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Opinions on Hitching Technique

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  • Opinions on Hitching Technique

    I've been driving several years, learned from a solid trainer in my area and continue to expand my education driving and training my own horses, the occasional lesson or clinic, reading, and what videos I can find.

    Now most sources seem to recommend having someone head the horse(s) if at all possible while putting to the cart. Some are adamant that you never tie a hitched horse. One source, however, suggested tying the horse to hitch.

    I can see how hitching while tied can have advantages, especially if you are doing a lot of solo driving, however I can also see how it could go horribly wrong.

    How about you? Do you always have a second set of hands hitching? Train your horse so it stands and you do it yourself? Tie it to something, hitch, and then go?

  • #2
    I have always hitched alone. I also made sure my horse was at the point that they stood quietly for said hitching. Also had plenty of practice with hitching a drag. I always keep the reins in my hand and have never had an issue. At a show I have occasionally hitched tied to trailer with Halter over bridle. The style that has buckle nose band. Also when new to showing and horse was a little more concerned I asked someone to head. It is important to pay attention to the horse and your surroundings.


    • #3
      I'm a relative Newb, but have good help available from a neighbor who is 3rd Generation driver & another Ammy friend who has a gift for training horses to drive. And I routinely pick the brains of my Carriage Club fellow members.
      From them I have gathered it is best - if at all possible - to have someone head, but also that if you are IT, then tying to something solid is next best.
      *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


      • #4
        I hitch alone 99% of the time. If I have a horse that fidgets, I'll have someone head until I can get the horse trained to stand. I've tied horses for hitching the past and would in a pinch, but I'd rather the horse be able to walk off straight ahead than have their head locked down so they end up swinging their butt left/right since that can cause problems since the cart doesn't move left/right with them. I use a light sulky most days, so if I have to, I can actually lift it up and move it if the horse gets in an awkward position.

        One of my horses has suddenly decided he's going to walk off after he's hitched, before I'm in the cart, so now I'm having to fix that.... sigh... I hate independent thinkers LOL.


        • #5
          I too always drove alone, so never had anyone to head either of my driving ponies. Both were excellent about standing until told to move, so I never had an issue. I started off with the horse wearing a halter and clipped to a post via a panic snap, then took the halter off when I was ready to bridle, and buckled the halter around the neck. If the horse pulled back hard, the panic snap would give way before any possible injury to the horse, but it just never happened. I unbuckled the halter from around the neck last thing (with lines in hand), got in the cart, and off we'd go.

          My last driving pony, who is still around but is retired, could undo a panic snap without me noticing. It only happened a couple of times because I knew his tricks, but he did fool me occasionally. The really funny part of this is that he would just stand at the post after taking the snap apart. I probably could have just left him loose to harness and put to, but I never did.



          • Original Poster

            Thanks everyone! I appreciate the additional insight and reasoning behind what you do.


            • #7
              Late to the game here. We harness and hitch at home with tied horses. We have a wide aisle in the barn, so horses are cross-tied to work with them. At the Trainer's, she ties them facing a wall for learning to be harnessed and later hitched to the vehicles. She has help, so at times the helper holds the horse with a lead rope, gets hitched in the arena, which teaches them things are not always exactly the same in getting to the goal of being hitched up.

              I like a tied horse myself, he is NOT going to leave me, whatever else is going on around me. When I drove Singles at other places, I got the harness on, Halter over bridle so horse was tied to the trailer while I put the vehicle on the horse. After double checking everything, I held the reins, removed the halter, then got in the vehicle. I backed horse a step or two away from trailer, so we were clear and then drove off forward. Works well with 2-wheelers, have to be more careful with 4-wheeled vehicles that can fold or jackknife on you when backing up.

              Coming up with old-school Drivers as we learned driving stuff, they really emphasize having a good stand, tied if possible or using a header person with a LEAD ROPE on animal for harnessing and hitching. Always using a consistant plan for harnessing and hitching up, as well as unhitching and unharnessing.. ESPECIALLY important in locations away from home. Horse may not be paying attention well, new stuff going on, so NOT the time to try new methods or change of basic routine steps.

              Hitching and unhitching are the two places most likely to have problems crop up, horse try to get away from you. An impatient, distracted horse, a person hurrying to get everything in place or unfastened, is a sure fire way to get in trouble. Just because horse or pony is reliable at home, does not mean he brought his best manners to the show! So don't trust him to behave "like always" in other locations.

              We now drive Multiples so that always requires help for the Driver. We CAN hitch at the side of the trailer, but recommended method is a Header with lead ropes on both animals, during hitching. Only when Driver is seated in place, gloves on, reins adjusted in his hands, whip in hand, is Header supposed to remove the leads and step aside from the horses.

