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Hitching with one person

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  • Hitching with one person

    Here's a newbie question: is it possible to hitch your pony unassisted?

    I have a Section A welsh pony (11.3 h.h.)who has been driving for about 6 months. I started him myself (first driving pony) with some help from an experienced driver and Sally Sexton's books (bless her). (I am an experienced rider with 30 years riding/ showing experience).

    I took my time at the beginning with him, and he stands beautifully to be harnessed and hitched, but I have always had someone at his head while I hitched him. Pony has been fabulous throughout, and I was able to clinic with a CDI driver and trainer, who also thought he had a great attitude. Pony is energetic and forward, but sensible. We are working on some basic dressage, and cones currently, and just enjoying ourselves!

    I keep my horses at home, and often don't have help, so I don't get to drive as often as I'd like. Is it possible, or rather, is it safe, to hitch by yourself? If so, how would you recommend I proceed?

  • #2
    It's not OPTIMUM by any means, in terms of safety, and many will recommend against it, but it can be done. Realistically if it couldn't, probably 40% of us would never get to drive at all!

    You've got 2 choices basically: (1) Get an oversized halter and put it on OVER the bridle so you have something safe to tie with - never tie to the bit, obviously. Then find a safe, quiet place to tie horse while he's being hitched. (I loved it when I was at a barn where I could put to in the nice wide aisle using crossties and then just pop the halter off and drive out! Another favorite place was tying him to the support beam of our cart shed...) Make sure he knows how to back and turn the vehicle first! Be sure he's somewhere that can't get shafts tangled up in fence if he gets startled, or anything like that. Also - I prefer to tie pretty short if I'm tying. Less wiggle room.

    Or, alternatively, (2) learn to put an untied horse to while keeping a good hold of the reins the entire time (and remembering to stay out of the way of shafts and wheels in case of a sudden bolt!). I practiced this for a good couple years with Avery tied, before I got confident enough to try it without his being tied. But I loff it now, b/c I can drive him to nice juicy ungrazed fields we wouldn't make it to otherwise, unhitch, put on the halter and longe line out of my SPARES KIT, and let him graze for a couple of hours, then rehitch and go home.

    I'd recommend starting with (1) until you and horse are more confident, and then move on to (2). But as usual, exercise caution and take your time, b/c it only takes once...
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

    Comment


    • #3
      Well I'm one who would never get out unless I could do it myself. Phoenix has always stood nicely. My friend who broke him initially (under saddle) is an eventer and she teaches all of her horses to stand patiently while being mounted (as she's often climbing aboard from the back of a pickup or the fender on a horse trailer) and they learn not to move a foot until SHE tells them to. She does this with the youngsters by giving them a small treat once she's mounted, so any horse broken by her will stand rock solid then turn it's nose back to you once you are mounted

      Maggie was another story. She had to be tied hard and fast to get the harness on! Then I'd put my rope halter on over her bridle, tie her to a post along the fence in the small enclosed area adjacent to the barn, and I'd put to. After opening the gate I'd hang onto the reins, quickly untie the rope halter and hop in the cart. Once in the cart I would work on making her stand.

      It took a little time but now she stands in the enclosure quietly while I get everything hitched up. I tell her to stand and walk over to the gate, open it, walk back and climb aboard. We've practiced standing enough that she will stand rock-solid until I tell her to move off.

      We initially had 2-wheeled carts for both the horse (Phoenix) and the pony (Maggie) and while I could easily get the shafts through the tugs on the pony it was a challenge with the horse - often requiring me to go back and forth several times. It's MUCH easier now that we use marathon carriages
      Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

      PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages
      Ashemont2@gmail.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes, Pat brings up a great point that I probably didn't emphasize enough in my first post... Before you try this, make sure your pony understands that "Whoa/Stand" is an ORDER, not an OPTION.

        Those who get to see me ooey-gooey-smooching all over Avery most of the day and catering to his every whim would probably be surprised at the extent to which I unhesitantly get ALL OVER his case if he moves even one hoof when being hitched. But Avery's the kind of horse that if you give him an inch he takes six miles, so consistent enforcement of strict rules is mandatory when safety is at stake.
        "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

        Comment


        • #5
          Stand is obviously one of the most important gaits.
          I would never drive if I had to have someone here. That being said, if I am away from home, I try to find someone to stand at the head. At home, my routine begins with using a gullet strap, going from the throat latch to the nose band. On the nose band end, there is a ring. I use that with a lead to lead to the carriage and to hang on to the lead while I am putting to. I can do that easier than keeping the reins in hand. If the pony moves a foot, I growl and it goes back. We are very serious about standing. I follow the exact same routine everytime I put to. If someone wants to help, I ask them to stand at the head and let me do my routine. When everything is complete, I take the reins, remove the lead and get in. Poppy has learned to stand and wait until I am in and give the command to move off. Same process is followed at the end. Get out, lead goes on, carriage unhitched, pony led off with lead. When I have to hitch in the grass and Poppy isn't moving but is trying to eat grass, I have been know to hook the lead over the hook on top of the saddle so she can't reach the grass.

