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Choosing a vehicle

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  • Choosing a vehicle

    The question of what vehicle to buy when you start driving is a big one and often asked.

    30 years ago, someone wanting to purchase a carriage found they had limited choice and most often you bought an old one and renovated it.

    Now though with the upsurge in driving for recreation and competitive sport, a corresponding number of folks build vehicles to service the demand and the market.

    And so a novice is too often faced with a bewildering choice.

    And it really is the novice we’re talking about here. More experienced drivers will have a greater idea of exactly what they want and require, both for the horse and the type of driving in which they’re involved.

    As ever a novice needs to think carefully and seek advice and consider carefully the level of knowledge and experience of the drivers giving them advice, before laying out hard earned money and joining the ranks of carriage owners.

    So first consideration:

    What type of driving do you ultimately intend to do? If your sights are set on private driving and a little showing, hen you need the type of vehicle that will serve both needs and attract the eye of a judge.

    If driving trials, then this will determine your need.

    No matter what your ultimate ambition, as a novice, I recommend you climb the ladder slowly; by this I mean involve yourself in all sorts of different types of driving initially – club rallies, pleasure drives, perhaps competing at local small shows or one day driving events.

    Its imperative that the novice gets experience and miles and new situations under their belt: whether they intend to be the next world champion or just want to have fun safe drives on tracks and lanes.

    There are numbers of all-purpose vehicles readily available on the market that will allow you as the owner of just one carriage, to take part in all these activities.

    My first advice for a first vehicle is to buy modern – and to go to one of the reputable modern carriage builders and buy new if you can afford it. Alternativively buy one of those sort of vehicles 2nd hand – but always seek knowledgeable advice doing it.

    All experienced drivers will have their own preferences but take objective criteria as your guidelines with any vehicle you consider buying.

    Next and this is actually the most important consideration for a vehicle is safety. Every time you drive a horse, particularly on today’s roads, to some extent you are taking your life in your hands, so you want to take all possible safety precautions for you, your passengers and your horse.

    Obviously a soundly made carriage is of paramount importance. A well established carriage builder will have a reputation to preserve as the vehicle must also give a smooth ride and be comfortable. Comfort of the driver is a major contribution to safety.

    For a beginner it is a help if the vehicle is versatile and built along traditional lines, but offers facility for a backstep for use in likes of driving trials or showing. A winding handle or some other adjustment which enables you to shift the body of the vehicle so you can balance it for the size of horse and according to the weight the driver and passengers is a big advantage and will mean the vehicle can last you a lifetime even if you change horses etc.

    Cab fronted is ideal for rallies and club events and particularly suitable for novices because you can get in and out quickly. Metal shafts and wheels – either steel or adluminium means its virtually maintenance free and will be of strong construction and will stand decades of inclement weather should you have to leave it outside.

    The taper bearings on the wheels are very tough and require good water repellent greasing once a year and nothing more. In future if you fancy showing you can fit it with a nice pair of lamps, a brass rein rail and have it coach painted to make it look smarter.

    Quality modern vehicles hold their value well. If the price seems steep then remember two things:

    You get what you pay for in terms of basic quality and engineering

    There is a good second hand market in vehicles which you may well find useful after 5 years or so when you upgrade to a larger horse or even a pair and you’ll virtually get back what you paid as prices tend to move

    Next consideration – can you try before you buy. NEVER purchase a vehicle you’ve not tried first. Take into consideration the comfort of the driving position and how you can adjust it and things like ease of getting in and out. Check it rides smoothly and its not a jerky bumpy ride that is not only tiring but also unsafe.

    Then fit to the horse is extremely important and again get experienced and knowledgeable help. You need to be able to see where you’re going so not too low and also not way up too high. Remember how important it is to keep the line of reins from your hand to the horse’s mouth.

    Next check the balance when the driver (and passenger/s) are in the vehicle. Vehicle must not be tilted up or down and you must be able to adjust the seat back or forward to balance it perfectly – otherwise your horse will be reluctant and unable to work at optimum performance.

