Long Road Ahead

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Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2018
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Hi all,

I just wanted to give you all an update on what is happening with Coady and I. I hadn’t been able to drive him for awhile due to time constraints, weather (my asthma and I don’t like the heat and humidity...) and injuries from accidents (bucked off of a horse that I was riding for a friend, sitting at a stop sign on a motorcycle and an 80 year old woman came around the turn in my lane and smashed into my front tire. Had to go the the hospital for xrays for both).

Coady was diagnosed with a collapsing trachea, so when he pulls too much going uphill (we’re in PA so there are a lot of hills!) or works too fast for too long, his breathing switches to this horrible gasping honking noise and he has trouble catching his breath. The vet suggested driving him with a check, and when I finally got to test that theory a few weeks ago it seemed to help. One week and two days ago, I took him for another drive and was really enjoying being able to get out there with my boy again. Unfortunately...things went very wrong.

Our driveway is a two part hill...the first half is a steep straight part which ends in a small flat spot. The second part is two less steep twisty turns. I usually walk behind the cart for the straight part, then get back in the cart at the flat spot and drive the rest of the way up. We were on the 2nd and final turn and I was patting Coady on the rump because he was being a good boy when for reasons unknown to me, my cart flipped over backwards. Poor Coady was spooked and I was laying on the ground trying to hold onto the lines, but he was pulling me across the asphalt and I had to let him go. He flew down over the very steep grassy hill in a direct route down to the straight part of the driveway. I found out later that he also went down over the hill on that side of the driveway and took out a small tree before coming back up toward the asphalt and crashing the cart and getting it stuck on a large tree.

As soon as he took off down the hill, I got to my feet and took off running down the driveway. I heard the horrible snap and crash of the cart breaking, but I didn’t know if it was the cart or one of Coady’s legs. All of the noise that I had been hearing switched to an eerie silence. I was terrified that I was going to go around the turn and find him on his side, badly injured or worse. When I saw him I was relieved that he was on his hooves, but he was trembling and he had blood dripping out of his mouth. Because I use one of the grooming collars and leave it on while we drive, I ripped that harness off of him to free him from the vehicle and took his bridle off. His bit was covered in blood and he had more still dripping out of his mouth. I called my hubby (who was thankfully off that day) and asked him to come get what was left of the cart and harness in the truck while I got Coady to the barn to asses his injuries.

Long story short, he thankfully was not as badly injured as I thought. His poor little muzzle was all cut up, and the bleeding came from a surprisingly small cut on his tongue. I’m going to try to figure out how to post a video so I can show you my little guy’s route. It’s an absolute miracle that he wasn’t injured worse. A part of the hill that he went down was a roughly 7 foot drop that’s almost a straight incline. The drop deposited him right on the steep part of our paved driveway that I’ve seen many deer slip and fall in. I am SO glad that I put his Equine Fusion boots on him that day. 3 out of 4 of those boots were in the same place that I had put them that morning, and the 4th was only slightly turned. I truly believe that if he hadn’t had his boots on he would’ve fallen when he hit the slick paved driveway and quite possibly broken a leg. I’m so grateful for those boots...they were expensive (I boot him on all 4) but worth every cent as I am convinced that they saved my boy’s life.

The harness is only damaged in one place...the breeching disconnected from the backstrap, which Mindy explained is designed to happen in an accident. I’m grateful to the Amish harnessmakers who thought of that! That break let Coady be a little farther away from the cart so it didn’t hit him. (It hit him once in the right hind and he had a small cut...I think that happened when it flipped initially) The cart is absolutely destroyed. The singletree snapped basically in half, the welding that fastened one of the shafts to the frame snapped and spokes on both wheels are broken. No shame for it...that’s quite a crash. I do not want to villainize the brand of cart so I will not disclose it here. If you would like to know feel free to PM me. I do not blame the accident on the cart...it was a freak accident. We’ve driven up that same hill with the same setup numerous times without a problem. I have no idea what went wrong this time. Although I do not blame the cart for the accident, I’ll most likely not get another like it. I’m going to just stick with the type of cart that I’m more familiar and comfortable with.

