Thoughts on Purchasing a Driving Horse

Recently I asked people what they look for when they are purchasing a driving horse/pony. The overwhelming answer was sanity. What is sanity? Some say “a good mind” and “seasoned and sane”.

When I looked up Sanity this was the definition:

noun – the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health.

reasonable and rational behavior.

In my own words – you want a horse or pony that can stop and think when it’s afraid. One that is brave when heading out on a drive, walking confidently away from home or arena. One that looks where it’s going and seems happy to head out with you. One that doesn’t jump at every little sound or blowing branch. One that isn’t spooky and looking to bolt. To me that is what a sane horse or pony is.

This leads us to the list:


#1 on the list is Sanity.

#2 is conformation. This one will vary depending on the sanity. LOL! Because an unsound mind on a perfectly conformed horse will get you no where in cart. But what would you look for as far as conformation goes?

First it will be important to know what kind of driving you are going to do. If you are showing then conformation will be even more important than if you are pleasure driving. The size of the equine compared to the driver and vehicle will be important as well.

A horse or pony that fits in a square is a very nice start. One that measures the same from the ground to the withers as it does from the shoulder to the rump. It’s also nice if they measure one-third shoulder, one-third body and one-third hind end. This will be a very balanced looking horse or pony. For showing I prefer a horse or pony that has a higher neck set. One that comes up out of the chest a little higher. Then this neck will taper down to a fine throat latch and a pretty head.

Though I will add my mom always said you can’t ride (or drive!) a pretty head. So that wasn’t ever one of the main things I looked for, personally.

Now, if your horse or pony doesn’t fit into a square this doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t drive. It just means that some things will be a bit more difficult for that particular horse or pony! So don’t be disheartened. Also if your animal is a bit pigeon toed or cow hocked don’t despair. With careful hoof trimming and well managed weight your horse or pony could drive for years and years! The important thing is to know and understand your horse or pony’s short comings so you can help them develop in those areas and get stronger. If your pony has some stifle issues then you will want to know that and take that into consideration. There are exercises you can do and things you should not do to ensure a long happy life together. Don’t over look the short comings. Your horse or pony will pay if you do.

So, when shopping for a good driving horse or pony look for one that has a good mind, is willing and follows direction well. One that is brave and confident and happy to head out for a drive. This should be your first requirement.

When you are shopping ask that the owner not have the horse caught and harnessed when you arrive so you can see how it is to catch and how it stands to be harnessed. These are important things as well. Patience and a willingness to work is very important in a driving horse or pony.

A few other things to ask about or pay attention to when shopping are:

  • has this horse or pony been in any accidents?
  • is it quiet when driving away from home?
  • does it stand nicely for the farrier and the vet?
  • does it stand quietly once hitched and wait for the person to ask it to walk off?
  • how does it respond to the whip?
  • and can it back in harness?

These are just a few things that I think about when I’m helping someone purchase a driving horse. And I would like to thank our friends over on HorseDriver for helping me put together this list!! It’s so helpful to have people sharing their thoughts and ideas. That way you don’t always have to listen to me prattle on and on. LOL!

I think this blog may lead to a post about conformation….

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Purchasing a Driving Horse

  1. Waynette Hohman says:

    My pony was doing better each time I took him out driving. One day he spooked big time and ran away with me in the cart. We crashed through a fence and I was thrown out of cart. He continued running until he reached home. He was traumatized. As was I. It has been one month since this has happened. He seems to be getting a little more relaxed. I have not hooked him back up. I wonder if he will ever be able to drive again. I did get a Liverpool bit for him, and have been line driving. He was in a snaffle when the accident occurred. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

    • Mindy Schroder says:

      Hi Waynette,

      Having an accident in cart is very scary, for both you and the pony! I have had my fair share and can say honestly that some ponies can come back from the accident and drive just fine and others never can again. When a pony has had an accident it is very important that you take the time it takes to re-build your relationship from the ground up. Be sure that you do all of the ground work required, plus some, to fill in any holes his foundation may have had. I do tons and tons, hundreds of miles, of ground driving with and without the travois before I ever hitch to a cart. If the pony has had an accident then I will double this amount of ground work, ground driving and dragging the travois.

      I suggest joining our HorseDriver Facebook group as there was just a post made about re-starting a pony that has been in an accident. There is a lot of very good feedback on that post. People over there are very supportive!

      Thank you for your comment and I send you positive thoughts while you work to re-start your pony,

    • Mindy Schroder says:

      Hi Sean! I don’t have Mikey anymore but I do know a little bit about his background. He was part of a small herd of very nice ponies that originated in Texas. It was a closed herd that was used for some kind of pony study with the university down there. He came to Montana when he turned 2 years old and they closed the study and dispersed the herd. He is sure a beautiful pony but we don’t know his breeding. I think he has some Shetland in him and maybe some Welsh pony. I totally love this pony but he did not love my other ponies so had to go back to the gal I got him from. I’ve actually known him since he was that unstarted 2 year old as he came straight to me for driving training. He is about 14 years old now!

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