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Is driving the right discipline for me and my horse??

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  • Is driving the right discipline for me and my horse??

    A little backround on us both:

    My horse is a 5 year old Paint gelding. I bought his mom at an auction and didn't realize until 11 months later that she was in foal with him. At age 2 1/2 I sent him to a local trainer that specializes in Reining and Cowhorses. They did ALOT of ground work with him including ground driving which he excelled at. Under saddle was a different story. He was bucking so bad that he was a danger to get on. After three months with that trainer I made the decision to move him to another reining trainer that I have known for many years. With this trainer my horse never bucked again but it was clear that he was not athletic enough to be a reining horse although he would be fine as a trail horse. He went on to put 5 more months of riding training on him and then I brought him home. He sat the first winter that he was home and when I went to ride him in the spring it was clear that something wasn't right with him. He was very agitated under saddle although he didn't do anything bad it was very clear that he was hurting. Long story short we could never determine why he is uncomfortable under saddle but he is. He is completely sound but we suspect that the weight of the rider and saddle are hurting him somewhere. After consulting with my vet, farrier and anyone else I could think of I have made the decision that he will never be a saddle horse. Not wanting to make a pasture pet out of him I was thinking that driving might be his thing but I have only driven a few times and have no knowledge of the sport. He seems comfortable in a surcingle and like I mentioned he is already very well trained at ground driving. He is not spooky and sound.

    I have had horses most of my life and consider myself experienced. I show in reining with one of my other horses. Several years ago I was in a serious rollover car accident and have a permanent neck and back injury. With lots of drugs I am able to continue to ride. I am concerned that there would be some bouncing involved in driving that might be too much for me.

    I have done some research and there are several driving trainers in my area to help me. I have a truck and trailer so I can travel and I can afford a cart, harness and weekly lessons. I think that I would like to try some recreational driving first but if he is good at it I would like to show.

    What do you experienced drivers think??? Is this a recipe for disaster or could this be my beautiful boys sport?!
    RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
    May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
    RIP San Lena Peppy
    May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010

  • #2
    I am a beginner, but from what you've said, I think this could be a good fit for both of you.

    Not to mention is is FUN FUN FUN!

    Check with the trainers. Maybe they have carts you can borrow for lessons till you find out for sure, and decide what you want.

    Best wishes!

    "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx


    • #3
      Get some lessons with a lesson horse and ride in a cart similar to whatever you would want to buy.

      From someone who spends a lot of time in the cart -- I do distnace driving both competitive and for recreation. An weekend might include 2 days of 3 or 4 hours on the trails or in a competition. I literally feel shorter sometimes when I get out of the cart after banging along the trails--those roots are horrid. But my cart does not a lot of shock absorption. There are better carts out there with shock absorbers or all sorts of springs.

      You may even want to ask your doctor or chiro what they think.

      As for your horse, my youngest horse had severe stifle problems when we were trying to back him. He could not carry a rider comfortably and bucked getting every trainer and myself off. I made the decision not to ever ride him because he hurt me and a trainer. We had treatments and the stifle issue seems to have abated--so he does drive and is very happy doing it.

      So yes your horse may become a driving horse, and if your health allows, you will enjoy it.

      Good luck


      • #4
        Very interesting one and something that I'm often asked in real life and was discussing only earlier this week.

        I'm often asked whether a horse that can't be ridden can be put to harness and driven instead. And most often because there's a problem weight bearing and often manifesting with evasion either bucking and rearing.

        So the quick answer is: It depends but it's sounds most doubtful. So in that sense I am actually in disagreement with the previous posters.

        Reasons why:

        I'm not clear from your posting that you ever got your horse's problem identified or sorted. We know he's only a youngster and hasn't done much of anything but that he was bucking etc and showed signs of discomfort weight bearing.

        So you need to know that driving isn't totally non weight bearing its just not as much as riding PROVIDING you've got a well balanced carriage and know how to use it to keep weight off and PROVIDING you're driving on level surfaces.

        Most horses I've personally known that have a back condition that's bad enough to render them unsound for riding, also haven't been able to withstand the rigours of driving. Obviously though "bad back" covers a multitude of conditions.