    When you get into the driving seat of a strange car, the first thing you do is adjust the seat so its comfortable and your feet reach what they should do. A carriage should be the same. The driver’s position – sitting upright, legs such that your feet are flat on the floor so that your weight can fall through onto the vehicle. If you aren’t buying a custom built vehicle, then ensure it does actually fit you or make it. If you need a wedge cushion then get one and if you need to alter the foot board, then do it.

    Then 2 or 4 wheels? I’d say for a novice driver ALWAYS 2 wheels and even if your eventual intention is horse driving trials you can compete 2 wheels until you’re at national level. And 4 wheels produce greater drag and are thus heavier to pull. So with a small single pony or an adult driver, 2 wheels for definite – even if you are experienced.

    Likewise traditional wheels produce less drag and are purpose built to withstand the rigours of carriage driving – so NOT bike wheels and NOT motorbike wheels. They are extremely dangerous. In terms of tyre, then traditional carriage cab tyre will prepare you for whatever you want to do in the future and for all terrains. However if you do a lot of road driving and your intention is to stick to that then there are some good general purpose vehicles on pneumatic tyre to traditional wheels.

    For those who are on a limited budget, then these photos show a very very basic easy entry vehicle which is perfectly adequate and safe for driver and horse.

    I built both of these myself and they're only used for putting horses to harness and have been in regular (VERY often hard!) use for 15 and 25 years now.

    Now personally I don't sell these sorts of vehicles - as I only custom build higher quality and higher value ones, but just to show low price ones that are absolutely totally adequate and fit for purpose.

    I wanted to show them purely so folks can see that you don't HAVE to have something VERY smart and VERY expensive to be serviceable and safe.

    Note its not got its seat cushion on because its raining!

    And this one I built so long ago that its a black and white photo!

  • #2
    those are lovely thomas - and the last one you built is nice
    would they be for a 142..-.15 hh horse


    • #3
      Absolutely right.

      As a newbie driver I relied on my trainer and the cart builder (a very reputable firm). I did ask other drivers questions about what they liked and why, but it's simply foolish to purchase a cart without help.

      In my area many drivers in the local club have whatever type of "cart" they managed to piece together. Of course they drive mini's and ponies so they have gotten away with it so far. My horse is 17h and I'm not taking anything for granted.
      Hillary Rodham Clinton - the peoples choice for president.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by goeslikestink View Post
        those are lovely thomas - and the last one you built is nice
        would they be for a 142..-.15 hh horse
        Well personally I'd NEVER in a month of Sundays describe them as Lovely. They're cheap basic engineered stuff. They're what I use as training vehicles for putting horses to harness.

        I just change the wheels on them for bigger horses/smaller ponies. I also stick a back step on for bigger ones and often drive standing on that rather than in the seat - BUT that is for training only -DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!


        • #5
          i like any type of trap thomas --
          dunno why i just do

          can you tell me somthing -- when i was younger
          i was told that not to cart -- as a cart is acart -- for doing rounds on
          ie haulage - milk blah blah
          and traps were for people to ride in
          my point i was told that not to call a trap a cart as its offensive
          so is it ----


          • Original Poster

            In the UK the definitions are as follows:

            cart - a trade vehicle so for carrying produce not people: so could be a butchers cart, a milk float, a flat cart, london trolley, etc etc

            carriage - a vehicle for carriage people

            trap - a 2 wheel private carriage with adjustments to balance it

            gig - a 2 wheel private carriage with no adjustments and you balance it by where you put your shopping under the seat and how you and your passenger sit.

            That is just the UK though.


