Like all equestrian pursuits, Carriage driving is tremendously good fun. However, there is an element of risk and to minimise any potential problems, we would always recommend that you seek professional or experienced help when learning to drive.
Check out our links pages for a list of local instructors and British Driving Society approved Light Harness Horse Instructors (LHHI’s)
You can download the BDS list of LHHI’s here:
If you are interested in taking up carriage driving, we know that you will want to minimise the risk of your financial outlay at first. “There’s no point spending a lot of money on something I don’t know if I will like” is a common statement we hear. However, be warned; driving has huge engineering demands on the materials used in harness and vehicle construction. Cheap inferior materials have a high risk of product failure which can be potentially dangerous and damaging to your driving experience.
To avoid any potential pitfalls, check out our following helpful pointers to common questions...
Your ability to drive
Carriage driving is one of the few pursuits which knows little or no prejudice. We welcome participants from all backgrounds, abilities social groups and age groups. But like most things in life you have to decide what you want to achieve in driving and focus on that. Carriage driving can open great avenues of opportunity for everyone, but what you want to do will greatly effect the choice of horse, harness and carriage that best suits your needs.
Complete novices are welcome to come along to the regular Dyfed Carriage Club Inro2Driving nights where they will learn all about the rudiments of driving as well as being fingerposted to suitable instructors in their area.
See our category on driving notes to see what interests you.
Choosing the right horse
Most horses will drive, from the miniature Fallabellas to the giant Shires. You can either have your own horse broken to drive by an experienced trainer (it’s a great way to recycle redundant children’s rifing ponies) , or buy a ready made driver form a reputable source. Dyfed Carriage Club members are on hand to advise the best options for you.
Certain breed types have characteristic traits that offer features, benefits and constraints on driving (eg Welsh ponies and cobs, Hackneys, Coloured Gypsy Cobs). Experienced drivers will be able to advise you on this. We recommend that complete novices start off with an experienced quiet schoolmaster driving horse to minimise any risk and to maximise your driving pleasure.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HARNESS
There is a wide variety of differing harness types and a multitude of purchasing routes for newcomers to driving to comprehend. Again, we would always recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced carriage driver. Their knowledge is invaluable.
The right harness choice is dependant on your horse’s size and what you want to do with him (show, compete, driving trials or simply leisure drive)
Harness comes in two options, leather and synthetic.
Leather is available in either high quality English or lower grade foreign. Foreign harness has a reputation for inferior quality and poor performance. Leather harness is predominantly used for showing and requires a lot of maintenance and upkeep.
Synthetic harness is available as webbing or plastic coated webbing. It is perfectly acceptable for driving and can be used in nearly all disciplines. It is strong, durable, easy to maintain and clean. Like leather harness, there are higher quality British and European branded makes as well as cheaper inferior foreign made sets. Cheap inferior makes suffer from poor materials that can break and rot, whilst their poor tailoring can cause ill fitting sores.
Avoid inferior bargain harness sets available on internet auction sites.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CARRIAGE
Like harness, there is a multitude of carriage types to chose from. Firstly seek the advice of an experienced carriage driver to recommend the best option for your needs.
Carriages come in two basic formats, 2 wheel or 4 wheel, and
within those formats they are available as either traditional type or modern exercise/competition vehicles. (We are ignoring commercial and agricultural types in this instance).
Traditional types are usually the attractive historical vehicles made from wood and high quality paint finish. They are mainly used for Private driving classes at shows and displays. They are usually quite valuable and precious, so they are not used much for rough and tumble competition work. Like all things in life, there are exceptions to look out for including Governess Carts and Ralli Carts. Although these are extremely commonplace, they are no longer fashionable and out of favour for the demands of current carriage driving. Consequently they suffer from poor residuals and negligible value.
Modern exercise or competition vehicles are enjoying a great revival where there is a healthy used vehicle market as seen on Dragon Driving, Carriage Link and ebay. They are normally made form high grade steel and are available with traditional steel wheels or pneumatic tyred wheels for extra comfort. Suspension is normally either indespension type or softer more comfortable elliptic leaf springs. New carriages are currently available from British, Polish or Chinese made sources.Beware of inferior grade Chinese made vehicles which suffer from dangerously poor build quality.
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