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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!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...s/DSCF0039.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...DSCF0040-1.jpg

And this one I built so long ago that its a black and white photo!
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...dbasic0006.jpg

Long Reining, Long Lining, Ground Driving, Lunging or what?!

Lots of stuff about this on the boards over the years and also lots of explanations of the difference.

The thing is though Long Reining, Long Lining and Ground Driving are all exactly the same.

Regrettably there’s folks who don’t seem to know that though.

To be absolutely correct, there’s only Long Reining and Short Reining.

First the terminology, Long Reining: As soon as you put reins from the horse to your hand when you are standing on the ground some distance from the horse then its Long Reining.

Short Reining: is when you are on the ground with short reins to your horse and you stand at the side of your horse at its shoulder and work the reins with one over the horses’s back.

So why is it called lots of different things? I’ll give a full and proper explanation and so folks will truly know and not fall into the trap that others have “of thinking they know”

And trust me this is a subject I do indeed know about.

So here’s a go at further explaining and also with how and why the confusion:

With some in the driving fraternity its called Long Lining or Ground Driving when its done walking behind the horse as if you were carriage driving (but without the vehicle.)

This terminology originates from the farming community or heavy horse folks and its there that this terminology is always still used in Europe. And you may be interested to know that in that community even if they Ground Drive on a circle - then they still call it Ground Driving or Long Lining.

And which one they call it tends to be a regional divide thing: North and South respectively. So go to Somerset and its Long Lining. Go to Yorkshire and its Ground Driving, though the more travelled and refined farmer in Yorkshire would call it Long Lining.

Then that terminology crept into the light harness horse fraternity and purely because as carriage driving expertise declined and trainers have been limited, folks have taken their light harness horses to a guy who has heavy agricultural horses and as far as everyone is concerned he’s “long-lining” or “ground driving”. And because he’s training their horse to carriage drive and he’s doing basic stuff only and probably has about 6 weeks to do it in, the horse is only ever long-reined with the handler walking immediately behind.

Then before you know what has happened folks that know no better think their horse has been “ground driven” or “Long Lined” and it seems can even persuade themselves there’s differences.

But trust me, there’s not!

Said agricultural horse trainer doesn’t need to train this horse to do anything fancy so his ground work will just be to get the horse with a vehicle then away. However if he’s training his own light harness horse - say to drive tandem to go to the hunt - as was the traditional way, then he’d be wanting it VERY well schooled and trained and to a higher level and he’d also do on a circle and teach it to shoulder in and a lot more. But because of his upbringing and culture he’ll still say he’s either Long Lining or Ground Driving.

However the proper terminology is Long Reining and its a form of Advanced Lunging and in many parts of Europe - to confuse things even more, it was called Advanced Lunging in the early days. That though has dropped out of useage because folks who really can Advanced Lunge or Long Rein want to distinguish what they do from those who merely have a horse running round in circles attached one line to a cavesson.

So again the terminology Long Reining is always used by the traditionalists and those who know the correct definitions and don’t have the regional or agricultural culture. So you NEVER hear Prince Philip saying anything other than to Long Rein - whether its in a straight line or in a circle or for riding or driving. My parents and grandparents were the same because even though they were from the north and from a farming community, they were travelled and educated and a little more ‘refined’ and they trained riding horses and top level coaching horses and hackney horses in harness. You would NEVER say to a refined gentleman that his horse had been Ground Driven because even long ago it had associations with basic farm training by an uneducated man.

I hope this explanation helps but if there’s anything I’ve not made clear, then do ask.

Regrettably IMO the history of driving and the old equitation skills and knowledge and language are being lost and I am delighted to share it with others.

Even in the USA though there’s cogniscence of the fact it’s the same thing and carriage drivers frequently disagree which is what.
If you look at this link, you’ll see a book: Introduction to Long Reins “Long reining, long lining or ground driving” a training technique by different names. http://www.wildhorsebooks.com/Light%20Driving.htm

How easy to start an older horse or a riding horse to drive

how hard is it to train an older horse to drive if it has never done it before?

