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Hitching with one person

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  • #21
    Originally posted by jej View Post
    The pony stands beautifully right now, with a person at his head, and I think I'd like to keep it that way. It would take just one bad incident to destroy the progress I have made.
    Absolutely right

    Originally posted by jej View Post
    I do use a driving halter (and have from the beginning) over his bridle when I put him to. .
    The headcollar goes under the bridle not over. I get quite narrow black webbing ones made and with a buckle on the nose band so if you want to take it off when the driving bridle is on, then its easy to undo and remove without interference. You can see the headcollar in this photo.

    And because you can't see the buckle - another photo of a standard English headcollar in case you're not sure what I mean. (I know when I've been to the USA it seems to be more common for them to nose band without buckle.

    My helper holds him while I hitch him up.
    You should aim to have your helper standing in front of the horse but without having to hold him and with no interference - just there if and when required.

    This photo shows a young shetland pony being put to harness.

    And one a bit bigger! being put to for the very first time

    I put him to in an outdoor dressage ring, then either work him in there or go out on the grass.
    With newbies I put them to in the yard immediately outside the stables where all the other horses are about and its quite busy. I think its a good discipline to get them to stand calmly when there's a lot going on about them and I take forever so they get used to the fact it will take as long as it takes and I tend to have them stand still for some time after I've mounted the carriage too - just for the discipline of it and then I drive them to the field or arena.

    I have to say, though, that I feel much more at risk driving, than I do riding, maybe just because I am less experienced (and skillful) a driver than a rider!
    In many ways you are. You only have your reins and voice and can't urge the horse on with seat and legs as you could when riding. If something happens not only do you have a horse to contend with but you've a carriage too. Some folks strap themselves in to the carriage with a belt but that again is something I would never do. If I have a spill I'd rather be thrown (or jump) clear and don't want a steel carriage over the top of me. You are wholly dependent on your harness to keep things safe and hence experienced carriage drivers tend to get terribly hot under the collar if they see poor or dangerous harnessing up.

    And over many years of working with horses, I have found out (the hard way, sometimes) that you can only buck the odds so many times. Better safe than sorry
    Yep absolutely right. Its a high risk sport without deliberately taking risk. I've enjoyed it for 50 years and want to keep it that way. And my mother who showed hackney horses in harness (and under saddle) enjoyed her last carriage drive when she was 95. Well strictly speaking her very last was in a horse drawn hearse!


    • #22
      Hey Thomas... isn't that an awfully small breastcollar on the bigger horse being put to for the first time?

      And please know that my preference would be NOT to go it alone it's just a fact of life. I'm in a rural area and almost everyone around here works during the day. I have really TRIED to get people out to go with me. Heck, I've got champion warmbloods I'd let them ride even, but it's very rare when anyone takes me up on my offer. I'm not in a position to hire someone to go with me everyday - or even a couple of times a week. The fact of the matter is that the people who would go with me are home working their own horses - by themselves - and there just aren't enough hours in the day.

      I would not expect either Phoenix or Maggie to stand without someone at their head in a strange situation but on our farm on a daily basis I do have to rely on some cooperation from them. Keeping them in a small enclosure until I'm ready to go minimizes the potential for an accident. Nonetheless I am not complacent about what I do; I'm always alert and follow a strict routine each time.

      Well the sun is finally coming out and that means Maggie and I need to go play
      Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

      PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages


      • #23
        Originally posted by Ashemont View Post
        Hey Thomas... isn't that an awfully small breastcollar on the bigger horse being put to for the first time?
        It fits. What more do you want

        Though on a great big beast like that (nearly 19 hands!) it doesn't look right and isn't what you'd want for such as showing in.

        It was one of a pair. That's the filly and it was put to with its full brother.

        Its new carriage and harness was ready in time for it to go as a pair though and this is it all being fitted for the first time:


        • #24
          Some other suggestions, for when you work alone, is the crossties,the hitch rail or a wall to face horse into.

          We have a 12ft aisle in our barn, kept absolutely clear of stall door hangers, blanket bars/racks. Nothing but plain walls. We crosstie the horses and harness them in the aisle. This is our routine place. Horses are firmly attached, our crossties are not breakable. Cuttable yes, not breakable. When tied, my horses are tied hard and fast. We train them this way, from colts, many hours spent in tie practicing. Don't let them fight, learn the reward of being tied and standing well.

          When horse is harnessed, I remove halter to put bridle on, put halter over bridle and crosstie again. Reins are run to harness saddle, looped up. Vehicle is put on horse, accessories are in place, whip, blanket or lap robe, snacks or drink.