Coady has thankfully recovered from all of his physical injuries. Mentally is a different story. We’ve been doing all sorts of desensitizing since the accident...loud music, crinkly feed bags, horse eating plastic bags...you name it. I’ve ground driven him several times and much to my surprise he has driven beautifully. However...he has understandably become VERY suspicious about anything that comes up behind him. I can crackle an empty feed bag behind his butt all day, but I took him for a walk and a car came up behind us and he got a little spooked. Then my mom who was walking her dog with us accidentally kicked some gravel behind him and the poor little guy almost ran me over trying to get away from it. I have wheeled my other cart around him and he adjusted to it pretty quickly, but when I wheeled it up as though I was going to hook it to him he was very tense and scared. My hubby works at Home Depot so I had him get the the materials for a travois like Mindy uses so I can try to work with him with that and see how he does.

To be honest, he’s always been high strung and very forward when being driven, and with his breathing problem I was considering looking for a different horse for driving anyway and just taking Coady on little hikes in the halter on some of the horse friendly hiking trails around here anyway. After an accident this traumatic I have serious doubts that he’ll ever be safe to drive again, or even safe to hook to the cart. I have to try though. I have to give him the opportunity to tell me if he wants to do this anymore. If I see that he truly cannot do this safely or happily anymore, then hiking pony it is and I’ll get a new mini for driving. I don’t want to just give up on my guy though...I need to give him a fair chance. He is ground driving beautifully for me...we’ll see if he can be confident with something dragging behind him again.

So that’s what’s going on with Coady and I. I should start logging our ground driving minutes so I can still be a part of the driving group :) I’ve learned a lot from this experience. No matter how safe your cart is or seems, always be vigilant as accidents can happen. Double and triple check your equipment before every drive. Be grateful for every driving minute and every mile that you log with your horse. Finally, always take the time to give them an extra hug and cookie, because I could’ve very easily lost my boy and you can’t go back in time and give them those hugs and treats. That’s all for now...stay safe everyone
I couldn't possible "like" your post; it is too traumatic.
I think with the trachea problem, you might want to look for another driving horse, even if Coady recovers enough to drive again. Poor guy.
I had something happen to me many years ago with Dapper Dan. I dropped a rein, and got out of the cart to pick up the rein, holding the other in my hand. He decided to take off and of course I lost the other rein. His route was on flat land, fortunately not like your hills, but through a wooded spot and lots of boulders. He finally got stopped by crashing into a large boulder and the cart wedged. When I finally got there, he was wild-eyed and panting, but unharmed. The harness was broken, but I managed to get him loose and use it to ground drive him home; I wanted to ground drive him so he would end up on a positive note. It was a half-mile, so he was fairly calm by the time we got home. Went back later for the cart. He recovered from the adventure and wasn't too traumatized--he is a tough cookie. The cart, my wooden Jerald, had two broken floor boards. I ordered new ones from Jerald and we were good.
Our misadventure was nowhere near as drastic as yours. Watching one's horse and cart take off is almost cause for a heart attack.
I am so very glad that you are both OK. I had a hard time reading your post, my thoughts kept racing ahead thinking of the possible outcomes. Please be careful if you decide to drive him again, OK? (I know that you will be, but I just had to say it.)
Thank you Marsha. I agree, and no matter what I’m probably going to keep an eye out for another driving horse, or possibly a driving donkey! I’m don’t have as much donkey experience as horse experience, but I’ve always wanted to drive a mini donkey. The live Nativity options would just be a bonus ;) I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through watching your horse take off with the cart as well...it’s absolutely terrifying. Watching any horse get loose and bolt is scary, but it’s much worse when they are attached to a cart.

