Horses were the first farm animal that early pioneers had to learn to use effectively and knowledgeably. The horse was needed for pulling wagons, harvesting wheat and threshing grain, working cattle and other draft-animal tasks. If a pioneer didn’t have a horse, it was hard to run a farm or ranch effectively. Running a ranch or farm without knowing how to use a horse was like trying to run Microsoft Word without knowing the program shortcuts (no offense to Bill Gates or Microsoft).
The first step in training a horse to drive is to ensure that the horse is sound. Horses that are not sound should not be trained to drive, as they may injure themselves or the driver.
The next step is to teach the horse to stand still while being harnessed and attached to the vehicle, which should be done by someone who has experience working with horses.
Once the horse knows how to stand still while being harnessed and attached, it can be taught how to walk on a lead rope while someone holds onto the rope with one hand. After this has been mastered, you can start teaching your horse how to walk in circles, then move forward and backwards until it becomes comfortable with these movements.
Once your horse has mastered walking around in circles and moving forward and backwards on command, it’s time for you to put on some driving gear so that you can get into position behind them as they walk around in circles or forward and backwards across an open space. When your horse does something wrong like stop walking or turn off course suddenly, gently correct them by pulling back on their reins slightly until they correct their behavior by continuing what they were doing before stopping or turning off course unexpectedly.
Driving a horse is a skill that takes time and patience to master. If you are new to driving, it can be intimidating at first. The following steps will help you get started.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Horse Is Ready To Drive
Before you begin training your horse to drive, make sure that he is physically capable of pulling the weight of the carriage or buggy. Large draft horses with heavy bone structures are often best suited for pulling vehicles like carriages or buggies because they have more strength to draw heavier loads than smaller breeds do.
If your horse is not ready for driving yet, there are several things you can do to prepare him for this type of work. You can start by walking or trotting him in a circle in both directions so he gets used to being controlled by a rope around his neck or halter. Once he gets used to this, slowly introduce him to the feel of being tied up with a harness attached to it so that he becomes comfortable wearing it without feeling too restricted by it while continuing his daily routine as usual.
Training A Horse To Drive
Driving horses is often associated with something from another era. After the advent of cars, there was no need for us to ride in horse-drawn carriages anymore.
We could hop in our cars and get there much faster than in a pony-powered wagon. While driving your horse to the grocery store or work might not be practical, teaching your horse to drive has some amazing benefits for you and your horse.
Spook Proof Your Horse
Last week I had the pleasure of going out driving with a friend of mine. He hooked his favorite welsh pony to a four-wheel cart and we set out to view the countryside. My friend teaches all of his horses to drive, he considers it part of their basic training, and after just a few miles, I understood why.
Image by Michele Cook
The rigging jingled and the cart rocked as we headed down the driveway onto the road. The pony kept going. A large feed truck zoomed by without a tap of the brake. The pony kept going. Four dogs jumped a fence and ran up to the pony barking and carrying on (and scared the bejesus out of me). The pony kept going. I think you get the idea. This pony was pulled from a field as a stud, gelded and trained just three months before we took our little drive.
Driving your horse gives you the opportunity to expose your horse to many different things that they wouldn’t see in the ring or on the trail. That exposure will help your horse trust you and teach him that not everything is a horse-eating monster.
Steering and Voice Commands
When you ride a horse, you can use your hands, legs, seat, and weight to control your horse. When you are driving, you have only your hand and voice to control your horse. Teaching your horse to drive will greatly improve these two aids.
Many trainers use ground driving to improve these commands before getting on a horse for the first time. I can tell you from experience, steering is a nice thing to have on a young horse who isn’t quite sure what you are doing up there on top of him.
Image by Michele Cook
Getting Started Driving Your Horse
Ground driving is always a good place to start. You can use a plain bridle with the reins removed. For safety, use a surcingle and run your lines through the side loops to keep them from dragging on the ground (you can use two lunge lines if you don’t have a harness yet).
Start in a round pen or small paddock and position yourself behind and slightly to the inside of your horse. Ask him to walk forward with the command of your choice. You can use a cluck or a shake of the lines to encourage him. If he is sluggish, you can hold a carriage whip and give him a light pop on the butt to get him moving forward.
Once your horse is willing to walk and trot from the ground you can begin putting him in full harness and asking him to pull the shafts of a cart. If you have zero experience with driving a cart, this may be the point you will need a little help from someone more experienced. While driving isn’t as popular today as it was 100 years ago, there are still plenty of driving enthusiasts out there willing to help you out.
Before you start driving your horse there are a few precautions you need to take:
- Make sure your cart or carriage is in good working order. The brakes should hold their pressure and the wheels should turn freely.
- Have you farrier put on borium shoes if you plan on riding on the road. This will help keep your horse from slipping on the pavement.
- Check all harness parts for wear. It’s no fun to have a harness break while you are going down the road.
- Attach an orange triangle to the back of your cart to help people see you better. If you can find one that lights up, even better.
- Do not drive at night if your cart is not equipped with proper lighting.
Image by Michele Cook
Driving your horse is a great way to have some fun, train your horse up and meet your neighbors. Trust me, they will all come out to chat you up. There is just something about seeing a horse and cart go by that makes everyone want to talk to you. You also get the bonus of seeing the world in a brand new light, and of course, if the world as we know it comes to an end, you will have transportation and a way to plow up your land.