          Driver has gloves on, pulls the reins down, tells horse to Whoa!, removes crossties, removes halter. Driver with reins, enters vehicle, sits there for a bit. Doesn't have to be quietly, shift about to make sure laprobe is set, hat tight, rein ends picked up, whip in hand. When ready, Driver tells horse to move out. Has worked very well for us, no problems, horse understands routines.
          I have seen this same method work well when horse is faced with a hitching rail, crossties on it. Also a solid wall, like one side of the barn, posts with crossties on each side of wall. The people using the rail/wall method say it transfers well to trailer side for hitching at shows. They practice trailer at home first, get horse doing a routine to make them comfortable with changes. Reins in hand, after crossties and halter removed. Enter vehicle, get set in carriage. WAIT for different amounts of time, before asking horse to move. Use a watch, to time waiting. Surprising how long wait FEELS, when very LITTLE time has passed. Horse can develop a timer too, get impatient if you are "too slow". Variety keeps horse waiting for direction. Some hitch, get in vehicle, wait long times, then get back out and unharness. Keeps that horse guessing! They may not have time for a real drive, just hitching time, but practice waiting is GOOD for horse. I have done that too, sure takes the anticipation out of them!

          They say hitching is very helpful with solid item in front of horse. I know they don't get excited being harnessed in the aisle if the barn doors are closed. He can't move off forward. After driver has entered vehicle, waited, then asks for reverse to move away, horse goes to work. It seems any horse seldom is in a hurry to back up and get going.

          I would be taking extra care with a very green horse, green driver who is not experienced in driving. May be experienced horse person, but driving needs different responses. Both greenies, horse and driver, need to get their time in, gain experience, with skilled trainer. However at some time, they should graduate from green, to more experienced. Driver has gained skill at reading animal, knows correct reactions to situations, has confidence in themselves and animal.

          A routine, with safety features like above, can be helpful to the driver working alone. I am glad for folks who can get friends in to go along. LUCKY for you! Sometimes it just is not workable for others. There is just no one around, no one who can come over. The horse needs his work, you don't get conditioned standing in the pasture. If he is not conditioned, you can't go play at competitions, visit around. So you go out by yourself. You leave a message where you are going to drive, wear your helmet, you carry your cell phone. And you go driving.


          • #25
            Originally posted by goodhors View Post
            LUCKY for you! .
            Its got absolutely NOTHING to do with luck


            • #26
              All I know, if I have to wait for someone to come over --I might and that is a BIG MIGHT get to drive once a week.

              So, I have learned to how to mount safely alone, drive alone with my cell phone, tell hubby where I am going, try to drive as aware and safely as I can.

              The tied rope, with a halter under the bridle, in front of something immobile--in my case, a stall front at home or trailer side at a show or trail ride--allows me to drive.

              As adamant and as right as you are, Thomas, there are many of us out here who won't get to drive if we have to have a groom. You are in the business and have a working stable. You have that advantage over we who own a few horses for our own pleasure in our backyard barns. No arguments here, just a simple statement of a difference of lifestyle that regulates us to a different way of doing things.


              • #27
                Originally posted by Cartfall View Post
                You are in the business and have a working stable. You have that advantage over we who own a few horses for our own pleasure in our backyard barns. No arguments here, just a simple statement of a difference of lifestyle that regulates us to a different way of doing things.
                What I have and haven't got makes absolutely NO difference whatsoever. In my lifetime I've also been in situations where I've had horses for my own use and I still didn't harness up and drive alone and I would NEVER so do.

                No arguments here either - its just an entirely different way of doing things and nothing to do with lifestyles at all. Its too dangerous for me and my horse.


                • #28
                  Hmm. This raises an interesting point. I grew up in the city and would go miles and do ANYTHING to be around horses. Now I live in a settlement with more horses than people, and in a county with a very high horse-per-capita population, and a state that supports some of the largest horse shows in the world (Dixie National Quarter Horse show, going on now, is the world's 3rd largest, for example). It's a lot harder to find someone with the time or inclination to come work with me -- especially during the school day. They've got their own horses to take care of!

                  So I wonder -- if you posted your notices and nobody came, then what would you do? Give up horses?


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                    its just an entirely different way of doing things and nothing to do with lifestyles at all. Its too dangerous for me and my horse.
                    Well, actually I think it has a LOT to do with lifestyles. How, after all, did the farmers in the old days get to town? They hitched alone, they drove alone, and when they got to town, they hitched to a hitching post while they did their errands - and I would suspect that some of them probably even did it without a halter on!

