I am sure everyone would agree that training a horse to drive should not be one’s first horse experience.  However, a person who knows their horse and has a well thought out plan can expect good results.  Before starting on this project there are several details that need to be considered.

Do you have the time to commit to a complete training program?
Time and consistency are essential. Training to drive will not be successful when approached with a one week on and a two week off schedule.

Do you have a suitable training space?
Many of the initial steps can be done in a well fenced area of at least 25 meters by 40 meters

Can you assemble the needed equipment?
You will need a training harness that fits your horse correctly and includes a bridle with blinkers, a back pad with bellyband, back-strap with crupper, breast collar with traces and long reins approximately 8 ½ meters in length.  A tire with a quick release attached and a 3 meter PVC pipe are needed as well.   

Do you have general horsemanship skills?
While you may not have had prior experience with driving horses it is still possible to train your horse to drive if you have had other successful experiences with your horse and have a good amount of “horse sense”.

Begin the training inside your well fenced arena or paddock.  The first thing you want to do is establish what we will call the station.  The station will be located along the fence on one of the long sides of the arena. At this station the horse must be tied or held by an assistant.  The station is where you will begin and end each lesson, groom, and harness, as well as desensitize your horse.  You want your horse to consider the station their safe place.

You begin by harnessing the horse at the station.  Use all of the harness, excluding the collar.  Holding the long reins move your horse away from the station and then begin working the horse in circles.  Begin the circles first at the walk.  When you feel that you and your horse are comfortable you can then increase the speed to a trot using the entire arena. It is important to familiarize the horse with the entire space of the arena in the early stages of training. Be certain that you work your horse equal amounts of time in both directions. 

Before and after each work session familiarize your horse with the tire.  You can accomplish this by having the tire near the horse and then moving it around all sides of him.  You must make sure that your horse has adequate exposure to the tire so that he does not shy and bolt away from it when you are later attempting to pull the tire around the arena.  You lay the PVC pipe across your horse’s back and then down the chest as well as over the rump and down his legs.  Working with the pipe allows the horse to become accustomed to a similar feel he will experience from the shaves of the carriage.  After a few days of long reining have your assistant pull the tire first in front and then from behind while the horse is working on the long reins.  The sound of  tire dragging will resemble the sound made when the horse actually pulls the carriage.

After the horse becomes accustomed to the site and sound of the tire and the feel of the PVC pipe, the trainer can then attach to the collar the  rope traces which are 2 ½ meters.  The traces attach to the collar with quick releases and should have large rings on the opposite end.  Once the horse has become accustomed to the dragging traces, the assistant can hold the ends of the rope traces by the rings and gradually lean back to add pressure.  This is done as the trainer long reins the horse in circles at a walk.  

Three or four weeks can be spent doing all of the above.  It is very important to take your time and keep the horse completely relaxed.  After the horse has calmly accepted the sound of the tire and the pressure from traces, you can now attach the tire to the traces and let the horse pull the tire.  Always begin at the station.   Continue the process exactly the same as in the previous weeks.   Have the tire attached with a three meter pull cord which is attached to the quick release.  The quick release allows you to detach the tire anytime you feel the horse has become stressed.  If you attach a plywood bottom to one side of the tire, sand bags can then be added to give the horse a little more weight to pull. 

What you should have now is a horse that is accustomed to pulling weight and used to the feel of something similar to shaves rubbing against his sides.  The horse should feel confident that the station is a good place to be.  These guidelines should be followed for at least a month to six weeks and even longer in some cases.  If the trainer is seeing good results at this time, the horse can be hooked to the carriage while at the station.  The trainer should move the horse away from the station to work the same circles and turns as in the past when ground driving.  Once the carriage is added it is necessary to have the assistant walking by the side with a long rein attached to the horses head for several sessions.

This brief article is not meant to be a complete guide to training your horse to drive.   It is simply meant to give the trainer an idea of what might be included in this process.

Training a horse to drive is certainly within the capabilities of a competent horseman once they have an understanding of the right program and equipment.


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