New to driving.. Help? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 07-17-2020, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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New to driving.. Help?

Hello! Both my horse and I are new to driving and I have been working all summer long to get him ready to be hooked up to the buggy that I have. He is finally ready and has been hooked up a few times, but I feel like I am hooking him up wrong or something.. So I was wondering if any of you would be able to tell what I am doing wrong from this picture I have?
Also,the buggy I have has been in the family a long time and has never actually been driven till now but it was all I had. It drives well but the turn radius is super wide and it scares me, because my horse is still very green and I am still leading him on the ground when he is hooked up. We have already had a few very close calls where it almost tipped, so I have been looking for something else for him. The buggy just seems too dangerous right now. Is there a cart or buggy that you would recommend? Like brand or type, 2 wheels or 4?
Thanks so much for the help!
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-17-2020, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry, it was pretty dark when I took the picture..
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post #3 of 17 Old 07-17-2020, 07:06 PM
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I was reading a book about driving, and for a green horse that was nervous they made a small "vehicle" that had little skids instead of wheels, which slowed it down a bit and apparently kept it from tipping over. They weren't using it to sit in, just to get the horse used to the idea of pulling something, so they basically just made it out of scrap wood for almost no cost.
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post #4 of 17 Old 07-17-2020, 08:25 PM
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The problem with using older, antique 4 wheel carriages is that they donít have an undercut for the front wheels. That means if you turn sharp enough the wheels rub the body and then skid which can cause a major problem with a green horse.

I prefer breaking in a 2 wheel because you are less likely to get in a bind if the greenie backs up. Backing up in a 4 wheel can jack knife if you arenít careful or horse isnít trained.

But many people break horses in a 4 wheel marathon(undercut for safety) depending on the horse.
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post #5 of 17 Old 07-17-2020, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you! He has pulled a pallet and gotten used to the sounds of it scraping and grinding against asphalt and thumping around over grass, and has actually pulled me around on this pallet all over the yard, so he is definitely ready to move to a vehicle. I have been trying to find what carts and buggies were best for starter horses with no luck, so this is a lot of help!
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post #6 of 17 Old 07-18-2020, 07:42 AM
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Antiques can also come with other issues from lack of use and maintenance.

Two wheel is easier to start a horse in and harder to tip. If staying with 4 wheel the undercut can keep you out of trouble.

As long as your drives are on smooth even ground and turns not sharp you should be good to go and build experience and confidence.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-27-2020, 12:54 PM
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Okay, I'm going to be a Negative Nellie here. If I were not an experienced driver, and I had a green horse I would get some professional/experienced help before hooking up and driving a 4-wheeled carriage. But then I would get help before getting in a 2-wheeler also.

Just stay safe and be a ready as you possible can be.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-27-2020, 04:07 PM
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I'm thinking you might be safer to not hitch to this carriage...for a long time. I agree that you would be much better with a two wheeled cart, that has a good wide width between the wheels. 65" is fairly common with wooden wheel carts.


Your shafts are mounted to the wagon upside down. The tips of the shafts should be even with the point of the horse's shoulder when there's a little tension on the traces. Your breeching straps should be attached to the shafts much further forward. Actually, it looks like there's something very "not right" about your breeching, the strap that goes around the hips. I can't make out if it's some other piece of equipment that doesn't belong to the harness. The strap that goes OVER the hips should be positioned over the top of the croup, and the breeching should be about level with the point of the stifle. Your traces appear to be so long that the shafts might fall out of the shaft loops on the saddle if he walks forward into draft. If they don't fall out, he will be pulling the wagon with the saddle and not the traces and that is very undesirable. He will soon start acting out due to discomfort across his back.


You have done a tremendous job of preparation, but I would suggest you please delay trying to advance further until you're really solid in your understanding of correct hitching. You are at a fragile, critical point in the process and don't want to make any mistakes. Perhaps you could look up the American Driving Society online. They are a wealth of information. www.americandrivingsociety.org.


Barb Lee, erstwhile owner/harnessmaker at Nearside Harness, Inc., driver of carriage horses for 40+ years. Author of the book "Understanding Harness".
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Last edited by dogpatch; 09-27-2020 at 04:19 PM.
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-28-2020, 01:03 AM
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Agree with the above. I would add that for that low point of draft, a collar would be a better fit than a breastcollar, since the line of draft will be putting a lot of pressure on the neck strap of the beastcollar. If you're going to keep the breastcollar, you'll need a vehicle with a high point of draft like a meadowbrook cart. With a breastcollar, the traces should continue in a straight line from the breastcollar - with a collar, you want the traces to exit the collar at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. I don't really think a cart (2 wheels) vs. a carriage (4 wheels) is any better or worse for training - you can get into plenty of trouble in a cart too - but yes, if you're going to do a carriage, you really should get one with an undercut.

I'm particularly fond of marathon carriages and if I ever get back into driving that will be the vehicle I go with. They're sturdy, you can bring passengers, they're up to off-roading if you like - all around great vehicles. A nice phaeton is pretty sharp looking though. I would also highly recommend you spend the money to buy a vehicle with brakes, whether you get a cart or a carriage. Brakes will not stop a horse bent on bolting, but they will make bolting a bit harder for the horse. Brakes also are exceptionally handy for keeping the vehicle still while stopped at a traffic light, or for keeping the full weight of the vehicle off the breeching when travelling downhill, making it easier for the horse to balance.

I really like Frey carriages (https://freycarriageshop.com/), and they can be custom ordered to whatever you need, but they are fairly spendy. They are absolutely top of the line though, and have impressive customer service. Roberts Carriages also makes nice stuff (Buggies & Wagonettes) and are significantly less than Frey's. I really like their wagonnettes, which are basically marathon carriages.

I would really caution you against buying anything used, anything cheap, or anything handmade. This is one instance where handmade is NOT better. You are putting your life, your horse's life, the lives of bystanders, and your horse's trust at stake when you hitch to any vehicle, so make sure the vehicle is in good condition and won't break right when you need it least. Unfortunately if you want a decent cart you're going to be shelling out 2 grand at least for an entry level one, and upwards of 4 or 5 grand for a decent carriage. Driving is expensive, there's no getting around it, but you get what you pay for. If you can't afford something decent at the moment, don't drive your horse until you've had the opportunity to save up and get something good. Trust me on this.

Barry Hook has a channel on YouTube and he trains horses to drive beautifully. He's got some great videos up if you peruse his stuff, great training tips, great ideas for desensitizing, stuff like that. I highly recommend you give his videos a look.

-- Kai
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post #10 of 17 Old 09-28-2020, 07:35 AM
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It may be me, but it doesn't look like the harness fits the horse correctly. The breeching is very funky looking. What size is the harness? Very pretty horse by the way.
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