what to look for in a driving horse

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lucky seven

Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2010
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After reading about the major wrecks, I would like to know what kind of temperment to look for. I thought any mini could be taught how to drive. My mini spooks at the neighbors chickens, our cat when he jumps out of the bushes, the cows next door when they "moo" at him. He could probably be despooked about them but not the deer. It doesn't matter how far away, he runs for his stall at the hint of big ears and a white tail. Any ideas? I need to know what to look for.
Depends a bit on what you want to do with the horse. If you only want to drive in the ring then a bit of fire may be called for and I have seen some pretty hot horses driven in the ring. If on the other hand you want a safe horse to drive for pleasure, in parades, down the road or on trails you want a horse that is bold, confidant in himself and willing to take direction from his handler even under trying conditions. It is an absolute fallacy that any mini can be trained to drive, there are a few who just simply do not have the mind to be driving horses in any way. I know of a least one gelding that is so claustrophobic that altho he does great with ground driving and will face anything his owner throws at him in hand or while being ground driven but, he can not get past his terror of being between the shafts. Comes completely unglued each and every time he is hitched to the point where he will hurt himself if actually hitched and unable to escape. He may be the extreme but there are others who for various reasons are not cut out to be driving horses IMO
The more willingly a horse is able to overcome its flight response, the more likely it will be trainable and safe to drive. It is a spectrum, so there are no clear markers for a horse's ability.
I'm just looking to drive in and around my yard. My land is about 200 feet wide with an open field next door that is rented out to heffers from spring until fall. The girls are always friendly and find ways to visit us. Seven still isn't sure if they are harmless or not. I can't do anything about the deer, they bother seven more than anyother animal. He is really afraid of them. I may just decide to look for a mini already trained for driving to drive along with my lessons.
As others have said, just because one is "trained" to drive doesn't mean that they won't be startled by deer or other things. Even a horse that you know can panic in one unexpected moment. My HOF obstacle horse (not use to showing outdoor arena) was grazing not paying attention and granddaughter grab her and went into the class. Suddenly the wind blew one of those curtain obstacles and she just about jumped out of her skin. She wasn't scared of it when then had to go thru it but that first fluttering look when it wasn't expected, set her off.

The best thing to do is to get your own confidence and then work on the horse having confidence in you. You can stop most run aways just like riding with driving in circles but if your lawn isn't clear and those circles run into something .....ow! As long as your horse doesn't kick or buck but only wants to run away from something, just keep a cool head and work with your hands and voice to calm him and, if the area permits, drive in a circle. As a rule I don't drive my horses anywhere that I don't feel that I can't be in control. But then I don't trail drive either.
I'm working with two horses with very different attitudes right now. At first I thought my gelding would be the better driving horse. He is more laid back, will lead anywhere (up the back steps, in the house, up and down ramps). My mare is a little more active. She is high energy. However, she also takes surprises better. Major (gelding) spooks or will shy away from unexpected things. Clementine, however, just takes a look and keeps on trotting. I think, sometimes, the more energetic horses have more confidence. Both of these horses are doing well but Clementine is more fun to drive.
I'm going to try to find a way to include these scarry things into his clicker training. It may not be until next spring, but we will work up to it and take things day by day. It helps I found a NH trainer close by and she is always willing to help.
We have a mini that will never be hooked to a cart by us because he is not only super spooky, he is also so claustrophobic he could not handle the simulated shafts (broom handles) we use in our training. He also has trouble with trailers and needs a double wide "stall" if he does get on one. He ground drives fine. Oh, and he will also bolt and get away from even experienced handlers when on the lead. We don't use him for the 4-Hers, but he has been shown successfully.

One thing about spooking - ALL horses spook!!! So don't think that because your horse spooks, he can't be trained to drive. It is how they REACT to a spook that really matters. I like the ones that quickly figure out that the world is not coming to an end and settle back down. Now there have been times that in the meantime, I found myself with my arms wrapped tightly around my riding horses neck, or I slid a long way across the bench seat on the cart. But as long as the horse stopped easily and was calm, I was OK with it.

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