Balancing a two wheeled vehicle can be tricky. And it’s really a never ending endeavor. Especially if you are switching from one horse to another and they are different heights, if you are switching drivers of different weights in and out of one vehicle or if you are driving over varying terrain. Managing the balance of the vehicle should be something you are thinking about all the time.
We can manage some of the balance just by shifting our weight. If you haven’t already, I suggest holding the shafts as though you are the horse. Then have a friend step into your cart, stand on the floor (if your floor is heavy duty enough to handle that!), then sit on the seat.
Have them lean forward, elbows on their knees, then have them sit back.
Have them slide from one side of the seat to the other. Have them turn their head one way and then the other. Have them slide from the front of the seat to the back. I think you will be surprised how much these things affect the weight at the end of the shafts and therefore are effecting the balance of the cart.
Ideally, a well balanced cart will float just a bit in your hands. Having a few pounds of pressure is good as well as that can be steadying to the horse. Having the weight of the cart + the person in your hands is NOT a good thing and needs to be managed.
As a simple rule of thumb to put a little more weight at the horse end of the shafts, as when the ends of the shafts are bouncing as you drive or if they want to flip up when you sit in the seat, move the seat forward a bit. (If your seat is all the way forward and there is still bouncing at the horse end then you may need to move the horse forward in the shafts a bit more.)
If the shaft ends are heavy when you sit in the cart then you need to move your seat back until you get a more balanced feel at the end of the shafts.
Then there are adjustments that can be made, when using a curved shaft set, that will affect the front of the cart. If your foot basket is not level when you are sitting in the cart you can usually adjust the front of the shafts by sliding them forward or back to help balance that. Sometimes the shafts will simply slide in and out accordion style or they will slide forward and back with a bolt.
This leads me to using curves shafts versus straight. If you have small miniature horses or ponies and your basket can be made level when your mini or pony is hitched to the vehicle then the straight shafts are fine. Same goes for big horses or draft horses.
If you have an in-between sized pony and the front of your cart is tipping up when your pony or horse or draft (or donkey or mule!!) is hitched then I would consider getting a set of curved shafts.
These allow you to more finely adjust the overall balance of the vehicle. Of course the size of the wheel is important too as being able to see over the horse you are driving is very important, but that is information for a different post 😉
I am using an easy entry style cart for these examples. The principles are the same for most two wheeled vehicles. Understanding that how you sit in the cart will affect the balance of your two wheeled vehicle is very important no matter if you are sitting in an easy entry, a show cart or a Hyperbike.