        So precisely what is the condition?

        Have you discussed this option with your vet.... only presuming yours is an equine vet and knows what is entailed with driving and understands equine locomotion. You need to know precisely why he was evading under saddle not just a "it might be" or "just non specific pain".

        Carts and carriages put stress and weight on a horse though differently than riding.

        Unless you buy a vehicle with brakes, horse is going to be stopping the vehicle with their rump, using the breeching. This braking action of breeching is also used on down hill driving, to prevent vehicle from hitting horse in the rump. Not sure how that will affect him.

        He will still have some weight on his back with a 2 wheel vehicle, even if it is well-balanced. Weight will increase on downhill work. Likewise you still do the likes of transitioning down and halting by putting weight on the horse even when you're driving.

        Then you don't know if your horses problem under saddle was back pain or attitude and gaps in training. So I don't know if the horse is up to the job with his problems, let alone if he will WANT to learn driving skills. Some don't drive, they don't like it.

        I'm a huge believer that any horse that can be ridden can also be driven, no matter what it's age and disposition. Many horses are trained to drive, but he has other problems to consider before asking him to learn.

        Then even if you get the back and evasion thing identified and sorted we need to turn to the driver.

        You're a novice. Your horse would be a novice.

        green + green = black and blue

        If you do a quick search and including on the FAQ's you'll find a lot of helpful postings on this matter.

        You also said you have a back and neck problem. Now that in itself wouldn't preclude you and indeed I've a lady customer who like yourself had an horrific car accident. She suffered a spinal fracture and has a steel rod right up her spinal column. I built her a purpose designed carriage. It's got a low step in and a good springing system and a seat with good lumbar support and which is higher at the back than would ordinarily be the case for carriage driving. She does pleasure driving so that means road surfaces and arenas. So not the fast and furious cross country stuff where suspension is hard in order to get traction.

        However before you ever consider any of that you would need to go and get yourself some driving lessons and see if you actually like it and can do it.

        So back to your initial question.

        To know if it's the right discipline for your horse you need to get a full and proper evaluation of him and his problems. A good driving trainer that trains horses and people will be invaluable for this.

        Then you need lessons to see if it's right for you.

        You would need to get at least 6 months of regular good quality lessons to get ahead of your young green horse (presuming he assesses ok).

        Then have him put to harness professionally and get some miles on him with a competent more advanced driver to get him going well.

        THEN you'd have to be put together with the horse under supervision to keep you both safe and progressing.

        So honestly, there's a lot to consider here and a good driving instructor will be equally honest with you .

        If not, then consider........... it's just someone taking you for a ride!


        • #5
          I can certainly see you'd like your horse to have some training and a 'career' if possible. I can also see where their may be concerns with your back issues and his.

          I'd think the smartest thing for you to do is contact the driving trainers in your area and get some lessons to see how well YOU stand up to it. Find out how you like driving and how your back likes driving. See what's out there and what you can do. If you can't handle driving, then there is no point in putting the horse through slow careful training its going to take to see if he's going to be a driving horse.
          Last edited by Drive NJ; Oct. 5, 2009, 12:13 PM.


          • #6
            Your own pain issues would have me concerned.

            I posted a while about training my 17 yo. Walking horse to pull because she was very sound in daily life, but not for riding. Her hips were the issue (I thought) and her back seemed sore because of her hips.

            Long story short, I put her in Natural Balance shoes on the fronts, and w/i 5 days, the horse that would never take an unnecessary step was chasing Cookie around the corral. I wanted to see if we could do better, so next trim put NBs on the hinds too. I have a new horse! Our chiro. says Rose's back is no longer sore and her hip is no longer stuck. She can do her r/w walk again for the first time in 5 years. She might still have arth. issues in her hocks, which we'll pursue. My point is, keep looking for the true bottom line source of your horse's probelms. It might be right under your nose but you haven't had the revelation yet.


            That's the link to the NB shoes if you think the feet might be the beg. of the issues.. Be aware that if put on like keg shoes, they will perform like keg shoes. Your farrier will need some extra knowledge in setting the NBs properly to get their full therapeutic value. BUT they have all kinds of resources available to teach the method - which is not difficult - just different.

