Thanks For Y'all's Help!

I sat in the cart and drove Simon yesterday for the first time! It was only a couple hundred yards, twice, but we did it. It’s been a long journey and I wanted to thank you all for your help, witting and unwitting, and thank CoH for this forum. We ain’t fancy and I don’t think Chester Weber has anything to worry about from us, but we’re enjoying this ancient art.

[Edit: Removed photo. It had an effect opposite of what was intended.]


:clap: :clap:
He’s a cutie, but I have to be the Safety Police:
NEVER leave a horse hitched to a vehicle unattended.
NEVER/Full Stop.
Photo Opp notwithstanding.
It can go South so very fast :roll_eyes:

I drive solo on my property & do what I need to without a Header.
Mea Culpa, I leave mini hitched by a neckrope to a fence or trailer until I’m ready to get in the cart. Having no other option, I then take the lines, unhook him & get in.
Having him facing something assures he cannot go (bolt) forward, so our first step is always back.

Now go drive Simon SAFELY :+1:


2Dogs said it well. Hitched horse is tied up, has a lead rope held by a person or reins are in your hand. I am not seeing a driving whip on the cart. Perhaps you are holding it to take the photo? Whip NEEDS to be on the cart for you to pick up and hold as you set off driving. Whip is your legs, lash end should reach Simons shoulder. Length prevents whip touching him on the rump and no rein slapping on the butt to start. Those butt touches seem to encourage some horses to kick, so we avoid them. A touch of whip on his barrel side aids him on turns, bending him around a corner.

Most importantly, the whip encourages FORWARD if he is not sure he wants to go by something. Him putting things in reverse is extremely dangerous! He MUST go forward as requested to prevent an accident! This is why you always have the whip in your hand, ready to use. You can use whip on loose dogs to protect him.

Great to hear of your progress!! I would add a cushion to your cart seat. It REALLY will increase your riding comfort! Run a strap around the seat and cushion so it stays in place while driving.

I agree, sort of…with both 2dogs and Goodhors…but… I’d never get any work done if I had to tie or have someone head the horses all the time. My expectation is that the horses should stand while I hitch up a log or adjust something or otherwise fiddle about. I should have a hold on the reins, for safety’s sake. But at the same time, I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to walk all over the place, still holding the reins perhaps, and they should just stand. And stand.
That being said, I want to be this guy: Carl Russell who is one of the last horse loggers, so not quite the same thing I guess as most driving horses. I’m nowhere close, maybe someday. You’ll see him drop the lines completely in this video. In general he keeps a hand on them, but not always.

A team being used in the same way, here the lines are wrapped on the sled, but still dropped, probably for quite a long time:

You need to know what you are doing, you can get seriously hurt. But, at the same time, I think that sometimes we treat horses like unstable dynamite and they live up to that treatment.
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As a question about your experiences: B and B, have you ever been in a driving horse related wreck? Or seen one unfolding?

I have been in and seen driving wrecks. It is VERY UGLY. People, animals get hurt, equipment wrecked. 98% of the time it could all have been avoided with some attention to safety.

Equines are NOT motorized vehicles with parking brakes. They think independently, react to surroundings, make bad choices. Even after going thru the same routine a thousand times, they decide to NOT follow the routine TODAY. You can EXPECT certain results from a horse, but they are not human, not 100 percent reliable to give you those expectations.

I love our horses, do not want anything bad to happen in the process of getting ready to drive, driving and unhitching when finished. We take precautions, follow traditional recommended routines,e so bad things do not happen during times of use. Double check everything before driving off. Horses are well trained, obedient, but we try to give no opportunity for them to make choices.

Horses standing alone, reins draped over the hips, dashboard, have the ability to make choices.

Hard working horses logging, feeding cattle off a sled, Amish horses, get truly tired. They love the time to stand quietly, rest! They can be pretty reliable about staying put after “whoa.” However I bet your pictured zdriver and every other working logger, horse driver has at least one scary story about when their horses DID NOT stay parked, took off. Some got stopped, some didn’t. Maybe they wrecked, maybe not. But watching your horses leave you, just makes your stomach fall down into your boots! All the “What ifs, go thru your mind.”

Horse accidents were a high risk, high injury cost to farming in the good old days. Read some old books on farming, check statistics, numbers were high. Still can be, if folks are not alert, aware, take safety seriously when working with or around horses.