Thanks Cayuse...I’ll be very careful. We’re hopefully going to work with the travois for the first time today, and if he does well with a few weeks of travois training sessions I decided that I’ll take him out to the barn where my TWH is boarded to hook him to the cart for the first time. They have an arena which would be a confined area rather than chancing him taking off and going who knows where at our place. We have too many trees and too many hills.
Good luck with him today.
Hope you find a good donkey. A local guy works with donkeys and mules. They are mostly wild or neglected when he gets them. He believes he has a better rapport with them than horses; they are so different. He really enjoys them.
My farrier has mules only. He has no mini's, but has several driving teams. He plows with some, shows with others. They're much different than horses, but he swears by them . He is almost eighty, and still works full time. I am so sorry about your accident. I am thankful you and your horse are okay. I don't know anyone on this forum well, as I am fairly new, but I read the posts, and follow along with the conversations, sometimes adding tidbits.I don't drive yet. This is a cautionary tale,for me so I did like your post. I am nervous about the cart, and what can go wrong. Your story helps people like me be aware of the dangers ahead of time. Thank-you for sharing this!
I'm glad to hear that Coady is ground driving well. That was such a traumatic accident. Isn't it amazing how forgiving and understanding they can be?

I am looking forward to seeing what kind of equine you choose to be your next driving partner!
:p:p:pI have the whole week off work this week (Yay!!! It’s been a looooong time since I’ve had a vacation) and I’ve been working with Coady on his driving. I forgot to record all of our ground driving and travois minutes though. Oh well, no biggie! Anyway, yesterday was a beautiful day so I decided to load my little man up and head out to the safety of the arena at the barn where my TWH is boarded.

We started with some ground driving in the arena to see where his mental state was. He was being a very good boy, so once I felt comfortable I hitched him to the cart using a quick release system I came up with. I fastened the traces to the singletree with baling twine and didn’t tuck the end of the hold back straps in so the buckles so it would be easy to free him if he totally lost it. I left his halter under his bridle, so once he was hooked, I led him around the arena for a few minutes. He was tense at first, but he settled in quickly. Then I walked behind the cart and drove him. My nicer cart was demolished in the accident, so I had to use the one I not so affectionately dubbed the ‘Bonebreaker’. It’s a very uncomfortable cart to ride in. Anyway, it makes a LOT of noise, so after a few minutes of pulling it with no driver, I felt he was ready.

I put the traces on the singletree properly, tucked in the ends of the straps, triple checked everything, took a deep breath, told Coady to stand still and got into the cart. To be honest, I was more scared than he was at the moment. Remember...the last time I sat in a cart I got dumped out the back of the thing. I calmed my nerves and asked my boy to walk on. He walked off like nothing had ever happened!! We drove for 40 minutes with me holding back tears the whole darn time. I couldn’t believe I was driving him again. We walked, trotted, pivoted with one wheel staying in the same spot (one of my favorite things to do), walked and trotted circles and figure eights. He drove better than he ever has with his little ears perked forward the whole time. I tried to make extra noise and even played music on my phone to see if it would upset him, but even several very excited children showing up for a lesson didn’t really phase him. Afterward, I used the horse measuring stick that they have put there and checked to see how tall he actually is for showing purposes next year. I was afraid that he was actually too tall and we were just lucky that the show we went to didn’t question it, but it turns out that he is 39” after a fresh trim, which is a whole inch under the maximum allowed height for mini classes in our area, so I was happy about that and my instructors 10 year old son insisted on leading Coady over a small ‘victory jump’ to celebrate :p

I’m so very proud of my brave little boy. He put all of his trust in me and performed like a champ. I’m still in a bit of a tough spot...Coady is a jealous little guy and he hates when I work with another horse. I’ve got my precious boy driving again and I would rather just work with him, but he still has his breathing problem. Part of me wants to just work with my guy and try to get him to lose some more weight as the vet said that might help by decreasing the amount of fat around his trachea. If I drive him gently and carefully, I can drive him safely. We’re just really limited before his ‘honking’ starts up. The other part of me wants to get another driving horse/donkey so I don’t put Coady at risk. He’s a happy little guy when he is working though. I’d just drive Rosie, but she’s such a petite little girl. She’s got a big heart, but she’s only 30” and very petite and I’m 180lbs. I’m going to keep an eye on the sale ads and go from there.

