By Goran & Gerda
We just love our online community, and our wonderful customers are so full of good ideas and great information. We ask all kinds of questions and learn so much from our Facebook group members over at HorseDriver, and this week we asked if there were any things people wish they’d known when they started driving. We got some great responses, and have pulled a few of them together below. So whether you are thinking about driving a horse or a zorse or a donk, whether they’re a mini or a Mammoth, read on to see what a few of our friends wish they knew when they started out. (And then add yours in the comments below!)
7. Equipment, equipment, equipment!
One customer posted “I had no idea the variety and options I’d suddenly be faced with when I decided to take on this new hobby.” Isn’t that the truth! We sell dozens of unique harnesses, and thousands of individual parts. It’s a lot of terminology to learn and then even more decisions to reach. How do I pick the right materials? What about sizing? How can I make sure my horse is comfortable? Is it really practical to have one harness for two horses? So many questions! And, as one person put it… “I didn’t know I needed such a large collection of tack!”
6. How to Fit a Harness
Boy, with all the myriad straps and buckles, a harness can easily look like a tangled mess for a new driver – more like a ball of yarn after a cat play-session than a sturdy well-organized and carefully planned tool meant to attach your rig to your pony. Once you’ve sorted out the crupper from the shaft loops, it’s time to decide if this new thing fits! Here’s a few quick tips:
- Your horse’s rump should be 12-18″ from the singletree of your cart.
- The collar – breast or neck – should not block the animal’s windpipe. Pat Weeks wrote a great blog post for mini horse drivers, in which she addresses this in detail:
“A harness and driving expert once told me that if you have to choose between the two evils, choose to place it high, rather than low. If its too high, the worst that will happen is your mini will lose air, stop, and refuse to continue. This will typically happen while pulling uphill, because the breast collar will ride up due to the change in the line of draft. What could happen if you place the breast collar low, over the shoulder joint, is the pony soon becomes sore from constant pressure on his shoulder joint with each step. Or worse, his cart could hit an obstacle at speed and seriously damage his shoulder.“
(Keep reading, here: “What’s the Best Breast Collar for my Mini?“)
5. Cart Balance Everyone we know is doing this for the fun and love of their animals. And, everyone we know is interested in ensuring their animal is comfortable, and happy, and not working any harder than they have to – pulling can be hard work, but some minor adjustments can shift weight center making you, and your furry friend, a lot more comfortable. Correct balance is essential to comfortable happy driving. It’s important to understand where the weight and balance of your cart lay – and for many new drivers, this is another thing that might seem tricky to learn. Here are a few tips:
- Your shafts should always be parallel to the ground – not angling up or down.
- In traditional carts, the front seat position can be altered forwards or backwards to achieve a position customized to your individual needs. In a fixed-seat cart, you’ll want to be sure your cart is built well, with balance in mind, and you can adjust yourself – forward or backward – to make both you and your animal more comfortable.
Our friend Mindy recently wrote a fantastic post on posture and driving… Check it out, here!
4. The “right” size horse. For you.Tiny? Huge? Right in the middle? Which one is best? We have a customer who used to ride large draft-cross horses. After an injury she wasn’t able to ride anymore, but found herself missing her lifetime love of horses. She discovered driving, and discovered that minis were a perfect fit for her new abilities! So, how do you choose the right animal for you? There’s no exact science for this one, but here are a few things to think about:
- Be realistic about your resources: Do you have a huge barn with lots of room for feed and tack? Plenty of space for a manure pile?
- Be clear about your goals: Are you trying to have a fun hobby for just you and your furry friend, or are you interested in taking friends and family for wagon rides around your farm?
- Follow your heart: Whether it’s a long-time desire for that perfect Percheron, or you fall in love with a mini donkey at auction, the right size animal may simply be the one who captures your heart.
3. “That the pony would be the least expensive item I would buy!”
They say “Horses are like boats. Remember, ‘boat’ is an acronym: Bring Out Another Thousand.” There’s nothing like the love, companionship, and myriad other positives that come along with this new-found hobby. And, as with most sports and hobbies alike, there are a thousand and one things to buy – not the least of which is feed!
2. A knowledgeable mentor.
So many of our customers wish they had a local person to show them the ropes from the get-go. And, so many of our customers are lucky enough to have that friend/mentor/coach/trainer available and now offer their best experience to others! We try to bridge that gap here at Chimacum Tack: Janie always is happy to answer questions – whether you’re a brand-new driver or an experienced hobbyist looking to up your game. We also created this blog page just for you – we hope you’ll help us grow this resource by emailing us links to books and websites and articles that have helped you learn to be a better driver. And, we created HorseDriver group over on Facebook to bring this community together. If you’re not already a member, please come JOIN US TODAY!
1. How much fun it is!
Finally, the #1 reason people drive is how much fun it can be! Driving can provide a basis for such a warm wonderful relationship with your animal of any size, and almost any age.