip shaft so that it has a little loop. If your whip reel isn't mounted on a board (stained to match the reel), do so first. Hang your whip on the reel as you naturally would, and where the top of the whip shaft with thread loop rests against the board, put a tiny finishing nail in the board. Now, when you hang the whip you can slip the thread loop onto the nail and it will ensure that your whip stays where it should, that your thong stays on the reel and won't slip, and that the whip thong is not having to hold the whip in place all on it's own.

          You should never have more than two whips on a reel. Each whip should hang on the opposite side from the other. That center third groove is to accommodate the extremely long thong from a 4-in-hand whip. Otherwise, it isn't used.

          DNJ had some great suggestions for storing a whip when not in use. She wrote:
          "What we ACTUALLY use to store whips at the barn where we board is an old milk can - tall metal canistar with a narrower top
          We probably have about a dozen various whips stuck in there upright. Also you can put 2-3 foot sections of PVC attached to the wall that you can sip a driving whip or lunge whip into to keep them upright

          To travel with a whip you can get threaded PVC and a matching threaded cap - cut to just beyound the length of the whip - the other end you can glue on a PVC cap
          They are safe and protected in the PVC pipe - We have used the 2 inch pipe but you could go bigger if you are carrying more whips"
          We use the brass carriage whip holders (the ones you have on your carriage) tacked in a nice line-up on the carriage house (inside) wall for the everyday carbon fiber whips. The holly whips, however, are kept in the house (of course!! you want them in a controlled temperature) on a full board whip reel.


          • #25
            20x40 meters.

            I learned to drive a 4 wheel cart in a indoor arena...20x40 meters.


            • #26
              Can I just ask ... why is information from a banned person still in the reference section? IMO banned = 0 credibility.


              • #27
                Thomas1 was not banned for ignorance.
                In fact he has a ton of driving cred - check his website:


                His attitude may have been abrasive, but he knew what he was saying.
                *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