It depends…

First consideration would be whether the horse has the right temperament and disposition for driving: Needs to be confident and forward going.

Then what has he done before? How thorough was his training? Was he properly long reined as part of his training. Was his ground training such that he was taught to stand properly and stand for ages and ages and then some more and never moving an inch. He can rest a leg but not shuffle about.

IME it can take anything from 8 weeks to 6 months to get an older horse going in harness reasonably well.

However the other thing to consider is to what level do you mean when you say “to get him driving?” In riding and driving there’s a saying novice horse, novice rider = bad combination. or green + green = black and blue.

In driving this is even more critical and important to take heed to. In addition to a novice horse you’ve a great lump of wood or metal at the back of it. i.e. the carriage!

If the driver is a novice then the horse would need to be much more advanced and would need to be brought on and have miles and experience put onto it.

Also how hard is it to learn to drive a horse properly?

Think how hard it is to learn to ride properly and double it. I started to learn properly and with exellent lessons and nearly 60 years ago.

Like all practical skills its about duration and repetition. I’d say that on an average learning curve and with one hour of good tuition a minimum of once a week and with a good and forgiving school master horse, then after 6 months you’ll be reasonably safe.

Carriage Stability

It seems that in almost every HDT or CDE there’s at least one competitor eliminated because of a tip up and all too often in general conversation (in life of on the internet) drivers talk about their experience when what started as a minor incident, escalated and the carriage turned over.

Now as a driver and carriage manufacturer this gets me thinking. Personally I really detest carriages that are unsafe, too light and unstable.

However almost every carriage manufacturer and every carriage driver ‘claims’ their vehicle offers stability. But they never quantify though is how stable and so folks aren’t too sure what it actually means.

There are many ways that a carriage may tip over, gravity has everything to do with it. The best way to test how stable an object is, is to see what angle the thing will topple over. Its not just about the gradient a vehicle can traverse, but also at a more general level, how likely it is that it will topple over in such situations.

I always test my own manufactured vehicles and any vehicle that I consider taking in part exchange to sell.

But a lot of manufacturers don’t test at all and if they do, they certainly don’t make data public. Often folks talk about designs allowing for the “back-stepper” to prevent toppling, but this is too subjective and not good safety data. You’d never buy a 4 x 4 car which is advertised as “being totally stable so long as you always drive it absolutely correctly”. Cars are rigourously tested for stability and data is available for those who want it.

The other difference with a 4 x 4 car and a carriage is that when a car’s steering in on full lock, there is still a wheel at every corner. But when a carriage axle turns fully, it becomes a see-saw!

Its therefore important that a driver should include testing with the turntable in a number of positions.

Rules for HDT (CDE) stipulate track width and weight, but these alone are not a measure of stability. Perhaps there should be a maximum topple angle.

I personally believe that the costs would be outweighed by the benefits of a more informed buyer, accelerated carriage design and clearer safety guidance for competitors and course builders.

The balanced seat

Irrespective of size, anyone has the ability to look good and elegant on the box seat. Posture and position are the key elements - together with a complimentary turn out.

A big man seated in a Liverpool gig behind a powerful cob can look magnificent, a man driving a pair of heavy horses can be workmanlike and comfortable, just as a petite lady with a pretty section A to a spindle back gig looks elegant.

No matter what though all must be driven in the correct and appropriate manner with style. (I’ve always considered style the next requirement to safety)

The secret is to have a comfortable seat at a height such that the reins rise gradually in a line from the horse’s mouth, above the croup and rein rail, to the hands. Not sitting too low, so the reins are resting along the horse’s back and not too high so they’re draped and with a steep angle.

The driver should always sit well back on the seat with both feet flat and even and together and on the sloping footboard, and knees comfortably bent. A wedged seat is often best to help achieve this.