          Comment


          • #6
            Whilst it may well be possible IMO its neither wise nor prudent and is a practice so intrinsically risky that its not something I would EVER personally do in any circumstances.

            Furthermore I would always advise never to do it and rather to seek to find someone who can lend a hand or not drive.

            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.

            I just know you will get postings from folks saying they do it but its mad, bad and darn right dangerous for even the most experienced of drivers. You are a newbie DON'T DON'T DON'T do it!
            Last edited by Thomas_1; Feb. 14, 2007, 05:27 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              BTW, hi Price!!! Welcome to COTH!!
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

              Comment


              • #8
                so you see

                As you can see there are plenty of people who put to and drive alone but there are NONE that prefer it. We all know it is not a very safe thing to do.

                The tips already given are sound and I'll only add that there is a nifty bit of rope work, that I won't try to describe, that allows you to pull a light line and release the halter from the hitching rail after you are all secure in your vehicle. Unfortunately it does not help one bit when you return to the hitching rail at the end of your drive.
                Wrecks can happen just as much at the return as at the outset. Unless you are Lost Farmer your horse has almost certainly got enough left to cause major problems at the end of your drive.

                Dick

                Comment


                • #9
                  I hitch alone

                  I also hitch alone or I would never drive. Thomas, don't read this, but I also drive alone.

                  My trainer has me use a halter (a bit more snug but not tight) UNDER the bridle. It stays on. We've only been driving a lilttle over a year. He taught me a method of using a long rope with a "daisy chain" hitch that attaches to the bit. I hook up the daisy chain rope to the bit (holding onto the end), unsnap the tie to the hitching post, get up in the cart, pull the daisy chain rope to undo the chain then throw the rope to the side (I had a remnant heavier cotton rope tied to the end to give it some weight when I throw it aside). We are then free from the hitching post.

                  We never had any problems with this. It took a couple of months of training, and we no longer have to use this method. I can unhitch from the hitching post, give a firm STAND, and climb up in the cart. The horse then is reminded to stand, has to wait, then off we go. We've had a lot of work on ground manners and such.

                  Safety was the utmost concern of my trainer. He knew from the beginning that I would be hitching and driving alone and we worked out the bugs.

                  Just my 2 cents.
                  Andrea

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    See, I always knew I should have been born a princess, or at the very least a duchess. Then I would be able to have pages and footmen and grooms at my beck and call. I would never have to muck out a stall, butter a piece of leather, pick out a hoof -- or drive alone.

                    I don't drive alone with the horses I am now just training. But Sparrow stands beautifully and has never moved an inch when put to, but I don't trust the world not to scare her into aberration. So I have a longe line attached to the bit, much as when I had head walkers when we first began driving her, and I keep it looped in my hand or belt while I put to. I only unhook it when I'm ready to mount the cart. By that time everything has been checked and double checked, and the reins are in my hand.

                    If the day seems a bit off but I still want to drive, I put her to in the arena. The southeast corner of the arena has gates into the pasture and the yard, and is also where everyone, human and horse, congregates. Horses prefer to be there than anywhere else in the arena, so that's the corner I use.

                    It's been important to me to be able to put Sparrow to alone, because I have learned the hard way that you can't always count on your groom to do the right thing at the right moment. Twice my groom has oopsed -- once unaccountably dropping the lead rope, once stumbling and falling to her knees, just at the wrong moment. Both times were in response to something startling, and both times could have been disasters. But because Sparrow was a good girl and stood, we didn't have a wreck. Sometimes horses are more reliable than people.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Sam hitches and goes by herself all the time. She was taught how to do it by the same trainer who taught Dreag823 how to do it.

                      Hey Price... I'm glad to see you here. I'm sorry we won't be able to do your show in Tryon but Sam moved up and is doing Intermediate now (she won at Nature Coast). We will be at Georgia, Gayla, Elk Creek, Iron Horse, and one of the New Jersey shows. We are also doing the CDE/National Drive in Lexington. Are you doing Georgia?

                      Don
                      *Charter Member-Blue Tarp State Driving Clique*
                      "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find you get what you need" Mick Jagger

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have to second Andrea (Dreag. Having had a horrific accident at a CDE while hitching with only a header, I use this on all my horses.

