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Does anybody here drive off road?

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Dragon Hill

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I want to be able to drive on my trail down through the woods. That means up and down hills, through/around trees, over roots, dips, uneven ground. I have a Hyperbike. I'm still working on stand and on back. She walks, trots, and canters over uneven ground and uphill. Walks downhill. Her turns are decent. I am going to set up obstacles in the paddock. Can anyone tell me what I need to practice in the paddock to be safe down in the woods? I took her for walk with me once and she did great, nothing bothered her. I plan on walking with her more and ground driving her on the trail before I hook her up. She is completely trustworthy in every situation I've been in with her. Her only flaw is not standing still to be harnessed/hitched, or just waiting around. She was literally trained by children to drive! So yes, working on that is important. I trust her, but I am of the expect the worse and you'll never be disappointed camp. So lots of horse experience (riding, breeding, raising, training), but very little driving experience. Thank you in advance for any advice or suggestions.
 

Willow Flats

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Standing and backing are really important. If you get into a stickey situation, you will want to be able to safely back your horse out of it. For example, I have had a horse spook, jump to the side and get the shaft up against a post where he couldn't go forward and take the rest of the cart with him. They only know where they want to go and what they will personally fit through (no account of the width of the cart wheels) and he wanted to go forward. A good whoa and stand is essential when you run into problems. He was a little panicked from whatever he was spooking at but because he had a really good whoa and stand I was able to back him out and away from the situation.
 

Cayuse

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Sounds like you are well on your way to getting her used to it all. Get some small dried branches and ground over them to desensitized her to the "snapping sounds" that they make when hooves and wheels crunch them. That snapping sound can be surprising to them at first. And try to get her used to having a wheel bounced or hit by something (I'm thinking of small branches getting hung up in the spokes and being dragged, it's happened to me in my field and was a surprise). Teaching them to drive over a tarp is a great way to get them used to anything plastic like bags that might blow your way. And you can put a little water on the tarp and practice "puddles".
If you can teach a pivot from a standstill, it can be handy to get you around tight spots.
 

Dragon Hill

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Yes Willow Flats, we have much work to do on whoa and stand. The good news is she knows whoa means stop her feet, the bad news is when we first start she's not convinced it means until I tell her to move again. She will back a few steps, but I think at least a body + cart length before the woods. Plus some turning while backing, which I've never tried, but I'm sure she won't be backing straight, so hopefully I'll be able to see what her body is doing when she turns the cart and figure out how to get her to do it when I want. And I definitely need to learn to judge how much space I need for the cart to clear an obstacle. Thank you so much for this valuable advice.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Yes, crunchy dry twigs and grass is a good practice. I don't think one can prepare for everything, so the horse being sensible is critical. I have wild life spring out in front of me, like deer. And once a coyote shot out of a culvert while we were passing. A giant white bird flew up out of some water. Some horse are very confident and just startle and go on. And then, there is the strange shadow made by a bush, or rustling in the grass on the side of the road... Total equine horrors. I think being in the hyperbike will be the best for off road; I always feel safer in the sulky than in the cart.
 

Dragon Hill

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Thank you Marsha Cassada. I don't know what she'll do if we flush some turkey, or something.I So far she hasn't spooked at anything while driving, but we've been limited to the yard and front pasture. I got the Hyperbike because I was afraid to drive my Jerald Runabout EE even in my "big" pasture, let alone down into the woods. There is quite a drop in elevation from the front to the back. To give you an idea, I conditioned a riding horse for a week of camping and trail riding in Tennessee by riding laps around the parameter of the "big" pasture. That was SO long ago...I just made myself feel ancient.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Thank you Marsha Cassada. I don't know what she'll do if we flush some turkey, or something.I So far she hasn't spooked at anything while driving, but we've been limited to the yard and front pasture. I got the Hyperbike because I was afraid to drive my Jerald Runabout EE even in my "big" pasture, let alone down into the woods.
I have a Jerald runabout ee also. My sulky is an old Jerald racing sulky. But I love it. I've thought of getting a hyperbike, but the sulky works pretty well so I haven't spent the money. I could probably sell my sulky and use it toward the bike. But I'm getting older and set in my ways. The sulky is fine for me to get into, but folks with bad knees have trouble. The bike appears to be a vehicle one would have to learn a mounting technique.
 

Dragon Hill

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Cayuse, I almost missed pivots at a standstill. We definitely need to learn to execute one smoothly. I knew you guys would give me some good advice. I hope I don't turn into a pest. I've got so many questions, some more for here if I think of them, but more for other threads.
It always amazes me everybody thinks driving is simple and easy. So glad to have found people willing to share experience and advice! 😊
 

MindySchroder

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I mostly only drive on mountain trails. We bounce the bike over downed trees, over huge boulders and navigate steep trails all the time! Making sure she is good with the bike bouncing around behind her is very useful. You can do this with trotting poles or small tree trunks at your house. If you have big rocks around then I suggest navigating those as well!

You may find that at times you need to get out of the bike to help her over different obstacles. Some of our trails are so steep I have to get out and walk while Zorro pulls the bike up the trail. This is something that is dangerous and frowned upon but should be addressed. You don't want to be in the middle of a situation and not have that as an option. To facilitate this I use 11' long rope driving lines. These allow me to walk along behind or beside the bike. I run the lines between my legs, sitting on the extra and allowing a bit to dangle behind me when I am in the bike. Don't let it drag on the ground! I like the rope lines because sometimes they get dirty and stepped on 😬
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I'll share a few videos of our latest drives here:


I'm making another video today of our evening drive last night. We did some difficult boulder strewn trails and roads.