The driver must be secure and sitting back and straight in case the horse shies or gives a jolt. He/she must be well positionsed and balanced and so able to drive with light sympathetic hands that can give and take and are not weighting constantly down on the horses mouth. Only by not having hands too far back against the body or outstretched and too low, can a reassuring and sensitive contact be achieved which is effective, kind and less tiring for horse and driver. Lastly and by no means least, its important to be able to have somewhere to go if the horse becomes strong.

The driver should always sit up with a straight back and knees and feet together. I can always tell if a driver is a rider, because knees tend to be wide and they seem to want to lean forward, actually feeling and looking insecure because they’re not touching the horse.

Drivers should be aware that poor driving position and a poorly balanced seat limits the ability of the horse and driver partnership to achieve at optimum, is not elegant, can be dangerous and means the reins can’t be handled properly, effectively or correctly.

If you’re driving a 2 wheeler, good driving position and a knowledge of how you move impacts on the balance of the vehicle is integral to learning to drive. You will need to know the likes of how to put weight in the shafts or take weight off to enable the horse to perform to his optimum and also to ensure comfort, safety and stability with the vehicle.

Do harness horses require shoes or special shoeing

I’d say that in many ways its more important that a driving horse is well shod and you’re less likely to get away with poor trimming and shoeing. (though in reality I don’t really believe you can get away with it in a high performance riding horse either! And I’m one who thinks that farriery is either right or wrong, good or bad and I personally class mediocre as poor)

The more accurate answer is probably it depends because of course driving is done at all sorts of different levels.

However some generalisations I’ve always taken into account. First off when horses are pulling into collars they can become more developed front end and particularly in the shoulders, which can cause problems in the lower neck and wither area. Traditionally, many of the carriage horse breeds and types are bred with upright pasterns in front, causing jarring from ground level into an upright shoulder, which compounds problems in the wither and shoulder area.

Additionally driving horses sometimes do not have as much engagement from behind in their action because they don’t have rider’s legs pushing them on, so unless they are ride and drive and doing good correct ridden and other schooling or such as interval training hill work they are likely to be more “front end developed”.

Furthermore the driving horse can’t ever bend to the same extent as a riding horse - he’s restricted by shafts and so when moving over on a tight turn he will half-passe and so mustn’t have long toes and big shoes to catch or strike into himself.

Then they tend to do more “high impact” work. e.g. extensive road work at trot or extended trot.

Also they use britching and if put to a 2 wheeler they are without brakes (or even with a novice/poor driver whose not using brakes properly on a 4 wheeler) they may be constantly using their britching to keep the carriage from running forward and if driving down hill may virtually sit back on their britching to hold the weight of carriage and load. So don’t want them having their back legs pushed from under them and which is a most common accident. So back shoes must have traction - not too worn and as I said I use tungsten road studs (which are permanent into the nail head).

If they’re setting off with a heavy load, then they need to be able to “dig in” and get purchase to get the turnout going. Particularly if you live in a hilly area as I do.

On a driving horse a strong well positioned clip can help to hold the shoe in place and a slightly squared toe on the hind shoe, with a toe clip also aids purchase.

Foot balance is of prime importance in the driving horse, as bad trimming, bad shoeing or studs worn or uneven can create problems and particular when its in the shoulder with lameness or jibbing or resistance to work in draft and can also cause sore shins by the inevitable concussion in front.

In truth to find a farrier with extensive good experience of shoeing driving horses is as rare as rocking horse poo. Drivers are very aware that driving is an elite minority sport and so you’d be hitting lucky if you found one that had gained and maintained exceptional competence in that area when he is likely to have a limited market.

Bits:::

Using a curb bit or just a riding snaffle:

http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=196249

Why do they wear blinkers/blinders

The reason why driving horses wear bridles with blinkers is that it cuts down the field of vision and they concentrate on what is in front of them not all around.