                        I use a driving halter with the buckle on the nose. If I am just hacking around the neighborhood, I leave it under bridle. I use a very thin very long cotton clothesline. It is tied to something very big and very immobile. I then tie into the ring under the chin in a quick release knot. This line is long enough to reach into the cart. I get into the carriage/cart. Once I am set, then I give the knot a yank and we are free to go when I choose.

                        Having this set up allows me to drive (as with most I drive alone) and has really helped me with Looker. She used to leave before I was in the cart. A couple of time it was dangerous to the point, she fell over. Now she stands until I cue her. That little line exerts enough pressure to stop her.

                        I also do this at shows now when I am showing alone. I put the halter over the bridle and find some kind set of hands to remove the bridle before I go in class.

                        Several of us in Florida owe this trick to Bob Giles--Thanks Bob.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I guess having a western background I never thought twice about teaching a horse to stand.... and expecting it to do so! Afterall we taught all of the ranch horses to ground-tie and I honestly figured this was just part of training a driving horse. But then what do I know... I'm probably the only one with FEI dressage horses that are hobble-broke I tend to mix my disciplines up
                          Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

                          PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages
                          Ashemont2@gmail.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I too must drive alone or I would never drive !And ....driving little Shetlands does not give you the luxury of driving with just anyone. They have to be the just right size to fit in the seat with me!.
                            So when alone , I too hitch with a lead rope tied to a great old pine tree. I have a light grooming halter on top of the driving bridle which I attach to the oak tree. When all is ready and all has been checked I release the lead rope and use the command to STAND. My ponies are taught to stand until I give the command to walk on. I always take my time in the carriage before moving off . I fiddle and adjust on purpose. The ponies are conditioned to wait until I say to move.
                            At a show it is a bit different. Fortunately then.... I usually have loads of helpers who are more than willing to head the ponies.

                            Carriage Ponies
                            Shetland Ponies are like potato chips, you cannot have just ONE !
                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/36069756@N00/
                            PonyPics Carriage Ponies

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kearleydk View Post
                              ... Unless you are Lost Farmer your horse has almost certainly got enough left to cause major problems at the end of your drive.

                              Dick
                              What is that supposed to mean? My horses have been hitched alone many hundreds of times. I don't have a choice I have work to do and they are the horsepower. Here is my method. (Have fun Thomas) I harness in a small shed (12x16) horses stand untied in the shed. Actually, I turn them out of their pen and they run to the shed. (A few oats never hurts ) I hook up the lines and the neck yoke while in the shed. I then ground drive them to the vehicle of our choice driving over the tongue and backing into position. I then wrap the lines to the jacob staff on the front of the wagon, sleigh, or forecart. Walk to the front put the neck yoke on the pole. Back the horses a half step. Walk to the back and tighten the lines. If they want to leave now they will do so pulling the vehicle with their mouth. I do up the tugs and climb aboard. I usually let them stand for at least a minute before I take the lines. If I am hitching to a particularly light vehicle, I usually back back up to a tire as an anchor. Pick up the lines and drive off. On return I stop the horses, back a half step, tie the lines and unhitch. I guess the real secret is to have enough slack in the system that the horses can be backed the half step without backing the vehicle. I also tie up the lines and load or unload the wagon or sleigh. To feed the horses drive on voice out in the field to walk along the edge of where we fed the day before. I suppose I have now broken every rule of driving known to many of CotH but it has worked here for at least 4 generations on this farm. But what do I know I am a dumb farmer with plow ponies.
                              Lostfarming in Idaho
                              http://i512.photobucket.com/albums/t...etPleasure.jpg

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by LostFarmer View Post
                                But what do I know I am a dumb farmer with plow ponies.
                                In fact this does make a HUGE difference. If your horse is out in the fields working all day its not going to be in much of a mood to do something potty in any event. It will be working its butt off with a huge great dead weight plough on the back of it and know its job and be ready to go home at the end of the day. Then it might be a cold blood - or heavy horse and that does make a difference. Having said that last July/August I put a horse to harness for a customer that had just lost his 18 year old shire that "was totally safe". He was putting it to harness in his yard and for no apparent reason it shot forward with a harrow on it and went straight through the gate onto the road and was hit by a car about half a mile away and had to be put down.

                                See, I always knew I should have been born a princess, or at the very least a duchess. Then I would be able to have pages and footmen and grooms at my beck and call. I would never have to muck out a stall, butter a piece of leather, pick out a hoof -- or drive alone.
                                Sounds like you wondered into the land of make believe with a chip on the shoulder and a bug up the ass?

                                To help the OP who is a "newbie" driver with a newbie driving pony, then those of us who live in the real world do such as beg, borrow and steal friends (and their teenage horse mad daughters!)to drive out with us or we put an ad in the local shop, saddlers, feed store, vets, newspaper asking if there's anyone would like to help. And we might even have to pay them - with riding/driving lessons, gifts or even money. Or join a local driving group and make contacts that way and work on a mutal help.