                    I'm not saying I don't advocate taking every conceivable precaution when hitching - and believe me there have been plenty of days when, for whatever reason, I didn't feel safe trying to hitch alone, so I didn't drive. But if I didn't hitch alone, I'd never get to drive at ALL. Period. So ya do what ya gotta do, and take every sensible precaution to stay safe.
                    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                    • #30
                      Alot depends on the horse. Most horses don't ever get enough time and miles to be broke. My mentor used to say a tired horse has a lot less spook in it. We pretend to break a horse. A few days a week for an hour or two. My grandfather worked horses every day all year long. Some days a few head and some days as many as 20 head. These horses weren't "broke" or "trained" for months and years. People had a job to do and as soon as the horse could be put in a hitch it was used.

                      I broke my current ponies during the winter feeding cattle on a sleigh. I had a situation that forced me into hitching everyday and often twice a day for 120 days. These ponies looked forward to the words whoa. They were listening for it. I have no problem hitching alone. I personally find the pictures of people hitching with poles and in a barn with crossties far more scary to me.

                      Lostfarming in Idaho


                      • #31
                        I hitch on my own all the time - but our horses are hitched 4-5 times a week and have been in this routine for years.

                        Now any new horses, are always hitched and driven with two people.


                        • #32
                          Originally posted by MySparrow View Post
                          So I wonder -- if you posted your notices and nobody came, then what would you do? Give up horses?
                          To reiterate, here's what I said in my first posting:
                          Originally posted by Thomas
                          I've seen the awful consequences of too many single handed attempts at putting to harness and driving and will never be persuaded that its a compromise that ought to be made in any circumstances. I'd personally give up driving if I didn't have a helping hand.
                          And in truth there's been countless times during my life when I've not driven because I've not had a 2nd person. I personally wouldn't and didn't give up horses though, I either ride or longrein.

                          Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
                          Well, actually I think it has a LOT to do with lifestyles. How, after all, did the farmers in the old days get to town? .
                          No different to how my parents and grandparents did it. They had work horses that were worked all day every day and doing HARD work. They were kept outside and fed hay and when they'd done a hard days ploughing a big scoop of rolled oats or barley. And if and when they had a day off from work then they were pretty relieved to just have a light drive to take their owner to town. Their job was one of total routine and they knew that job. They were not "hobby" horses to suit a lifestyle and piddling about with a light well balanced vehicle for a couple of hours a day 4 or 5 times a week at the very most. Neither were they kept stabled, rugged to the eyeballs and given a mass of high protein feed. I've friends who still work heavy horses on farms, who take tourists on drives, who deliver fruit and veg with a London Trolley, who drive holiday makers a mile out on the sand to the sea, who take an art gallery on a horse drawn vehicle. Same thing day in and day out for the horse and they know their job and could do it with no one there. (apart from the fact that in this country you are not allowed to drive commercially or off private land without a driver and a groom for each horse).

                          The photo shows my mother - bringing work horses back to the farm at hay time. Now I've said before she showed hackney horses in harness and those horses were used for hunting and compared to today's standards worked quite hard. She used to drive those to the village store but always had someone to give her a hand to harness up and go with her and (frequently it was one of my siblings or me!) If she didn't she took one of the big, old, tired, dumb, work horses.

                          They hitched alone, they drove alone, and when they got to town, they hitched to a hitching post while they did their errands - and I would suspect that some of them probably even did it without a halter on!
                          And if you read the old books you will see that even given the aforementioned radically different conditions there were frequently accidents when horses broke free from hitching posts etc. However when that happened then, said horse and vehicle wasn't going to come up against an enourmous truck loaded with goods nor a car travelling at 60 mph. And there were plenty of folks about the town that knew about horses - everyone used them for hauling and transportation, so the situation could be contained.


                          • #33
                            In the children's book Little Britches there's a neighbor who drives a team of spirited horses. When he arrives someplace he leaps off and hangs on to the reins for dear life. When he's ready to leave again he leaps on and tries to sit down before the team takes off. Not an appealing thought!


                            • Original Poster

                              Very interesting discussion, everyone. It's interesting hearing about different methods.

                              Thomas, when I put the halter under the bridle, it creates so much bulk that the fit suffers. It's hard to get the noseband done up properly, for a start. This pony has a tiny very typy head, with miniscule ears, and a very small muzzle. My halter is leather, so maybe I should look at getting a thinner nylon one made.

                              I could put him to in front of the stable and drive him to the ring - in fact, I think I wil try that when the weather gets better. (I am in Ontario, and we have been hit with the snow - and temperatures to -35 with the wind chill).