I would never ever drive a horse in an open bridle.

It’s another one of those things that is darnright foolhardy.

The preference of light harness horse instructors and professionals is to prefer a driving horse to focus on what is happening in front and when you commence driving it can be problematic not having blinkers. And I’d never drive one without. Also dependent on what you intend to do, you may find you have to wear get him in blinkers because of rules. The rules exist BECAUSE it’s safer. Whenever folks mention in postings about blinkers on BB’s someone always turns up to say they’ve done it or know someone who does/has. But it’s not right and it’s not what you should do and it’s not what professionals do.

Personally I would not show or drive a horse in an open bridle, even if it were allowed.

I’ve heard of the occasional (rare) horse who for one reason or another goes better in an open bridle. But IME its more a case that sometimes people just get warm and fuzzy about letting the horse see everything and the results can be disastrous.

I’ve known folks who went “open” bridle to drive. All claimed to be experienced drivers and with solid driving horses. It worked for a while. In every instance, horse later saw something, reacted, ended up causing a wreck. Some were modest wrecks, others quite horrific. I don’t know any of the wrecked horses who were able to be SAFELY driven again, even in blinkers.

Blinkers shut down the big screen of visibility, reduce the reaction from the horse to uncontrollable features in the environment and to unconscious body signals you may give him. The horse is designed to notice these detail things, his survival depends on it, so blinkers close down the vision area allowed.

Then consider that a well-trained driving horse understands and responds appropriately to whip cues. The blinkers prevent the horse from seeing the driving whip and anticipating the whip cue. This is important for any driving horse but especially so for multiples. You don’t want to be aiming a whip cue at one horse and having the other(s) see it coming and react when they’re not the intended target of the cue.

Riding and driving are very different disciplines. Hooking a wheeled contraption to a horse or horses is a far riskier endeavor than climbing on a horse’s back, both for the driver and passengers and for all the innocent bystanders and their property who stand in harm’s way when there’s a runaway horse and carriage. Blinkers (blinders) have been used for hundreds of years and are used by the most experience and skilled drivers. You need to think there must be valid reasons.

Driving Arena Size

http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=197631

100 metres x 40 metres

Carriage shafts

http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=200597

[QUOTE=Thomas_1;3974475]The reason why driving horses wear bridles with blinkers is that it cuts down the field of vision and they concentrate on what is in front of them not all around.

I would never ever drive a horse in an open bridle.

It’s another one of those things that is darnright foolhardy.

The preference of light harness horse instructors and professionals is to prefer a driving horse to focus on what is happening in front and when you commence driving it can be problematic not having blinkers. And I’d never drive one without. Also dependent on what you intend to do, you may find you have to wear get him in blinkers because of rules. The rules exist BECAUSE it’s safer. Whenever folks mention in postings about blinkers on BB’s someone always turns up to say they’ve done it or know someone who does/has. But it’s not right and it’s not what you should do and it’s not what professionals do.

Personally I would not show or drive a horse in an open bridle, even if it were allowed.

I’ve heard of the occasional (rare) horse who for one reason or another goes better in an open bridle. But IME its more a case that sometimes people just get warm and fuzzy about letting the horse see everything and the results can be disastrous.

I’ve known folks who went “open” bridle to drive. All claimed to be experienced drivers and with solid driving horses. It worked for a while. In every instance, horse later saw something, reacted, ended up causing a wreck. Some were modest wrecks, others quite horrific. I don’t know any of the wrecked horses who were able to be SAFELY driven again, even in blinkers.

Blinkers shut down the big screen of visibility, reduce the reaction from the horse to uncontrollable features in the environment and to unconscious body signals you may give him. The horse is designed to notice these detail things, his survival depends on it, so blinkers close down the vision area allowed.

Then consider that a well-trained driving horse understands and responds appropriately to whip cues. The blinkers prevent the horse from seeing the driving whip and anticipating the whip cue. This is important for any driving horse but especially so for multiples. You don’t want to be aiming a whip cue at one horse and having the other(s) see it coming and react when they’re not the intended target of the cue.