                                As a newbie the OP needs to know that whilst many drivers do indeed put horses to harness alone, that its an immensely dangerous and high risk practice and as such not endorsed nor recommended in any circumstances.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'm with Thomas on this one. We never put to alone and teach each of our clients the same. Even though I have hotter bred horses each could be hitched alone but I choose not to for safety. In my short 15 years of driving I have seen far too many accidents with turnouts having no header, and our training facility has rehabbed far to many horses that were the victoms of driving accidents that didn't need to be.

                                  All our equines are taught the meaning of stand, but we always use a second person for safety. Also some carriages are just too heavy to put to with one person correctly.

                                  Many new to driving complain to me that they don't have a choice but to put to alone, yet they all seem to find a person interested in helping them out and the chance to go for a ride as a thank you. Net work with your driving clubs, pony clubs, horse crazy teenagers, and neighbors. You might be surprise where you find a helper. Good luck and stay safe.

                                  Denise

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    No chips, Thomas, except with the fish that I don't eat because I'm vegetarian! I dreamed when I was a girl of marrying Prince Charles -- for his ponies and his proximity to Princess Anne, whose horsewomanship I greatly admired. She was my hero for years.

                                    Won't even address that bug business.

                                    Don't be so xenophobic, Thomas. I married an Englishman, after all, and have two dual-passport daughters. They tell me they're re-taking the U.S. I spent many years living in Shropshire, and visiting close friends all over the UK. We very nearly moved up toward you, and looked at property near Ulgham, before the Shropshire position was offered. I loved Northumberland, and have often thought that if we'd moved there we'd be there still. In fact it was a cottage in the unlikely Seaton Sluice that snagged at my heart -- on a small road overlooking the sea, with nearly a hectare of walled garden for my horses, a sea captain's retirement home, we were told. I still dream of it.

                                    So please try to find the positive rather than the negative in what we Yanks say, Thomas. By and large we admire all things British. My husband still bowls over the ladies with his pipe and his trans-Atlantic accent. And we're very glad to have your accent too! You bowl us over. Do you smoke a pipe, by any chance?

                                    You're absolutely right. Safety first. The OP should continue to get good coaching and guidance and not hitch alone until the horse and the process are completely understood by all parties. Only then should s/he think about alternatives.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by HackneyHorseDriver View Post
                                      I'm with Thomas on this one. We never put to alone and teach each of our clients the same. Even though I have hotter bred horses each could be hitched alone but I choose not to for safety. In my short 15 years of driving I have seen far too many accidents with turnouts having no header, and our training facility has rehabbed far to many horses that were the victoms of driving accidents that didn't need to be.
                                      And I've seen a lot of horses that can't be rehabbed at all and know of too many that have died as a result of what their owner did.

                                      All our equines are taught the meaning of stand, but we always use a second person for safety. Also some carriages are just too heavy to put to with one person correctly.


                                      Many new to driving complain to me that they don't have a choice but to put to alone,

                                      yet they all seem to find a person interested in helping them out and the chance to go for a ride as a thank you. Net work with your driving clubs, pony clubs, horse crazy teenagers, and neighbors. You might be surprise where you find a helper. Good luck and stay safe.


                                      Be assured that its NEVER totally safe and these sort of accidents happen to the most experienced of drivers and driving horses.

                                      My own horses will stand stock still for hours and have to do that VERY often and when being put to they don't move at all. However in over 50 years of driving I've personally had 2 incidents whereby for no obvious or apparent reason different horses shot forward - but because I've always got someone in attendance and at their heads we've been able to avoid unmitigating disaster. It turned out one horse was stung by wasps and I don't have the faintest idea why the other one did it and it never did it again.

                                      You may also have read that Clare Wigmore had an exceptionally well trained driving horse do similar at a show and for no apparent or known reason.

                                      So no matter how brilliant you think you are as a driver and no matter how well schooled you think your horse is you need to be aware that these things happen and trying to put a horse to a carriage single handed is a disaster waiting to happen and with total disregard for risk assessment and intrinsic dangers.

                                      And when it comes to advising a novice driver with a novice driving pony IMO its darnright irresponsible to encourage bad and dangerous practice by doing the "oh I do it and get away with it" routine.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Thanks, everyone, great replies.

                                        I think I will just bite the bullet, and make sure I have help. 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.

                                        I do use a driving halter (and have from the beginning) over his bridle when I put him to. My helper holds him while I hitch him up. I put him to in an outdoor dressage ring, then either work him in there or go out on the grass.

                                        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! 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.

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