            • #7
              As a just-started-now-addicted newbie driver this info is just what I needed.
              The type of cart you show is exactly what I had in mind {patting self on back}

              One question:
              Why do you feel the bicycle or motorcycle tires are unsafe?
              Since a lot of my driving would be on asphalt roads, I thought these tires might provide a softer ride.
              *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


              • Original Poster

                Simply speaking a motorbike wheel is not designed to withstand the same force or to be mounted on the same fittings as for a horse drawn carriage: The spindle on a motorbike wheel is only about as thick as your finger and a motorcycle wheel isn't designed to withstand side force and pressure and it will fail structurally if that is what you do with it. Consider that when you're on a motorbike and corner you lean, you don't keep the wheels upright. Forget bicyle! That is an abomination and thoroughly unsafe!

                Its entirely possible to get decent horse drawn vehicles on pneumatic tyres but you have to ensure the wheel is purpose designed and appropriate for it to be safe in terms of stress points.

                Here's some to illustrate what you should expect for a horse drawn vehicle:


                • #9
                  [quote=Thomas_1;2479651]Simply speaking a motorbike wheel is not designed to withstand the same force or to be mounted on the same fittings as for a horse drawn carriage: The spindle on a motorbike wheel is only about as thick as your finger and a motorcycle wheel isn't designed to withstand side force and pressure and it will fail structurally if that is what you do with it.
                  Its entirely possible to get decent horse drawn vehicles on pneumatic tyres but you have to ensure the wheel is purpose designed and appropriate for it to be safe in terms of stress points.

                  Thanks for the info - so the spindle thickness is the determining factor?
                  I'll have to compare some motorcycle tires with what I see on carriages. The 2-wheel cart image you sent looks like what I'd want, if a bit heavier than I've seen. Of course, I haven't seen a lot
                  I have plans to go to the Fall Carriage Auction in Topeka, IN with a knowledgeable friend. Now I'll go armed with more information, never a bad thing.
                  *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


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                    Thanks for the info - so the spindle thickness is the determining factor? .
                    Nope and this time I've highlighted....
                    The spindle on a motorbike wheel is only about as thick as your finger and a motorcycle wheel isn't designed to withstand side force and pressure and it will fail structurally


                    • #11
                      so wa right ov the cart and trap side

                      but thomas1 you havent answered my question or perhaps didnt write it properly

                      anyways - if you are driving a trap or owned a trap - and we call it a cart
                      is that offensive to the person driving the trap
                      i was always told it was

                      as the two are completely different

                      just curiousity ate the cat haha


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by goeslikestink View Post
                        anyways - if you are driving a trap or owned a trap - and we call it a cart
                        is that offensive to the person driving the trap
                        i was always told it was
                        Well I'll tell you a story:

                        I was once doing a very fancy and expensive wedding for a most senior police officer from the London Met. There were VERY senior police officers staying all over the prestigious castle venue and having a walk round the grounds prior to the event. We were parked well out of the way getting everything ready and with a road coach, a landau and a phaeton and 8 horses - so a VERY smart affair.

                        Susan's father (who'd come along for the ride out) - who is one of the sharpest and most witty people I know was approached by a small group of the police officers and they said how fantastic the horses and carts looked.

                        He corrected them and said carriages and they continued conversation and asked how old the carts were. "Carriages" he said again. And he told them a little of what he knew about them. Then they asked "do you know who is travelling in which cart". "CARRIAGE" he said. The police officer replied with "well does it really make a difference whether I call it a cart!" Father in law responded "well I don't call you a pig do I, but if I did would it make a difference"

                        And my wife always replies when people talk about a horse and cart and in her most proper English accent "my dear, the Queen does not go to Royal Ascot in a CART, its a carriage" and she sometimes follows it up by saying "a cart is a common trade vehicle"

                        I'd personally say that rather than it being offensive, that its a common mistake.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                          Nope and this time I've highlighted....
                          I stand corrected and chastised and am furiously jotting the information down for future reference...
                          Can I assume that a correctly-made carriage wheel has a certain thickness of spindle and what would that be?
                          How do you determine the wheel's ability to withstand side force and pressure?
                          And finally - is it safe to assume if I purchase a relatively modern cart I will get wheels suitable for safe driving use?
                          Try to be patient with me, as a longtime rider I know how important well-made tack is and want to go into driving with the same regard for the equipment.
                          *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