Riding and driving are very different disciplines. Hooking a wheeled contraption to a horse or horses is a far riskier endeavor than climbing on a horse’s back, both for the driver and passengers and for all the innocent bystanders and their property who stand in harm’s way when there’s a runaway horse and carriage. Blinkers (blinders) have been used for hundreds of years and are used by the most experience and skilled drivers. You need to think there must be valid reasons.[/QUOTE]

Ahhh. Thomas is throwing his teddy out of the pram again. :smiley:

Bottom line - it is LEGAL under American Driving Society and U.S. Equestrian Federation rules to drive open. I repeat - IT IS LEGAL.

So, while the other posts are useful and are welcomed, this post IMO should NOT be placed in the Reference section, because it’s the opinion of ONE foreign trainer who has clearly not read the US rules and is simply incorrect on the point!

I respect Thomas overall, but he is clearly biased on this point in one direction, while I’m biased in the other. I did own a clear and convincing exception to the rule, in a TB I trained myself who drove open from age 16 (when he started) to age 23, and who NEVER had a serious wreck, NEVER lost his concentration, and who was NEVER unsafe to drive. Indeed he taught many beginners the basics, some of whom are on this forum and still pleasantly alive to vouch for him. :smiley: I would not be keeping the faith with his memory if I did not point out that there ARE exceptions to the rule, there ARE reputable professionals over here who acknowledge that, and that is why the ADS/USEF rules are as they are.

Peace out, y’all…

WA - pardon me, but I don’t see where he states it is NOT legal to drive in an open bridle in the United States.

I see him making a very clear and compelling case for training your horse to go in blinkers.

I daresay he’s trained a few more horses in his time than you have.

If you feel strongly that his post does not belong in this “reference” topic, then why don’t you have a chat with the mods? Or perhaps have a little PM conversation with Thomas himself?

Personally, I would trust the judgment of a man with as much experience as Thomas has shown to have over that of someone who, say, has trained one horse.

[QUOTE=hitchinmygetalong;4031856]
Personally, I would trust the judgment of a man with as much experience as Thomas has shown to have over that of someone who, say, has trained one horse.[/QUOTE]

I, on the other hand, prefer to think and observe for myself, apply what I learn to each specific situation and horse I train, and put blind faith in no man! :lol:

What are you on? !! ??

Bottom line - it is LEGAL under American Driving Society and U.S. Equestrian Federation rules to drive open. I repeat - IT IS LEGAL.

I’d suggest you read my post again and rather than making racist jingoistic comments about “foreigners” you note what I ACTUALLY said…

Also dependent on what you intend to do, you may find you have to wear get him in blinkers because of rules.
FACT: If you aspire to driving a horse at high level then you’ll need to put him in blinkers.

I don’t mean tootling about with an old rescue horse or driving local or even some countries national events. I mean if you aspire to driving fei.

And I’ll leave you with a quote from my mentor and which is also contained on the ADS website.

“It is usual to drive a horse in a blinker bridle so that his attention may not be distracted by things seen to the side or rear.
It is true that Army horses and some railway horses were driven in open bridles, which may have advantages for horses used for special tasks, but there is nothing cruel about blinkers, which have been approved by generations of horsemen in many lands and there is little point in further debate about them.”
Tom Ryder
On the Box Seat

[QUOTE=hitchinmygetalong;4031856]WA - pardon me, but I don’t see where he states it is NOT legal to drive in an open bridle in the United States.[/QUOTE] Seems we were posting at the same time only in addition to being able to read and understand, you type quicker than me! :winkgrin:

[QUOTE=War Admiral;4031667]
I respect Thomas overall, but he is clearly biased on this point in one direction, while I’m biased in the other. I did own a clear and convincing exception to the rule, in a TB I trained myself who drove open from age 16 (when he started) to age 23, and who NEVER had a serious wreck, NEVER lost his concentration, and who was NEVER unsafe to drive. Indeed he taught many beginners the basics, some of whom are on this forum and still pleasantly alive to vouch for him. :smiley: I would not be keeping the faith with his memory if I did not point out that there ARE exceptions to the rule, there ARE reputable professionals over here who acknowledge that, and that is why the ADS/USEF rules are as they are.

