Go to FastAd#:

About Driving6th in a series
In the last issues, Patricia gave her insight into how a driver gets started. Now, she moves into the next step.

Most horses enjoy being driven, and some even excel at it more than riding. The breed of the horse is not important, nor is the size — other than finding the perfect horse for the job intended. My first requirement is that the horse does not go into full training until itÕs mature enough — mentally and physically. Personally, I usually like to start a horse at three years old or older. Next, I look for a good mind and calm attitude. I want a willing and obedient equine who will take to training. It should be sound with fair conformation. Older, well-trained saddle horses often take to driving training quite well.

What kind of horse should one avoid trying to train to drive?

My No. 1 negative is a kicker. This should be avoided at all costs in driving. A confirmed kicker is extremely dangerous when driving. Once it kicks the carriage, fight or flight instinct sets in and it will do everything in his power to rid himself of the carriage attached to him.

The next negative to avoid would be a horse that evades by rearing –another very dangerous habit that could result in injuries to both horse and human if it decides to flip over backward between the shafts of the carriage or get a leg caught over the shaft! The next prospect to avoid would be a horse that bolts. You can ride them as fast as they can run, but you canÕt drive them that fast. Once a horse starts to run, it can become more frightened of the noisy carriage behind it than whatever it was that originally caused the spook.

How long will it take to train?

Every horse is an individual, learning at a different pace. In the old days, a young horse was trained in a few days by very experienced horsemen. In that era, a horse might have been driven 40 hours in a week, all the while hitched next to a more experienced and better-trained horse. In our modern times, we rarely have the luxury of this technique, so it takes quite a bit longer. Forty hours of training time in the old days could actually be weeks to months of training today! Your equine needs to be comfortable, wearing a harness that includes breeching and blinders. It should be trained to accept a whip touching its body — a whip is an appropriate tool in driving, such as leg cues are used in riding — for lateral movement as well as forward movement. The equine should be gently accustomed to various noises, like a tire dragging in the dirt, plastic bottles tied together, trash cans rattling, flags snapping, etc., and conditioned not to spook at them. Some carriages can be very noisy.

Also, the equine should be comfortable pulling an object behind them with the collar and traces, as well as shaft simulators. The shafts of a carriage can be confining to a horse, and must be slowly introduced so there is no panic derived from their restriction. The equine should be comfortable with each step of the process before the next step is introduced. These are the building blocks to training the driving equine.

WARNING: A horse is a fight or flight animal, and must be trained and Òde-sensitizedÓ to the stimuli of having a vehicle attached and chasing it. This horse must also be trained to be accustomed to harness including breeching and blinders. Before you ever attach or ÒhookÓ a horse to a cart, carriage or wagon, be sure the equine has been trained to pull a carriage. NEVER, hitch a horse to a vehicle that you do not know, for sure, if it has been trained to drive!

When hooking to a carriage for the first time, be sure you have knowledgeable help and an appropriate area to do so, like an enclosed arena, in case of trouble. When you and your horse are comfortable walking, trotting may be slowly introduced. Please seek a carriage training professional or other knowledgeable, experienced help when training your horse to drive. There are many books on how to teach your horse to drive, and information can be found on the internet. Be safe and happy driving!

Patricia Demers is a trainer based in Lancaster, Calif., who specializes in cairrage driving. You can submit questions or reach Trish at driving@horsetrader.com.

Leave a Comment

All fields must be filled in to leave a message.