Driving wrecks are more serious because frightened horse is attached to a weapon. Carriages or wagons make a wide swath of destruction behind the horse trying to get away.

Holding the reins, a leadrope, or tying horse while hitching or standing removes horse choices. Lessens the possibility of an accident. Horse things happen in a heartbeat, going from good to bad. A pull on the reins prevents that accelerating step from halt to run. Horses in driving DEPEND on feeling the person at the end of the reins. Gives horse confidence SOMEONE can direct him if he is unsure or alerted by some weird thing.


Yes. I have been involved in a wreck. And watched another unfold. And have worked with horses in a variety of backgrounds all my life. My background is combining logging with working horses, I can’t have picked a more dangerous thing to work on, honestly. And I am well, well aware of that. I’ve no more desire to go to another friend’s funeral than the next person. Been there, done that.
I was merely pointing out that there are reasons to set the lines down at times. A blanket statement that the horse should never ever be standing without someone holding it has, as I see it, a flip side. A lot of people end up expecting that their horse is going to explode at any moment because if they DROP the lines the world will end. They are told that repeatedly. Usually with panic tones. That creates a level of constant tension in the way the horse is handled, in my view.
I always try to keep the lines in hand, but I don’t panic if I can’t. I’ve seen people with a perfectly calm horse, get ready to unhitch, and they demand their header to immediately grab hold of the horse, usually in a tense way. Over time, the horse learns something: ‘people are always grabbing hold of me in a tense way when they are hitching me up…they are nervous, I should be nervous too.’
I’d also say, one person holding the lines on a horse isn’t going to stop total panic. The wreck I saw happen was one such. Everything was done correctly, the horse was under ‘control’ with a header holding it and a person in the cart but it didn’t have an ironclad ‘whoa’ and it certainly didn’t want to stay in the same vicinity as the bird cannon. But teaching the horse that there is no reason to panic, that will reduce, not eliminate, but reduce the risk.
That is all I was getting at.

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How we work with horses, our expectations of them are a product of our experiences, observations, training. The kinds of horses we use, see in action or work, also will color our reactions to horse situations. Farming work with working drafts, half-drafts in fields, woodlots, have a different horse mindset than show horses or daily driving animals exposed to busy streets, sudden noises, traffic.

Beginners who are just learning to drive need to learn the correct way to do things to keep themselves, their equines, as safe as possible. It is too easy to miss a step during hitching, unhitching, not practicing basics like standing, with other distractions around you. As confidence grows, people often get sloppy, not actually focused on what they are doing. Working around him holding the reins can be awkward, so they start shortcutting. Tones of doom from Trainer who has seen bad things happen quickly, are trying to instill a warning to use a better process of doing things. Experience in the driver, good routines in the proper order, will build their confidence in themselves. Only time and practice, using their horse, will teach them his usual reaction to things lIke giving slack in reins while standing. Horse is learning or unlearning each time you drive him.

Maybe he USED to have a solid Whoa, but driver is not firm about making horse stop. Or they use Whoa for slow down, so horse ignores it now, goes by rein pull to stop. Reins in hand can make the stop happen, when saying Whoa from the ground, no rein cue, means nothing.

I deal with a lot of beginners in our Club things, have to help them learn to do things correctly to set them in good habits. No one retains 100% of helpful words, but you hope they remember many of the ones that are most important to their safety.

And even VERY experienced drivers have “oops” moments, so we look at each other, check their harness as we pass at group activities. We SPEAK UP if we spot something wrong, though we try to say it in a calm voice! Leave panic, tones of doom out of your voice. “Stop your horse, I need to fix something for you!!” If they have a groom, we let them fix it themselves or help while their groom heads the horse. We reassure beginners that this is “” A training opportunity! You are practicing stand, out here in the open! A good moment oF learning."

We drive Multiples most of the time, so being safe gets more complicated. LOTS of things to deal with, plus horse personalities. We do not want horses “trying to help” in making decisions. Only humans get to make the decisions!! They are being driven all the time they are hitched, keeping them in draft together, working equally, feeling them on the bit but NOT pulling your arms out. Stopping and standing for a while in new locations. Stand quietly for a long time on a slightly loose rein is one of the best things a driving horse can do.