I also need to figure out another cart now that my nice, expensive one is a pile of bent and snapped metal :( I have a bad back and the Bonebreaker just about killed me yesterday. I would love a Bellcrown or better yet a Cricket, but that’s out of my price range. I’m looking at the Frontier easy entry, G&S easy entry or Pequea easy entry. If anyone has any other suggestions let me know! The Bonebreaker is a Kingston, but I wonder if one of the ones with motorcycle tires would be more comfortable. I could add a suspension kit from PPP later, but the cart will drain my fun fund for now and the kit would have to be much later when I get more saved up.

Anyway, thank you all so much for the encouragement and support. I’m so so so proud of my boy and so excited to be driving him; even if we can only drive a little at a time.
So happy to read your reply! A confidence boost for both of you!
I sort of feel like you do about trying to replace my avatar horse. He wants to be the ONLY horse in my driving life, but I need to work on getting him semi-retired.
Good to hear Coady is back on track!
About your cart, I have a Kingston (and a wonky back) and just bought their seat riser "lift kit" and it helps a lot with the comfort. It raised the seat by two or so inches and having that extra leg room is a big help. My Kingston has the motorcycle tires.
I had a G and S cart and just sold it last week. It was not as comfortable as the Kingston with the seat riser.
As far as getting a new driving horse, the right one will come along :)
I'm so so happy for you and Coady! He may be more content with a bit heavier cart so he "knows" he is pulling something. I sent you an email with a few ideas for making your current cart a bit more comfy :)
This is a tough go for you and Coady, and it does sound like progress is being made. Reading your original post here though, there are some things that I would like to comment on - first, regarding the breeching being "designed" to come apart in a wreck. As a harness maker and driver - there is never, ever, a case that any harness "knows" when it should break, or come flying apart - so I find that whole statement odd to say the least. A cart flipping over backwards for "reasons unknown" also makes little sense. Getting out of a cart and walking beside, or behind, while hooked, is and extremely bad idea, I know of no one that can run as fast as a bolting horse - and sadly, you found out what happens when things go wrong, and one is not in the cart. In terms of a "heavier" cart being of value - that has merit - but not due to the weight alone - it is the design of the specific carts that either lend themselves to being stable and safe, or they lend themselves to counting on every single move either the horse or driver make, to either not flip over, pound weight on the horses back, or nail the horse with the shafts on the sides as one travels over uneven, rough ground - some are far more "inherently" safe than others. Any that have you sitting with your legs below your centre of gravity, are far, far, safer than any that have you positioned with your legs out in front of you. This is simple physics. It is indeed, amazing what horses will come back from - people as well - we have worked with several over the last seven years. What has always remained as a key element, is where people are getting their guidance. Things like being told that a harness is designed to break, that is a good example of data that actually increases danger to people who then think they "know" something. Ill advice leads to issues - sadly, it is often just that simple.
Party’s Pony Place,

I am in awe that a business owner would address possible future clientele in such a condescending and arrogant manner. You’ve posted comments that were indirect insults before, but this is quite something. I must say, I am impressed that you were able to insult the person who made my harness, the person who sold me the harness, the person who made and sold me my cart, myself and my horsemanship skills all while masquerading as helpful and concerned, and without calling anyone by name. Though I have no need to defend my actions to someone such as yourself, I shall respond to some of these accusations for the sake of those who may read this thread at a later time. Normally I would write in a kind and supportive manner, but I feel it is appropriate to respond to your comment with a similar attitude to how you responded to mine.

First off, I find your suggestion that I believe that an inanimate object such as a harness ‘knows’ when to come ‘flying apart’ quite strange. Breakaway points are quite common in equine equipment, such as a breakaway halter. The concept should not be foreign enough to confuse you so. Certain pieces of horse equipment are designed to have weak points for safety. I remember reading in an article on driving in the respected magazine Horse Illustrated that many driving instructors recommend starting a green horse in a leather harness as leather will stretch and/or break away in an accident and synthetic materials will not. I have read similar comments in many other places such as books, magazines, and on the internet. Therefore I find it prudent that synthetic harnesses would have sections that would permit a breakaway safety mechanism in the case of an accident such as mine. Obviously these safety mechanisms would have to be strong enough to withstand the regular strain of driving and give way only under extreme circumstances, just as the breakaway halter only gives under extreme circumstances. The equipment does not ‘know’ when it is to break, it is simply designed to give under a certain amount of pressure that would only be achieved in extreme circumstances. Whether or not you agree with the use of breakaway equipment, this is common in the equine world and thus should not come as such a surprise to the experienced horse person, nor should it be evidence of ‘ill advice’.

