Bring on the Chariot Part One! By Daniel Crider

My first trip to the AMHR National Championship was in 2011. That was the first time I saw the Roman Chariot class. I knew at once I had to have a chariot of my own. We built our first chariot the following year, and I started training a horse that was already a driving horse. My gelding “Lucky” was an enthusiastic chariot horse. He lives for speed. And he is probably strong enough to pull my pickup truck.

The first year I drove in the chariot class was 2012. My chariot started life as a CDE cart. My brother, a carpenter, built a new deck and the wrap-around shell.

At that point the design of my chariot was not good. The axle ran directly under the deck. As a result, the chariot was very high and unstable around turns. During my first race I flipped over on the last turn of the last lap. Fortunately neither I nor my horse were hurt.

This picture was from the very first show that year. You can see the chariot is almost 18 inches off the ground. I am also wearing a plastic, rental costume.

After our accident I knew I needed to change the chariot. I had a welder friend create a “dropped axle” to get the chariot lower to the ground. The deck is now only 4 inches above ground.

When I started I was using a standard leather show harness that we had. With the Roman Chariot class requiring canter and a full gallop it did not take too long to break the harness. Both of these gaits put huge amounts of stress on the harness. Plus the chariot is heavy (over 100 pounds) and I am wearing almost 100 pounds of steel and leather armor. Which means my horse is pulling close to 400 pounds.

Here is a picture of that first harness from 2014. During this picture I was clocked at over 30 MPH.

One evening I was practicing in an arena getting ready for a show the next day. The shaft loop on one side of the saddle broke away completely. For a few seconds the chariot was only connected to one side of my horse. Fortunately my horse came to a stop quickly and calmed down when I told him to. Neither one of us were hurt, but I knew I needed a stronger harness. The next week I ordered a Comfy Fit.

This is a picture that must have been taken while I am driving in the canter gait. The canter is an incredibly bouncy gait. You can see all four hooves off the ground. The Comfy Fit handles it fine.

In 2014 I took second place (Reserve Champion) in the Chariot Race at AMHR Nationals. Getting better!

Later we moved up to a 2-horse team for the team chariot events.

n 2016 I had another set back. During the Amateur Chariot class I was driving my 2-horse team. A weld failed on the chariot and the a wheel fell off. Fortunately it happened when all of the chariots were just at a slow trot. My horse team was very calm. Their reaction was basically, “OK — Chariot’s broke, time for a nap!”

I took the chariot to a local welder in Tulsa the next day. His response, “You know, here in Tulsa I have worked a bunch on wagons and carriages for horse shows. But this is NOT the first chariot I have had to fix!!! …” Three hours later I had the steel frame completely re-welded and strengthened. And later that week we won the Team Chariot class.

 

Part Two Coming Soon!!!

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