Saturday, April 21, 2012

driving seminar

I just got back from a driving seminar held by the Black Swamp Driving Club in Ohio with Jaime and Kyle (owners of the Percheron and Clydesdale). Anita Alden from Odyssey Training Stables was the clinician. She is actually located near Ann Arbor, which is much closer to us, but we took the trip to Findlay to learn about driving. Funny thing about Ohio, they actually had a fence in the median of the freeway with a donkey and some horses laying down!

It was a cold day and of course everything is outside or in a barn. We missed the individual sessions, but made it there in time for the seminar. When we pulled into the fairgrounds we saw some horses! Why is it that when I see horses I get so excited, even though I have one and I am around them almost every day? We got to see a Dartmoor pony, a Morgan pony, a paint pony, and a donkey!

The first thing I did before the seminar started was try a rein board. You take the reins and through a pulley system it has a weight attached to the other end and you can see how the way you use the reins work with the bit in the horse's mouth. Interesting.
Really useful to see what your hands are doing!
A man was there teaching a one handed driving method. He had me grab the bit and showed the difference between the "American" way of driving vs the one handed method (which is not really one-handed). Basically, you hold both reins in one hand, but your hand is sideways and by slightly releasing certain fingers, it tells the horse what to do. It made much more sense than the "American" way, as he called it. Also, instead of cranking on the mouth to turn the horse right, you release pressure to turn the horse. Makes sense. And the point of the whip is to act as your leg. 

We grabbed our chairs and a blanket, luckily Jaime and Kyle had one in the truck for us to share, and Anita started off explaining driving bits. As expected, there are all types of driving bits. Many of them are multi-functional, meaning that they can be used at different leverages depending on how the horse is acting that day. I think Shyloh might eventually go in the bit circled. . .but who knows.
Look at all the bits!
Anita went over what conformation and temperament is desirable for driving horses. Short backs and strong rears (engines) where needed for this activity. And curious horses are strongly encouraged, not fraidy horses.
Cute Dartmoor mare.
A little long in the back Morgan mare.
Anita showed us a few driving whips and how they were supposed to be properly weighted. Then she showed the proper fitting and tacking of a harness for the Dartmoor pony and Morgan. The harnesses they had were beautiful (and $2500 each!!). 
Driving is not a solo activity!
Make sure the harness fits correctly.
After the horses were in harness with their driving bridles on, Anita showed how to properly attach a cart. Then we went outside to watch both horses walk and trot around. 
Always bring the cart to the horse.
Bring the shafts over the horse to attach the cart.
Hold on to the reins.
Make sure you sit back, don't lean forward. The horses can feel that weight.
Horse should have three different trots: A quick trot, a working trot, and an elongated trot.
Overall, I learned a lot. Anita was very knowledgeable, but it seemed like she had so much information to share and just could not get it all out.  I am looking forward to the clinic I am taking Shy to next weekend with Jaime, Kyle and their horses! Fun!


  1. It sounds like this was a great introductory clinic. I'm so glad you were able to go to it.

  2. That looks awesome! I so wish I could go to something like that!


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