Peace out, y’all…[/QUOTE]

I am afraid I agree with this. I have a hobby of reading old (100+) American on-line books on horses (driving and training) and nearly all of them have a discussion about blinders being optional equipment. Many state that you should use what ever the horse goes best in; open or blinders. These books were written when horses were used for transportation.

The fact that blinders are the norm now may have more to do with the philosophy that they are safer. Seeing as though most horses are driven with blinders and there are plenty of wrecks that occur with these horses perhaps the truth is that some horses would be safer driven open. 100 years ago the wisdom was to do what worked best for the horse.

Blinkers (blinders) have been used for hundreds of years and are used by the most experience and skilled drivers. You need to think there must be valid reasons.

While this is true the inverse is also true; open bridles have been used for hundreds of year by the most experienced and skilled drivers. Blinders were simply optional equipment and some time after the horse stopped being transportation and started to be driven for pleasure blinders became standard equipment in America for pleasure drivers.

No doubt that it requires a very experienced trainer to drive in an open bridle or more importantly to decide what horse should be driven open. But if driving with blinders is a rule passed down from driver to novice then it could just be a lost art.

Today standardbreds are allowed to race with binders or open. They change the equipment to suite the horse!

Some of the most impressive driving horses in this country were the firehouse horses. They were always driven in open bridles. They needed to see all around them to navigate quickly around hazards and sharp turns.

Seems to me that we may have lost the “art of Driving” for the sake of safety. Some references:

The art of Driving , Harpers 1896

Another vexed subject is that of blinders or winkers. High spirited intelligent horses are usually safer in open bridles for they can look behind them and see what is coming. It is an advantage also and a pleasure besides for the driver to be able to watch their eyes as well as their ears. But occasionally a nervous horse goes better with blinders and this is true also of some young intelligent horses who are so exceedingly curious about objects along the road that without blinders it is hard to make them go steadily and swiftly. In short whether to use blinders or not is mainly a matter for experiment in each case with the presumption in favor of an open bridle

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWGZdMT2dI4&feature=related Note the two pictures of horses with blinders are reenactments!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRYQUplbhcY&feature=fvw

Just some food for thought.

Stopping and Bolting

It was suggested by several that this posting be located here:

To me an emergency stop is what you would do when something happens ahead of you that you weren’t anticipating or expecting.

There’s a difference between an “Emergency Stop” and stopping a horse that’s bolting. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

For the former which I took you to mean you need to stop in a hurry, you merely lean forward which, if you’re driving a 2 wheeler, will put weight through the tugs and saddle onto the horse and ask and then if needed take a great handful of reins and haul in. Saying “Woa” at the same time.

If you’re in a vehicle with brakes then you apply them as well.

If you’ve grooms on the back step then they need to get their weight forward on the horse/s too.

Not pretty but all effective!

That’s the simple answer but what I always want to say to folks is if you’re having to ask strangers how to stop a riding or driving horse then you’re not ready to go out with one yet and need to go to an instructor.

However this post seemed to morph from just an “Emergency Stop” to stopping a bolting horse.

Big Difference!

So you then have to understand what a “true” bolt or runaway actually is and also to understand that its REALLY REALLY rare.

There’s a HUGE difference between a horse that’s momentarily fearful and has taken off for a bit and a horse who’s LOST ITS BRAIN. The first isn’t bolting, but rather a spook and scoot. Bolting is another ballgame.

