I get this question all the time, “What can I do to help my pony be more confident after our run away/wreck? And how do I step back in the cart without feeling so anxious?”
This is a very complicated issue. There are so many variables! Did the pony bolt and runaway with you, but you were able to gain control eventually? Did your pony bolt and tip the cart and end up having an accident in which you and the pony were injured? Why did the pony react this way? Does it have some holes in it’s training?
Regardless of the ‘whys’ I believe the best way to get back in the cart is by going back to working with the pony on the basics.
What do I mean by that?
Let’s go back to working in a halter a lead rope. Practice walking nicely beside you, behind you and in front of you all while on a single lead. Can your equine stand ground tied while you move around doing this and that? Will he just cock a foot and take a nap when you have him tied to a post or a tie wall?
Next, I suggest going for walks with your equine. When I say “going for a walk” I mean exactly that. Put a halter and lead rope on her and head out! You can walk down the road, on hiking trails, trailer someplace where dogs and horses are allowed and head out. It can be motivating to track these walks and hikes – to see how far you can walk in a week, a month or several months.
Stick to walking with your equine partner until you both can do so without anxiety. You don’t feel butterflies in your tummy just picking up the lead rope, and your equine isn’t constantly looking for something to leap out at them. Time is your friend here. So take some and just relax into the process.
When you are both comfortable with this, then you can put two long lines on the halter and start ground driving. Keep things simple for this stage – both for you and for the animal. NO BLINDERS. NO HARNESS. Just a simple flat halter and two long lines. If you have a mini or a shetland pony, the yacht rope driving lines are long enough for this part. Or our yacht rope lead ropes!
Just ground drive for awhile, until you, and the equine are both very comfortable, confident, and happy ground driving anywhere. You can set up obstacle courses in your pasture, head out across the field- if you have one – mow a little driving track into your pasture, head up to the mountains and ground drive/hike, or simply ground drive down the road. I suggest starting with a quiet country road before tackling a busy road. Even if you are confident leading your equine down said busy road.
Again, time is your friend, so please do not rush this process. The journey is really more important than the outcome when retraining both your equine and your self, after a wreck. Even if you don’t get to drive your pony, horse, donkey or mule in the cart again, you both will gain so much from spending this time together. You will earn your equine’s trust and he or she will earn yours.
I can not stress enough – take the time it takes so you both can move forward.
A carriage wreck can be scary. Ultimately you will want to determine WHY the wreck happened in order to decide on how to proceed. You may need to bring in some more eyes and minds to get to the root of the problem. Consider bringing in a trainer to help you evaluate if your horse has some gaps in their training, if they are a good candidate to get back in the cart, and how to do so. The truth is – not every horse makes a good driving horse, and you may need help in determining if that is the case.Kirsty Sztenderowicz
Coachmen’s Delight has an online course that goes over what to do with a runaway horse.
Our HorseDriver Facebook group is full of drivers who can help boost your confidence and network with to find other drivers near you who may be able to help.