Secondly, I said for unknown reasons because it is not possible to go back in time to determine exactly what went wrong as I do not own a DeLorean. Would you have preferred me to say that the accident was due to either operator error or equipment malfunction? It was likely one of the two, but since I cannot say for sure, ‘unknown reasons’ was accurate and simple to write. Accidents happen, and playing the blame game will not change what happened.

I walk behind the cart going up our steep driveway because that’s what I do. Due to Coady’s collapsing trachea, pulling me in the cart up the steepest part of our driveway is not an option. Even without his respiratory struggles, I do not feel it is fair to ask him to pull me up or down a paved road that is as steep as ours. I’m not sure how you feel I should get the cart up and down the driveway, but that’s how I do it and it’s worked just fine for me every time I’ve done it. Not everyone has an ideal set up, and sometimes we have to just make things work, even if it’s not the ‘proper’ way. I’m not sure why you feel that this contributed to the accident as I was in the cart at the time that it flipped over backwards. We were on the less steep portion of the driveway. The reason that I couldn’t control Coady when he spooked is because I was laying on the ground at the time. I had just been unceremoniously dumped out of the back of my cart. Had I been on my feet, things would have turned out differently.

Concerning my statement of wanting a heavier cart, your ‘physics lesson’ shows that you know exactly what cart I was in, therefore you should’ve understood what I meant. I was obviously not stating that the heaviest cart is the safest cart. I did not wish to villainize my cart or it’s maker, so I used whatever language that I could to refrain from stating the name directly. You apparently don’t approve of name bashing either as you cleverly did not state any names in your response, so you should understand this concept. I did not want to seem like I was villanizing the cart out of politeness to the manufacturer. As for your reasons for doing so, I can only speculate.

Since you decided to specify that you’ve helped many people over the course of seven years I feel that you may think that I am inexperienced. On the contrary, I have 20 years of horse experience and I’ve driven on and off during those years. I’ve driven Percherons in teams and singles for carriage rides, weddings and shows. I’ve driven minis for pleasure for roughly 12 years. No, I don’t always do everything right and no, I don’t always do everything by the book. However, I love my horses and I know them. You don’t know me or my situation and you don’t know my horse. You simply assumed that I don’t know what I’m doing from a post regarding a freak, traumatic accident. I have never claimed to be an omniscient professional and I always seek to learn more about these precious creatures known as horses. I don’t know why you feel that I only get my information from one source as I’ve learned a lot from many people over the years, and I do not know why you feel that you are able to asses my horsemanship skills from one post that was written when I was still very upset from the situation.

Just because someone sells nice vehicles and could be considered a ‘professional’ does not give them the right to speak down on the ‘peasants’. I’m certain that there are plenty of things that you think you ‘know’ that are incorrect as well. People make mistakes, and people don’t always do things right. The reason that I joined this forum is because the people on here encourage each other and support each other in their driving journeys. Rudeness, arrogance and condescending attitudes have no place here. Not only did you send a rude response to me, but you also posted it publicly to embarrass myself and your competition in the harness business and cart business. I’ve seen you do similar things before, but I did not comment as the post was not on a thread of mine and therefore not my business. (When you conveniently feel the need to comment a contradiction to your competition’s posts on a regular basis, people begin to notice.) This time however, this was clearly directed at me, so I’m not going to sit politely and ignore.

In conclusion, I ask you to please consider the tone of your responses in the future. If a new driver posted a question about a problem that they were having and received a response such a yours, it could easily push them away from the driving community. Worse yet, hurtful comments and stinging words could cause them to question and doubt themselves and quit driving altogether. In addition , such negativity may discourage more experienced people from sharing their knowledge with others for fear of being rebuked and insulted by those who ‘know better’.

As a respected cart and harness manufacturer, you’re in a position to positively affect those in the driving community. I ask that you use this position wisely. A kind and helpful attitude goes a long way.

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