I’ve had no more than 4 true “bolters” in decades of training horses. I’ve had a quite a few though that all too often employed the spook and scoot or runaway tactic. The latter IMO isn’t even bolting.

There is a massive difference between a horse spooking and scooting away under the rider or driver for a few strides across or down to the other end of the arena, or say a racehorse or some other “hot/excitable” horse who takes hold of the reins and goes for a bit of a run because he got excited or tired of the rider/driver holding the bit, and a horse who bolts.

So then bolting:

First off you need to absolutely understand that a true bolt is a VERY rare thing.

So IMO it would be somewhat absurd to go setting up with something to bring a horse to it’s knees on the off chance it might one day lose it’s mind and bolt.

There are two kinds of bolting:

The kind where the horse completely loses its mental capabilities to ‘think’ AND DOES NOT REGAIN THEM FOR SOME TIME. The horse is literally in a panic and running for it’s life and sometimes this horse will run itself right into obstacles immediately in its path because it does not ‘see’ them in the panic. You’re not going to stop this horse until he runs out of gas or comes to his senses.

The second kind is the ‘clever’ horse that does it because he’s not happy with what’s currently going on. This is a horse that’s used bolting to get rid out of the situation its in and is fully aware of what’s going on. This horse often likes to include bucking as they’re galloping off with all their might. This kind you can stop, if you can stay astride or aboard long enough have the riding/driving skill.

It’s true to say that when compared to a bolt or runaway with a rider, the driver has intrinsic higher risk of more serious injury.

Accidents with a driving horse by their nature just aren’t like they are with a riding horse. Intrinsically are potentially they are always much more serious - lets say a bit of harness fails and the carriage tips or the carriage gets caught on something and then a bit of harness fails - the very event in itself puts on a “command” to the horse that you don’t want: all of a sudden something breaks and slackens and puts pressure elsewhere so there’s a command and then the spook and scoot occurs … but as the horse begins its run away lets say the carriage tips the driver falls out - When a rider falls off he merely risks being hit by a hoof and an awkward fall on the hard ground. The driver in addition to that also has the vehicle to contend with. He hits the deck and then gets smacked with or run over by a great heavy carriage. And trust me, they hurt and do SERIOUS damage!

What happens is that when the horse is now off on its flight and fright response and because the carriage is being dragged say with a failed harness slapping and flapping and staying with the horse, then the horse’s mind stays switched into its flight and fright mode and what would be a spook and scoot or short burst with a riding horse continues on as the horse gallops. The carriage continues often smashing into things - all of which further terrifies the horse and it cannot switch its mind back to “nothing to fear” mode.

A horse is a fright and flight animal when its GENUINELY in that mode its not thinking or listening at all to any rider or driver but its more likely to “switch back” quicker and recover its composure when its being ridden. When its bolting its looking after itself - its not at all concerned about anything else. As a rider all you have to do is sit on. As a driver you have to hope to hell that the horse isn’t going to go somewhere or do something in its panic to escape and flight that’s going to smack or tip the carriage.

In terms of practicalities your aim is to do all possible to keep the carriage running and yourself in it and safe for as long as possible and until the horse “switches back”. So if you are faced with a bolt or runaway, then if at all possible you’re best off staying on the straight - no turning, no risking a carriage tip up and try to make the going as heavy and as hard as possible for the horse. So that means apply brakes, put weight on and if possible even aim to put the horse into a ploughed field if you’re used to and have the skills to drive off road. And rather than putting constant Pull or pressure on the reins, ask and release, ask and release then ASK, ASK, ASK.

In truth though the best and most effective way to manage such circumstances is prevention. That means ensuring the horse is well trained and confident. In particular it must be confident that in the driver’s ability.

Its not just about building it in the horse - the horse develops it from having confidence in the driver and knowing that the driver isn’t going to ask anything of him that puts him in pain or danger. No driver has the right to be trusted and no driver should expect his horse to be confident. You earn it be being competent and consistent and managing risks. I passionately believe no book in the world can teach the driver those practical kinesthetic skills.

