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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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The problem with using older, antique 4 wheel carriages is that they don’t 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 aren’t careful or horse isn’t trained.

But many people break horses in a 4 wheel marathon(undercut for safety) depending on the horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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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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.
 

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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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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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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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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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Hey, Y’all!!!

Welcome to the driving world!!

I agree with the above, AND....(sorry, there are a LOT of “rules” in driving.....EVERY one is to preserve your life, and the lives of everyone around)

The #1 rule of driving is that we NEVER hitch the horse to the carriage without a bridle. It is dangerous enough with one.

The harness looks like a fine show harness with a rigged breeching. (Fine harnesses dont have breeching) There needs to be a little more support on the collar. (About 4 “ thickness)

Looks you have done a super job starting him, and he will be great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You are all right about the breeching. The harness did not come with one and I rigged the flimsy thing up just for groundwork so he could get the feel of it being on his hindquarters. Sorry, I forgot to mention that! 😅 Is there a place where I could buy a breeching for a harness? The harness has a place I can attach it, but I have just been having no luck finding a breeching for a harness by itself.
So, update.
I bought a horse cart that had older wooden shafts and am buying metal shafts for it so I have not had him hooked up to it yet. I have not hooked him up to that buggy again and we have just been working on groundwork and the pallet I hook up to him lately.
Anyway, someone said a collar would be better? I feel like that would be heavy to have on him for just a small 2 wheeled cart, so could I get more opinion on that? Otherwise a thicker breast collar? I think that would be easy enough.
Anyway, the bit thing you brought up, I do not ride with bits. I do hacks and bosals, and when I am in the cart, my horse will be in a good hackamore. Just my personal preference. Rest assured I will not be in that cart with him in any type of soft halter or bosal whatsoever. It will be a hack that allows me complete control over him just the same as any bit would.
 

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There is a lot of debate over the use of open vs. closed bridles. In America you will hardly ever find anyone who suggests open bridles (without blinders, blinkers, winkers or whatever you want to call them) and nearly everyone will tell you it is exceedingly unsafe to drive in an open bridle. You'll find a greater number of folks who swear by open bridles overseas, however. Personally I don't have a preference, but I do feel it is extremely important to train your horse to go in both. Some folks say that a closed or blind bridle (with blinders/blinkers) will help a horse to focus, and I certainly found that to be the case with Thunder. I trained him to pull in any sort of headgear, however, and the first time I drove him in a wheeled vehicle he wore a regular open bridle with no issues.

Horses of course realize there is something behind them even if they are wearing a blind bridle, they're not stupid, but there have been a number of incidents where a horse has only been trained using the blind bridle and one day the bridle was rubbed off, broken, etc and the horse suddenly sees that there is a THING back there chasing him, and then you get into trouble. But if you've trained your horse to drive open, even if it's only at the beginning, I feel like there's going to be less mayhem if such a thing occurs. Feel free to take my words well salted - I've trained exactly one horse to drive in my life, so OBVIOUSLY I'm an expert on the subject (lol).

I see no issue using a hackamore, but please don't use the Dr. Cook's type (yes, they do make driving bridles) with the crossunder chin, because there is no throatlatch to tighten and the horse can rub the bridle right off if he's sweaty or otherwise inclined to fidget. Then you've got no control and a potential mess on your hands.

As far as a collar goes, really it is more comfortable for the horse to push against for any long period of time. It is better anatomically, though not perfect, than a breastcollar (IN MY OPINION). But the real deciding factor should be your line of draft. I believe the gauge is your horse's hocks - any vehicle that has a singletree above the hocks should be used with a breastcollar. If the singletree is at or below your horse's hocks, he should wear a collar. This will allow your harness to function in the best way possible, with the least amount of rubbing. There are of course exceptions, a great number of them in fact, but for simplicity's sake this guideline is decent. You should note that a heavier vehicle, or a greater number of passengers, really should be used with a collar to allow your horse to use his shoulders more effectively. It will not be too heavy for your horse to wear - plenty of lighter horses and ponies, even, wear them with no issues.

For individual harness parts, you should check out Chimacum Tack (https://chimacumtack.com). They have a great selection of very quality materials, and if you shoot them an email with your questions they'll be happy to walk you through and get you the piece(s) you need. They do sell individual harness bits, so you'll be able to get just breeching if that's what you're after. Personally I'd look into a heavier duty harness however. Fine pleasure harness is great until it's stressed and then it can break very easily. Plus, for regular ol' pleasure driving, a heftier harness will have a greater surface area and therefore be more comfortable for your horse to use.

-- Kai
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you so much Kai, that helps a lot. I have had him both with and without the blinkers to get him used to both, but we mainly go without just because the cart behind him doesn't seem to bother him too much and I would prefer him desensitized to things behind him like that anyway. And with the hack, I do not use anything with excessive metal. The hack I would be driving him in just has metal shanks, the rest is leather and the chinstrap is actually rope.
Are there certain brands of harnesses you would recommend as better quality?
The one I have is very nice and won't be snapping any time soon, but if a thicker harness is safer and more comfortable for him, then I'm all for that.
 

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I haven't used one and with anything you are fitting to work it needs to fit well but you may want to look at the "brollar" style combination collar breast plate. Collars are my got because of the variety of equipment I have pulled. Breastplates are limited. Others have mentioned the general guidelines for one or the other for light vehicles. The problem most find with collars are fitting as they have to fit perfectly. Yes, they can be padded but unless you are pulling a variety for ease of fitting and use on other animals the breastplate design is more versatile.
 

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I bought a nylon harness for Thunder because with our winters up here a leather harness just wasn't something I wanted to deal with, and at the time I didn't want to shell out a ton of money on a nice biothane harness. I bought it from Ron's Horse Harness in Canada, which shortly afterward changed their name to Amber Hillside Harness, and it was a steal of a deal. Very hefty construction, nice stitching, and never had any issues with it in the years I used it. Unfortunately the company went out of business or closed or something, you can't find them anymore. They were great though. I've yet to find another nylon harness that had comparable construction, it's such a shame.

I've already mentioned Chimacum. They're a very good company and their ComfyFit harness is very popular. Smuckers is another company that makes excellent harness, and they're also quite popular. Shipshewana also has nice looking stuff (https://www.shipshewanaharness.com/ecommerce/Harnesses---Pony-to-Draft.cfm?cat_id=555). Their prices seem reasonable and they look like quality harnessmakers, and like Chimacum they do parts and you can call or email with questions.

-- Kai
 
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