            "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx


            • #7
              ^ Good posting Yip. I well remember your thread at the time and you'll also know that traction was one of the things folks said that was critical and to be considered.

              I've got to say though that rather than NB shoes per se being the miracle cure that it's about identifying the root cause of the problem and ensuring that's addressed.

              Well balanced trimming and appropriate say therapeutic shoeing with better traction can most definitely play a vital part with such non-specific problems with signs of evasion and secondary pain but dependent on root cause.

              I've posted about a horse I personally have that came crippled lame with back pain and rendered as a total insurance write off for loss of use and heading to euthanasia and all that was needed was good farriery and and a much more appropriate, measured and considered programme of recuperation and then return to training and work.

              I'm very pleased to hear that NB shoes played such a huge part in improving your horse but don't fall into the trap of thinking that they in themselves are some "miracle cure" in their own right or that it's only what NB markets that would/could work.

              With such matters I always advocate an holistic approach.

              I would though be most interested to hear specifically what you think they provided or changed?


              • Original Poster

                Thanks everyone for your posts!!

                Let me try to explain the situation a bit more. When Whiskey was at my trainers for 5 months he was fine and was quiet. He never bucked a single time and hasn't since he was at the first trainers barn. When he was with the first trainer we had their vet look at him to make sure it wasn't something physical bothering him. The vet found nothing. Since he was fine with the second trainer I just thought it was just that he didn't like that trainer.

                His issues started after he sat for the winter after coming home from training. When I tried to ride him again in the spring it was obvious that something was bothering him. I took him to my vet and he did a full exam. I was sure the problem was in his back but they found nothing there. The vet suspects that there is something going on with his feet. We did lots of x-rays and found absolutely nothing wrong with his feet. Whiskey is a large horse.......he is 15.2 hands and weighs 1300 lbs and built like a tank. He is an easy keeper and he is very difficult to keep at a good weight. My farrier and vet worked together to get his feet where they should be and over the last year they have made great improvements but he is still not right when being ridden. I am hoping that the amount of weight that I cart would put on him would be minimal and won't bother him.

                I was in a car accident 4 years ago and have cervical and thoracic issues. I take Morphine twice a day so I can function. I am still able to ride and even show in reining. I have good days and bad days. Luckily my doctor used to ride so he realizes that it is important for me to keep riding and encourages me to continue to do so. Bouncing does bother my back but since I have no experience driving I don't know how much is involved. I do know that I would mostly be doing road driving and maybe showing. Off road isn't an option where I live.

                I do have a lesson scheduled for next weekend with a driving trainer so I can see if I can physically handle it and then I will go from there. If I can handle it then I will have Whiskey evaluated.
                RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
                May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
                RIP San Lena Peppy
                May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


                • #9
                  Thomas, we have known since the founder radiographs 5 yrs. ago that Rose has very thin soles - much less than 1/4". When she foundered, we put NBs on the fronts because their design and method of trimming & application work to support the P3s, which had rotated a lot. She was instantly pasture sound, which allowed her to exercise and step up circulation to the feet.

                  When the hoof had grown out about a year later, she seemed fine in keg shoes, but that's where I think the other problems gradually began. I've been working with a good lameness vet and a chiro, but we were all stumped. It wasn't until unemployment last winter caused us to pull their shoes, and Rose did worse with each passing month. I asked myself, "When was the last time she was sound?" The year after the founder while wearing the NB shoes to support her P3s! Disregarding everything else, I decided to try and go back to that time - and it paid off bigtime. Evidentally she needs this extra support. We never xrayed the rears for founder, so there was no baseline, but the trim/shoes have worked a miracle for Rose so maybe the rears rotated a little too. Other mfgrs. might make these shoes, but it's the whole deal of extra and constant P3 support that she seems to need. The fellows at the EDSS website above invented the shoe and process by studying hundreds of wild horses for many years..

                  It was so easy. Why did it take us almost 4 years to see? I hope I never forget this lesson - go back to the beginning and work forward - not from the present and work backward. Really, I had people telling me it might be time to consider euthanasia - for a perfectly healthy 17 yo. horse! I could not accept that.
                  "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx