When you first start driving a horse and cart, it’s best to have an experienced person with you. They can help you get acquainted with the vehicle, answer any questions you may have and assist in case something unexpected happens. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s possible to enjoy this sport on your own and take part in events like parades and road or trail driving. But it takes a lot of practice and careful training before you’re ready to do that.
Pleasure driving, also known as carriage driving in some nations, is a fun and rewarding activity for both horses and people. Nearly any breed of horse can be trained for this discipline, which is mostly done at the walk and two speeds of trot. Pleasure competitions often have classes that are judged on the turnout, neatness and suitability of the horse(s) and carriage.
The simplest way to begin is by learning ground driving and long lining. You’ll need to familiarize your horse with the harness and noise of a car, and you’ll want to build up a good foundation of trust with him. Then, you can slowly work up to getting him used to actually being hitched to the cart. If he becomes nervous or frightened, it’s important to stop and return to an earlier stage of training to build his confidence before you try again.
When you are ready to drive, always keep the bridle on and never leave your horse unattended while attached to the cart. If you are not in control of the horse, an accident could occur and it would be extremely difficult to pull off the cart without damaging your horse or yourself. It’s a good idea to join your local driving club and participate in parades or historical re-enactments to gain more experience and learn new skills. You can also participate in non-competitive driving events such as plow days or exhibitions.
In more competitive situations, a driver will usually drive in teams of four, six or more animals. These teams are described as four-in-hand, a pair is referred to as a tandem and there are many other arrangements including unicorn turnout (one animal in front of a pair) and three abreast (three animals side by side).
Once you’ve mastered the basics of driving, you can start competing or simply enjoy your time out on the road or in the woods. Pleasure drivers can even compete at obstacle courses where they have to overcome a variety of different challenges.
Aside from having the right type of horse and doing plenty of ground work, pleasure driving can be an inexpensive hobby for beginners. You can purchase a working harness and cart for about $2,000 and a dependable pony that has been trained to drive for less than $5,000. If you’re planning to participate in competitions, you’ll need a tack trunk with extra hay and blankets, an apron to protect your clothes from dirt and a set of sleigh reins.