Its about building skill, putting skills into practice and so gaining experience and in gaining experience, learning from it and developing aptitude and competence and confidence which in turn means the horse will trust you.

Prevention is also about ensuring your harness is routinely checked and inspected and that you check and check again every time you put a horse to harness to ensure you’ve attached everything properly.

It’s also about ensuring your vehicle is suitable and fit for purpose and that it’s not going to fail or tip as soon as it comes under strain.

Finally it’s about being aware as a driver and being one step ahead and learning to “think and read horse” and ensuring your confidence is in sync with your competence (and never exceeds it!)

List of Harness Suppliers

http://www.caaonline.com/caa_content.asp?PageType=Dept&Key=6&MType=HA&MTypeDesc=Harness

What is a Combined Driving Event?

. The CDE (Combined Driving Event) is modeled after the Three Day Event, which tests the overall condition and versatility of the horse in sport. I-TRH Prince Philip was a major force in the design of the rules and is today an active participant in the sport. Major competitions are usually held over three days: day 1) Driven Dressage; day 2) Cross Country Marathon with up to eight special obstacles or hazards; day 3) Cone Driving Competition which equates to the show jumping phase of the ridden event (One or two-day competitions include each of the phases, with a Marathon of a shorter distance). Penalty points are incurred in each of the above phases and the winner is the entry who accumulates the fewest points. Horses and ponies compete separately in these categories: single— one horse/pony; pairs—two horses/ponies side by side; tandem—two horses/ponies, one in front of the other; and Teams—four horses/ponies—two pair, one in front of the other.

Dressage
Often compared to compulsory figures in figure skating, the dressage test consists of a prescribed sequence of movements judged against a standard of absolute perfection. The test demonstrates the obedience, freedom, regularity of movement, impulsion, and correct position and training of the animals. Multiple hitches are judged collectively.

Cross-Country Marathon
This phase tests the fitness, stamina, and obedience of the horses and the judgment and capability of the driver. Advanced competitions can have 5 sections (A, B, C, D, E), which may include mandatory walks, trots, as well as a section which includes hazards. Other competitions may have 3 sections (A, B, E), all having a minimum/maximum time allowance. At the end of section B and D there are mandatory 10 minute halts with veterinary checks to ensure the horses are not unduly stressed and are fit enough to continue. Competitors can walk the course before the marathon phase and plan their route. They are given a map and course marker flags for guidance, but no horse is allowed on the course before the start. Drivers may choose any path through the obstacles, provided they drive through each gate in the correct alphabetical sequence, wand with the red flag on the right and white on the left. The object is to complete each hazard in the shortest possible time with no penalties. Penalties include time, groom/driver dismounting, driver putting down whip, error of course, knocking down a collapsible element, and turning the vehicle over.

Cones

Cones can be likened to the stadium jumping phase of eventing. The object is to drive through narrowly spaced pairs of cones cleanly within time allowed. Each cone has a ball placed on top, and any miscalculation will dislodge the ball, thus incurring a penalty. This phase tests the fitness, agility and obedience of the horse and the accuracy and skill of the driver.

Carriages
Vehicles used in Combined Driving must be safe and well maintained. Each competitor is checked at presentation before the dressage test and again for safety before the rigors of the marathon. The same vehicle must be used in both dressage and cones; a second vehicle may be used in the marathon.

Grooms & Navigators
A groom may accompany the driver in the dressage and cones competitions. On the marathon, the groom is a vital part of the team to help the driver stay on the correct course, to keep track of time, to hold paper work, and to help direct the route through obstacles. In addition the groom is called on to balance the vehicle by shifting his/her weight around tight turns or on uneven ground. Grooms may not handle the reins, nor the whip, and may give verbal assistance only in the marathon. No verbal communication between the driver and the groom is allowed in the dressage or cones competitions.

(source: www.american driving society.org