                          • #14
                            haha thomas 1
                            i shall remember what susans dad said ---haha
                            my grandma's dad used to have a hauglage bisness in London
                            and drove shires or clydales - and suffolk punche's

                            you here alot about the bigger guys like shires etc
                            but not as much about the soffolk punch
                            they are a nice horse and as i know in some instances are the basic breed of our goog hunters when crossed
                            they make excellent hunters as my freind has a couple of pure breds and do well out hunting

                            but you dont often see or here much about them
                            they are used a lot in the farming world ie places that have ploughing contests county shows etc
                            or are a working farm type thing where public can visit

                            but they also are a quality horse for a carriage (haha)
                            when crossed -- with a tb

                            we are fortunate in uk we have a nice selection of types of breeds
                            to pull -- what ever

                            and to show these breeds and cross breds at county llevel and above
                            as the true quality horses that they are and the vechile
                            that matches them is just breathtaking

                            my good freind has a wedding business also does funerals
                            has a white , burgundy, and blue -- laudau and has a black and a white hersh-- also gigs

                            shes a complete nutter every new year she attaches her fresians
                            and dresses them up and goes out as 12oclock midnight - its her gimmick
                            she used to be a nurse shes been on horses for courses

                            lovely lady really and knows her stuff

                            and ic an also vouch that knowing matey as i do -- ie nurse
                            that shes says the same thing about weight type and wheels
                            when i was looking for a trap for ted it was her that came and helped
                            me find the right one that fitted him corectly and that the wheels were bike ones or motorbike ones -- didnt really apprecaite the meaning
                            till you have explained it -- as not a compedtior in driving or a business
                            but just a bod that enjoys the advantage of having a trap to go out on a nice sunday treck --makes so much sense


                            • #15
                              i meant werent motorbike or bike ones


                              • Original Poster

                                you here alot about the bigger guys like shires etc
                                but not as much about the soffolk punch
                                they are a nice horse and as i know in some instances are the basic breed of our goog hunters when crossed
                                they make excellent hunters as my freind has a couple of pure breds and do well out hunting
                                Suffolk punches are on the rare breeds list and I don't know if you know just how rare they are.

                                Its a breed that suffered immensely when farming became industrialised and in the 1930's and 1940's they went in massive number for slaughter and to such an extent that in 1966 there were only 9 foals born in the whole country that year.

                                When a breed is dessimated to that extent, it takes a heck of a long time to recover it and as we stand now there's only 75 breeding females in the UK and just less than 200 proven purebred suffolks in total.

                                Its another breed though, like the Cleveland Bay, that has huge royal support and a fan in Prince Charles and he's done a lot with other specialists to keep it going and Princess Anne who is their Breed Society Patron.

                                However they're notoriously difficult to get in foal and they are most definitely just a seasonal breeder and with a long gestation period. I've a customer that has Shires and Suffolk Punches and two mares and in 14 years they've managed to get 2 foals!

                                I disagree with you about their ridden and even driving ability though. And I'm not the only one to think what I do: that's the reason why they went in such huge numbers to slaughter and unlike such as Shires and Clydesdales which have been used to develop some good heavy hunters etc. The suffolk punch is IMO 'just' a solid great beast of a work horse and stuck in front of a heavy agricultural implement going up and down all day every day, doing ploughing or pulling competitions are purpose made for the job..... but.....
                                I actually think they are immensely stupid and slow and great big numb things.

                                My customers have recently sent me an email asking for specific pairs driving advice. Remember they are dedicated fans and breed specialists when you read this!!

