So your thinking about buying your first driving horse? What makes up that perfect horse? The first thing you have to do is decide what size horse you want to be driving. There are miniature horses, ponies which are over 38″ all the way to 14.2 hands and then there is the HORSE which is anything over 14.2 hands. If you have never driven before or are new to the horse world than maybe one of the smaller equine would be a good place to start.
My personal favorite to stat with is the 12 hand pony. They are generally compact, strong and flashy and are able to pull a cart with two adults with no issues. They are also less threatening to the new driver because of their size.
If you are an accomplished equestrian and have had some driving experience than maybe a full size horse will be for you.
There are breed that are more traditional in the driving venue such as Morgans, Friesians, Hackneys and most draft breeds. That is not to say that any horse of any breed can be taught to drive.
The attitude of the individual horse will help one decide if they will be a willing partner in your driving adventures. Finding a horse that has the conformation to do the type of driving you want to do is of more value than their size, color, breed or even sex.
You are hunting for a horse that has size and substance, with good shoulders and hindquarters, good depth of girth and well sprung ribs to give him the strength to pull a carriage with passengers for a good length of time and rate of speed. They must have good feet for today a lot of driving is on pavement. Driving horses are much freer to find their own balance than a ridden horse for he does not have to compensate for the weight of the rider but on the other hand he is encumbered with the weight, length and width of the carriage.
The perfect driving horse is a blend of conformation, temperament, training and the willingness to please is owner. The connection between the horse and driver is most important in driving as you only have your voice, reins and whip to help you communicate with your horse. If you have one great driving horse in your lifetime feel privileged for it is a rarity. Mine was a Morgan gelding “Daniel Dawson” who took me to the top in singles combined driving.
The disposition of the horse is also very important. Making a beautiful horse a driving horse just because he is beautiful does not work well if he is also nervous, shy, spoiled or vicious. He becomes a danger to you, the general public and to himself.
Finally when you are looking for that perfect driving horse consider what type of driving you want to do and get a horse that is traditionally used for the type of driving. The last thing you want to do is to go through three, four, five or more horses to find the right one that suit you and your goals.
If your purchasing an untrained horse then take a professional driver with you to help evaluate the prospective driving horse.
If you are looking at an already trained driving horse then you need to be sure the current owner will hitch the horse up and drive the horse for you to see. Many times horses that are being sold as driving have not been hitched up in many years or they are owned by someone that bought the horse for say a broodmare and was told that the horse was driven in the past by a previous owner. If the seller will not hitch the horse and drive it then I suggest that you say thanks and move on.