                              In better weather, I drive him two to three times a week (when I have help) and three times a week he is lunged and long reined. The long reining has helped supple him a lot (he is too small for me to ride). Question, however - the long reining and lunging work on suppling him, making the gaits more rhythmic, developing muscle and reinforcing the obedience, neither exercise is developing his "pulling ability" and his ability to balance while pulling.

                              Is there anything else I can do to develop him when I am working on my own?


                              • #35
                                There are a couple of things you can do to help the pony learn to pull.

                                1. Take a long lead line, run it through the ends of the traces/tugs with pony in full harness. You need someone to help you. You ground drive the pony from the rear. You helped has a hold of the end of the rope and leans back against the pony. This is the beginning of the pony feeling pressure and the need to lean into the harness. Do this enough times until the pony begins to lean into the harness consistently. Usually a few time is all it takes.

                                2. Same set up but with a quick release knot and a helper to pull it, the rope is attached to a small tire. As the pony begins to understand and become comfortable with the tire, you can increase the size of the tire, object until it is no longer an problem with the pony pulling.

                                My next step would be to use pvc shafts, 10 feet long connected at the end by a 4 ft cross piece. But your pony drives already you said. You can long line in these false shafts to a degree.

                                Once he is in the cart and you have long lined him enough to carry himself in a frame, drive him the same way and he will work out the pulling and carriage issues himself. At least that was my experience. I have done this with a young horse who carries himself nicely now and rehabbed a mare who used to know nothing about a frame. The long lining is so important and the most useful tool at your disposal. Many drivers do not understand the importance of it.


                                • #36
                                  I never thought I would admit this, but I too am a one person team when it comes to putting to. Deep down, I know it is wrong and I would not dream of doing this with my youngster, not enough miles on her yet. Of course the reason for that is because I have to get help to drive her. Now my tried and true shetland mare I hitch alone all the time. Much the same way as others here do with never a problem. I am happy to know that I am not the only one!

                                  I will say this. Disasters can happen either way when it comes right down to it.
                                  Ponies are horses too!


                                  • #37
                                    Halter under bridle

                                    Jej, I sort of suprised nobody has brought up "cowboy" rope halters here. These are the sort recommended and sold by Parrelli, Clinton Anderson and the like. It is easy to slip these halters off and retie them around the horse's neck as a collar.

                                    Better yet you can find or make one from rather small cord that will not be bulky under bridle.

                                    Ubraidit.com sells intructions along with cord in many sizes.



                                    • #38
                                      jej- just a thought, watch out how "fit" you get the pony with long lining and lunging work because you are likely to produce a very fit green pony pulling a cart. I personally like a greenie horse a little "unfit" during the training phase whether it's an under saddle greenie or a driving greenie. Also, I bought my driving halters from this gal: http://www.minihorsecde.com/SilkPurse/Halters_pony.html They are thin and fit nicely under the bridle w/ no bulk and are easy to remove.

                                      I drive miniatures- the mopeds or scooters of the driving world- and they are cross tied in a 12 by 16 lean to when being harnessed alone by me. I suspect that if I drove an actual small pony I would comfortable harnessing alone too. Were I driving full size horses it would take time and trust for me to harness alone.


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by kearleydk View Post
                                        Jej, I sort of suprised nobody has brought up "cowboy" rope halters here.
                                        My very favorite halter and practically all I use. I have 3 - two horse-sized and one for the babies and Maggie. Just note that it pays to shop around and get the good ones. The cheap ones tend to have a metal piece keeping the two ends of the rope together - on the end of the piece that you tie with. IMO this is dangerous. If the horse flings his head he can injure an eye. The ones I have do not have ANY metal on them. I also like the thin stiff ones. Light and easy to handle yet maximum control
                                        Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

                                        PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages


                                        • #40
                                          I know it's not the safest thing to do but I really do have to drive alone. I keep my horse on my own property and there is no one around to help. I don't have any near by neighbors who drive and certainly no one who I would bug every day to drive all the way over to my house just to put to with my cart. But my horse is seasoned and exceptionally calm if I had a young horse or a new to driving horse I would probably shell out the money to board at a farm where I know there are people that can help.

                                          When I first got my harness I got one of those small brass rings that are normally used for making halters with. Only I put it on the underside of my horses noseband. That way as soon as I bridle her I can attach the cross ties to the ring and I don't have to mess around with putting a halter over or under the bridle and then taking it off.

                                          When I go to get into the cart I stand at her head undo the cross ties and then maintain rein contact as I walk back to get into the cart. She has contact the whole time, that way if she were to spook then she would get an instantaneous correction.

                                          But those little rings are worth their weight in gold. I wish they would make them standard on all driving bridles.