              ASK for help if you think you might need it. Better than getting in trouble "not wanting to bother anyone!!" Sure beats a wreck happening!! We have all needed a hand now and again. Someone just being handy, standing beside horse, might be all that is needed for a safe hitching and departure from the trailer or stable area. Another set of eyes looking over your harness could catch something you miss. And even the BEST can miss a detail now and again while preparing the horse. My husband has a LOT of stories from being Ringmaster, including only having one rein on, but the route to ring only had left turns, didn't need that other rein yet! Overgirth not fastened, only one trace or hold back strap hooked, along with other details missed.

              Don't allow yourself to get hurried or flustered while harnessing and hitching. Make sure you do all the needed steps before getting on the vehicle. Then check both sides of animal again in case you missed something. Then go have a GREAT time driving!


              • #8
                goodhors I am going to print your post & hang it in my barn with a copy in the trailer!
                I will be working solo for the most part with my mini & have been told tying to the trailer or other solid object is permissible in that situation.
                While I hope to have company that can head for me - Better Safe than Sorry - it's good to know solo is doable,

                I have a story for your DH:
                At a show, riding with my friend who was driving her pony in the Costume class, we got hailed from the judge's stand.
                Pony had slipped his bridle and we were going, at speed, without
                She asked pony to stop <with voice alone > & he did, I got down & put him back in order & we continued on,
                That could have been a wreck, but thanks to well-trained SuperPony it was not.

                He did the same thing when driven in a pair out on trails.
                Little pony ears.....
                I've suggested gullet straps for the team & hope she takes the advice
                *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


                • #9
                  2DogsFarm, that is a great story!

                  Both my ponies were great about stopping on voice command alone, and I needed to do that at least once with each.

                  When my Hackney ran out of molars, even with rubber bit guards in place, sometimes his bit would end up in very strange places. I'd just ask him to whoa, jump out and fix it, and go on.

                  With my larger, maybe Welsh pony, mosquitoes were deviling him one day, and he shook his bridle right over an ear. Seemed weird as he has very Arabian looking ears, not small by any means. I asked him to whoa, but he was already stopping as he knew it was amiss. He is such a good, patient boy. He's always willing to let me get him out of any trouble.



                  • #10
                    I hitch solo 99.9% of the time.

                    I single tie my horse, groom, harness, slip the halter down to become a neck collar, bridle and rig up the reins, then stow them on the turnback.

                    The area I groom is gated, so I then go open the gate - to and from which, I'm putting on my helmet and gloves - unfasten the neck collar, lead horse to vehicle and position him, and then hitch with the reins in my hand/over shoulder. I never take my hands off the reins as I switch from side to side.

                    My horse was an impatient, bolting monster before he started his driving career, so teaching the ability to STOP and STAND under all circumstances was priority #1.

                    Once as I was hitching, doing a final check and heading to the vehicle, I suddenly noticed blood droplets on my boy's white socks. Looking for the source, some greenhead flies flew away from up around his sheath. He'd been flapping his tail like mad, but never moved a leg, let the bugs chew on him while he stood.

                    He too once shook his bridle off while we were out along the trail. Scared the bejeebers out of me. I didn't know I could literally leap from the carriage like I did. I had him outfitted in a fancy bonnet and fancy matching polos. Bonnet became sweaty and the whole deal slid off his head with just a few shakes at a fly. Only thing keeping the bridle anywhere near his head was my hand still firmly on the reins keeping the bit in his mouth. I was so grateful he stood and no wildlife decided to make a surprise appearance at that moment. I gave away my entire collection of bonnets that day.

                    My friend who taught me how to drive has a nice set up, she has two stout pillars to cross tie the horse on, grooms, harnesses, hitches, releases the ties, mounts the cart and drives straight off. Horse has to travel straight though, one sideways move and a wheel could catch one of those pillars.
                    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                    • #11
                      I had a wheel come off my cart once while driving. A stallion. Past mares in the field. That was a fun heart attack of a moment... Luckily he stopped immediately when I said "whoa," and stood like a gentleman while I unhooked him, mares crowding the fence to watch. Then we walked back to the barn, about 2 miles. I now check my axle bolts regularly. Live and learn.


                      • #12
                        Always keep your lines in your hands while hitching as well. Check your wheels as well. Also, make sure you have a good spares kit. They can save your tail when you're away from the barn.
                        "Anyone who tries to make brownies without butter should be arrested." Ina Garten


                        • Original Poster

                          Great stories and I appreciate you all sharing! As I get more involved in driving I'm sure I'll do some solo driving as I get tired of waiting for a second hand. Our two drafts we drive as a team we leave their halters on under the bridle since they don't have a full noseband. I'd like to get a couple of those nose-buckle halters for use while driving.