I write a blog and share my drives on there as well! Here is a blog about trail driving:
https://www.theessentialhorse.com/post/trail-driving

If you are trail driving in the forest sometimes you may need to open gates. Sometimes you'll have to get out of the bike to do this. The other day the gates were all wire gates and I can't open those while staying in the bike. So your pony will definitely need to be able to stand quietly. Wrestling a gate AND a pony will be very stressful. The pipe gates that swing can sometimes be opened and closed from the bike. Here is a video link of one of my FAVORITE miniature horse drivers, Sue Mason, opening and closing gates from her easy entry:

I suggest figuring out how to have a halter on under your bridle. I had to remove the nose band so I could do that. BUT my boy drives in an open bridle so he doesn't really need the nose band. If you drive in blinders you'll need to keep that because the nose band balances and helps keep the blinders centered. A driving/grooming collar is a great option but you'll need to take the time to teach her about that. The pressure comes from a different place than it does with the halter, and can cause them to panic at first. (you can see this in the photo below, right behind this little mares bridle!)
goldieinblackcollar.jpg

I have a first aid kit in my bike pack as well. I also carry bear spray and my hand gun when I am in the mountains. But we have bears, wolves and mountain lions so I am just being prepared. I have two bottles of water, one in the bike water bottle holder on my bike and one in my pack.
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I have paracord in my pack, small bolt cutters, scissors, a diapter and vet wrap and wound spray in my pack as well. I keep my phone on my person at all times. Just in case I am separated from my pony.

We have so much fun in the mountains around us. Most of the driving I do is in the mountain right behind my house. But I also haul 4 hours away to go camping with my friend Molly in a place that has literally 100's of miles of old logging trails and wonderful driving trails. The ponies do work pretty hard but the trails are so much more cart friendly than the ones behind my house!

I think you will have a blast doing this!!
 

Marsha Cassada

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The grooming collar heads up was of interest to me. I carry one in my pack because it's smaller than a halter. Have never had to use it, but it never occurred to me that my horse might object to it. I will try it out.
Have you accustomed Zorro to firing the gun? I've considered carrying one because of rattlesnakes, but haven't actually taught my horses to tolerate it. I don't think Dapper Dan would mind, but not sure about Midnight.
I carry insect spray, a lead rope, and a knife.
 

Dragon Hill

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Marsha Cassada, there is definitely a trick to getting in and out of the Hyperbike. I am not too graceful doing it. I actually threw myself getting out of it the first time. I got my shorts caught on the stirrup (they weren't adjusted right) and fell. My little mare just stood there looking at me. 🤣🤣🤪
 
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Dragon Hill

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Hi Mindy, your videos about balancing your Hyperbike were a great help to me last year when I got my Bike. And your videos on harness fitting are great, too. My harness is the one for the HyperBike at Chimucam and I like the blog over there, too. I will definitely have to get out and walk on some of the hills. And get Que Paso used to bouncing the Bike over stuff. I hadn't even thought about a halter or neck collar. Sue is a wonderful driver/trainer I've watched her video twice now. You live in a beautiful area of the country, but you can keep your mountain lions. A stray dog or feral hogs would be my worry. Those black lines you use, are they the yacht rope ones? Thank you for the advice and encouragement.
 

MindySchroder

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Have you accustomed Zorro to firing the gun? I've considered carrying one because of rattlesnakes, but haven't actually taught my horses to tolerate it. I don't think Dapper Dan would mind, but not sure about Midnight.
I carry insect spray, a lead rope, and a knife.
Yes, Zorro is very good with gun fire. My hubby is a Sheriff Deputy and we do lots and lots of shooting. Zorro can stand right beside me when I fire my gun. Sky can not. So he is definitely the one that I would want to take in the mountains!!


Those black lines you use, are they the yacht rope ones? Thank you for the advice and encouragement.
Yes my lines are yacht rope driving lines. I JUST ordered several sets and we will be putting them on the website :) I have been using mine for a year now and I just love them.

I'm so happy my other videos helped you with your bike and harness adjustments! I feel I am constantly making more adjustments and changes. I recently had to cut the gig end off the shafts of my bike because they covered Zorro's shoulders (the C shafts are too long for him) and he is so much happier! I am always striving to be sure he is 100% comfortable in his work since it can be such difficult work.

I can't wait to see photos of your trail drives!
 

Dragon Hill

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I thought there was something different about your shaft ends. That's cool that you were able to figure out how to make Zorro more comfortable, and had the guts to cut the end off. I love the end of the second video where he bounces the Bike right over that boulder. I'll need to buy or rig a spares bag for the back of the seat before I venture to the woods. I hadn't really thought of some of these things because the woods and trail is on our property and is mostly fenced. But the fence is down in multiple places, and Que Paso likes to do a walkabout every couple of years.
This is a picture my mom (and neighbor) took of us last year, right after I got the Hyperbike.QuePasa.jpg
 

Dragon Hill

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I finally got time to drive Que Paso for the first time this year. We just walked. I didn't drive her very long, the heat/humidity and the knats were bad, and after we started a thunderstorm decided to head our way. I used my new crossties I put in under a metal carport for the first time. She had been crosstied before, but this was the very first time ever she stood without fidgeting while I groomed, harnessed, and hitched her. She even stood still while I got in the cart. She also did wonderful when we got a shaft end caught on an obstacle and she let me back and pivot her to clear it, and she never got flustered through the whole thing.
 
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