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Drive-Training on a Budget
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Drive-Training on a Budget

Horse racing is the sport of kings. In fact, almost all aspects of horse ownership and enjoyment requires a significant financial investment. Driving can be expensive too, but if it's your best option, it can be done affordably. Training is one area that can be not only expensive, but also hard-to-find. Even if you have a horse that has some experience driving or unless driving has been your horse's main discipline, a refresher course is always a good idea. Here are some tips on drive-training on a budget that helped me.

1) Make sure you honestly evaluate your horse before investing any money and much time. Not all horses have the temperament for driving and should not be forced. Forcing an ill-suited horse into any discipline can be hazardous to your health and even your horse's health and well-being. Obey the saying "Don't put the cart in front of the horse." There's no reason to go out and buy a cart (or harness) before you know your horse will pick up driving. You can keep an eye out for carts (or harness) in your local classifieds. Unless you come across a super deal, don't purchase anything specifically for driving until you're sure you and your horse can succeed with driving.

2) Once you're confident you and your horse have the aptitude for driving, then you can proceed. Don't get trapped into thinking you have to have everything top-of-the-line or every gimmick related to driving. Unless you're going to compete or show, basic gear will get you just as far as expensive gear. When you're just starting out, a nylon harness and an easy-entry cart will suffice. However, you need to be cautious of some of the cheaper leather harnesses. Many are made in India or China and the leather quality is very poor. In fact, if there is one thing to spend more money on, it's your harness. Not only is it the only connection between your horse and the cart, it is also vital for your horse's comfort and health. There's no need to rush into purchase though (see #1).

3) Start simple with both your training and your equipment. Use what you have on hand and think outside the box when training. Initially, you can use your riding bridle and even your saddle to test your horse's aptitude for driving. Your primary goal should be to simulate driving with what you can find around your facility.

a) Driving rein options: two similar weight and length longe lines, climbing rope with snaps attached cut to length (Check online for correct length.)

b) Driving saddle options: your English saddle's stirrups to thread your lines through when they're run up, snaps attached to your saddle's front dees and thread the lines through the rings, a training surcingle (Position stirrups or snaps as close to the turrets position on a driving saddle.)

c) Breast collar options: a soft, heavy, and wide rope, an extra cinch or billet, a riding breast collar (Tie or fasten a longer rope to your "breast collar" and have an assistant maintain gentle pressure while you lead your horse forward.)

d) Breeching options: a soft, heavy, and wide rope, an extra cinch or billet (Tie or fasten it on one side and loop it around your horse's hindquarters and hold the other end in one of your hands)

e) Shaft options: a heavy rope threaded through your lengthened stirrup, a sturdy PVC pipe threaded through your lengthened stirrup, a lightweight board through your lengthened stirrup (Ensure the 'shaft' is long enough to drag well behind your horse and position your stirrup about the middle of your horse's barrel. Be sure to keep your horse from turning too sharply to ensure the horse doesn't step over your 'shaft'. Only use one at first and if you can have an assistant hold it while you hold your horse. Gently rub and press the 'shaft' against your horse's side.)

4) Do as much as possible yourself (with an assistant). Many books and websites recommend sending your horse out for training for driving. That is probably the best way to ensure your horse is safely and well-trained. However, it can also be expensive not to mention difficult to find. You can reduce the time your horse must spend with the trainer if you lay the ground work and thoroughly prepare your horse. Although it's not highly recommended, you can also skip the trainer by doing all the training yourself. The training may take longer and be ineffective if you're inexperienced with driving. It can be done though with lots of time, effort, and research.

There are many ways to save money and still get the job done well. I've used the tips above to train my own young horse to drive mostly by myself with no 'expert' trainer available. As a 5 year old home-bred and home-trained driving horse, she was an excellent driving horse on trails and roads. She could also drag logs and other heavy objects with no hesitation. In fact, driving was her favorite activity besides eating. However, with another of my horses I was unable to train to drive because he lacked the temperament. Had I sent him to a trainer, I still doubt he would have taken to driving. The biggest money saver in drive-training is know your horse--if the will isn't there, don't force it. Good luck and drive-on!

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. autumnap
    Voted. It's amazing what you can achieve with plenty of will power in spite of limited resources. x
    1. BiologyBrain
      Thank you!

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