                                we put Edna the Suffolk on the near side, and B on the off, where we normally put him ( so if he moves away from a truck etc, he won't end up in the ditch) (scardy cat). However, Edna wants the crown of the road & just pushes him out of the way, to the off side, & he meekly obliges. She is really hard on the left, & it takes a bit of a wrestle to try to get her to stay where she should be. And its not easy wrestling a stupid Suffolk. Any ideas (as soon as it is dry we will lunge anti clockwise to try to get her less stiff), one of the agricultural Suffolk show guys has suggested we use bit prickers (on the off side) (but we think this could be very poor practice and I'm sure you're going to blast that suggestion!). We were wondering if something like a chambon adjusted to the nearside might help, or a rubberised grass rein? But we know you'll have a much better plan and that it will work! Why aren't you nearer?

                                Remember, Edna is a Suffolk: she is a thug, a bully and STUPID! VERY VERY STUPID
                                And here's Edna - looking like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth! And that is the 'small' shire B referred to above and that she's just barging out of the way as if he's nothing!!! He's a big one - over 18 hands and more than a tonne weight!

                                And a team of them from the Royal Show last year:
                                Last edited by Thomas_1; Jun. 8, 2007, 11:48 AM.


                                • #17
                                  We have a lot of Suffolks here in Amish country and they are very nice horses. Very strong, pleasant and cooperative to work with, not nervous or quick but I wouldn't call them stupid. There are a lot of crossbreds around (QH-Suffolk, STB-Suffolk) too.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    SLC2 I'd be more surprised if you agreed!!!

                                    However to be serious for a moment and by way of ensuring there's accurate information - and so you can call me snotty again!

                                    The English Suffolk Horse Society is the oldest of its type in the world, it having been founded as the Suffolk Stud Book Association in 1877 and all horses have to be able to be genetically traced back and proven with DNA testing as purebreds.

                                    The English Suffolk Punch Breed Society won't permit use of American Suffolk Punches because there was so much cross breeding and blood typing so far is calling into doubt the purity. For the past few years the American Breed Society have been insisting on DNA testing and English fans of the breed are very hopeful that will address this situation and enable some new blood to be brought in to the UK.

                                    However they're hardly in abundance in the USA. I believe less than 20 registered stallions with DNA typing on record in the whole of that massive country. You might also be interested to know that they're also on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's Listing and as "critical". Critical is categorised as fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000.

                                    Truth is, its estimated that in the whole of the world there's less than 1,300 purebred Suffolk Punches.

                                    To encourage breeders, the UK have made grants available as follows:

                                    - Grant for placing a stallion on the list of stallions standing at stud.

                                    - Grant for each registered Suffolk mare covered by stallions on the list, payable to the stallion owner.

                                    - Grant paid to stallion owner for reported birth by his or her stallion.

                                    - Grant for all stallions forward at Woodbridge Show.

                                    -Travelling grants for stallions attending Woodbridge Show - a grant of 50p per mile will be paid for each mile travelled over fifty miles from the Suffolk Showground

                                    -Grant to those owners who maintain a colt entire until the age of two years. --Grant to be given when the colt reaches two years old and presented to the Licencing Committee.

                                    -Grant to mare owners for registering foals BEFORE 1st October.

                                    But I really can't be bothered to get into conversation about what you mean by "a lot"
                                    Last edited by Thomas_1; Jun. 8, 2007, 11:51 AM.


                                    • #19
                                      I have to agree with Thomas - and I think I'm qualified to do so - I live in the heart of Suffolk Punch territory - Woodbridge!

                                      My sister is a veterinary assistant - her boss is chairman of the Suffolk Punch Trust.

                                      They are beautiful animals which are perfectly suited to what they were bred for - agricultural work in the heavy clay soil that we have here.

                                      But as a riding horse? Er, no, I'll pass thanks


                                      • Original Poster

                                        The Woodbridge show is a terrific venue for seeing them in all their glory.

                                        I suspect that I've photos of your sister's boss and I hope he isn't the one referred to in the email I posted

                                        The ones I posted earlier are from the Suffolk Punch Trust at Woodbridge. Is he on board that vehicle?

                                        Posted again a little larger so you can see...