You make your own choices about how far you trust your driving horse. Then YOU live with the results. Maybe nothing ever happens trusting him…until it does. We are not driving fiction story horses in daily life, with an IQ higher than Einstein. They are just regular horses, small brains, reactive to their surroundings. So drivers and handlers need to be in charge, look out for possible problems that can be prevented.

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The funny thing is…I don’t disagree with you at all. Though, I get the distinct impression that you think that I am working with fictional horses. But, maybe that is my own personal paranoia. I’m not, but I’m also not going to run around trying to prove it. So let’s set it aside.
I agree with you. I think safety in driving is incredibly important to train. And the best way to train it is repetition of always doing it.
I guess my reaction upthread was that I am increasingly seeing people just getting into horses, or just getting into doing new things with their horses, being terrified by their trainers. Or by people on forums. Increasingly we are working with or around people who have no background with horses. If we tell them that the slightest miscue will be certain death, they are going to believe us. And the end result is nervous people with nervous horses and a greater possibility of injury or death.
Working with horses is inherently dangerous. But when we constantly focus on the danger, we forget that for many people the first thing they need to do is be calm and confident. What I saw in the photo was, yes technically a dangerous situation. No question. But of equal importance, I saw a relaxed horse with a comfortable handler (judging by OP’s post). In my opinion that is of equal weight in the long term.

I will keep the reins in my hand unless he is tied.

As to the whip, the photo was taken last month when I was ground driving him. I imagine I had the whip with me as I took the photo. By the way, the seat backs were off the cart for refinishing and to make the ground work less complicated.

Thanks again.


Sorry to have stolen your thunder in driving progess! We are all very glad to hear of your progress and successful driving fun!! The seat cushion comment was aimed at “saving your rearend” while sitting in the cart. Taking seatbacks off for ground driving does have to make rein handling easier, safer with nothing to snag on! Good news on the whip too. Horse looks very comfortable in his harness and cart. Congratulations!! The fun is just beginning!

B and B. I can see that we are thinking similarly, and perhaps with our long horse experiences we are not as apt to respond with panic when surprised by something a horse does, or does not do when driving.

I do see the new or inexperienced with horses, tighten up all over, haul in the reins, over react when surprised. Their usually patient, beginner friendly horse tolerated that. Others treat the horse like a car, can’t read the CLEAR signals horse is giving of being frightened, to then steady him by putting some pressure on the reins so horse knows SOMEONE is going to help him.

You can’t teach these things without spending time with a horse, time spent driving to learn their horse and his reactions. Unfortunately, a number of people don’t stay with the horses long enough to learn these skills. They tire of the work to enjoy the horse or scare themselves out of horses.

And you cannot control these other driver’s reactions! Even experienced drivers will surprise you by freezing in a situation. Newer drivers may not have a clue of the proper reaction. Making horse go FORWARD is usually safest, light whip touch if horse ignores voice. This is why you have whip-in-hand at all times. Never know when you may need it. No time to be pulling it out of the whip holder, THEN use it.

As bystanders, you have to keep reminding them of safety to keep YOURSELF and others from harm. We try to quietly set a good example in handling, hitching and unhitching with lead ropes on, a header, being safe. This is a big “danger” time for accidents to start. We don’t hold conversations when hitching and unhitching. Such distractions are dangerous, you miss doing things properly. Rules in place, like never removing the bridle of a hitched horse, are posted at shows, gatherings to keep it safe. Ignoring the rules will get you sent home!! What drivers do at home is their choice, but not acceptable at driving activities because of the danger to others.

I will agree that horses should not panic with a bit of casual handling, but not all horses are the same. Our horses are extremely accepting of many things, we work to train them that way. But they could still react poorly to something they never encountered before. So there are never reins laying on the dash, without a groom or header at their faces. We never offer them that choice in their reactions. Training on driving horses is usually MUCH more complete than in other horse uses. Horses have to be very accepting to even get hitched calmly and pulling things on the ground. They MUST have solid basics to progress to vehicles and that is a lot of training time. They respond correctly to only voice commands, ignore noisy vehicles, constant pulling on the harness by shafts or pole during travel, along with other distractions around them. But a solid horse is helped by their confident driver knowing they are doing things correctly, being as safe as possible.

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