I know that right now you are wondering why I am talking about how to fall.  We all think that you can only fall off a horse while we are riding it.  But take my word for it, you should also learn to fall out of a carriage or cart when you are driving.

No one ever wants to fall off a horse or out of their carriage.  We all know, that whenever you are playing with horses in any manner, there is always a chance that you can fall.

Have you ever been walking with your horse beside you on the way back to the barn and something startles him, and he jumps your way?  The next thing you know you are sitting on the ground!

We all know that falling off your horse can and will happen at least once in your lifetime, if you are an avid rider!

Have you been driving your horse down a peaceful dirt road and suddenly that scary deer jumps out and your horse jumps sideways and turns back the other way, and your carriage cannot go under itself to do that U-turn, and the next thing you know you come rolling out of your carriage!

These are all real possibilities, that can and will happen!  So why not learn how to fall properly, so when that time comes, you are prepared to receive the least amount of trauma as possible!

You are probably thinking that falling out of a cart or carriage is different than falling off a horse, but it isn’t.  No matter how or when you fall you still need to know how to fall properly.

Quite a few years ago, I was able to do a clinic with Gawani Pony Boy, where I was able to learn how to fall.  Since that clinic I have had one time when I had to bail off a horse I was riding.  I have used his technique and I came away with no injuries at all.

I have also used his technique for falling when my carriage tipped in an obstacle while competing in New Jersey.

So, what is the best way to fall!

To start with, you need to realize that jumping from a moving cart should not be your first choice of what to do.  Horses can run from 14 mph to 43 mph.  Most horses can only do this for a short period of time, but even at a trot they can go 8 mph to 12 mph.  If your think about deliberately jumping out of a carriage, leave it to the stuntmen!

There are times however, as when my carriage tipped, that one has no choice but to fall out so knowing how, is a good thing.

When you realize that you are going to come out of your carriage you need to try and stay as relaxed as possible.  Do not try to use your arms to stop yourself from hitting the ground.  Arms straight out will not stop the weight of the rest of your body without breaking.  You want to become like a rolling ball.

First thing you do, is to hug yourself with your arms as you feel yourself starting to roll out of the carriage.  Start to bend your left knee if your coming out the left side of your carriage and push away from the carriage, as you do, you will feel your left hip following your left knee, and then your left buttock to the ground. When your left buttock is on the ground you want to roll over onto your right butt cheek.  This will keep you further away from the rolling carriage. You will then continue your roll with your right shoulder.  By this time, your momentum will have slowed down, and you will be sitting there wondering what just happened.

Remember to let go of the reins or you will be dragged! 

Practice falling and rolling at home on a nice soft carpet. You can also place pillows on the left side to even give you a safer place to land while practicing.  Seat yourself on a dinner chair in the middle of the carpet.  Now hug yourself and proceed to lean to the left as if you are rolling out of your carriage. As you start to go down, bend your left knee and push with your foot and knee away from the chair.  Your hip follows and your left buttock gets to the floor, transfer your weight to your right buttock and roll onto your right shoulder.

As with any new skill you are trying to learn, start slow, have someone with you if that makes you more comfortable.  Remember, this is a learning process and once your muscles and your brain learn the routine it will still come naturally when you need it.  Once you have learned how to fall to your left, then practice the same routine to the right.

Just like driving your car, you run through your mind all the scenarios needed if a deer runs out in front of you, or you’re hit from behind by another car. If you do the same with falling from your carriage, it will come to you naturally.  You always need a plan just in case the unexpected happens.

Remember, that in 99% of all falls, you do not land on your feet, so be prepared to hug and roll.

Horses and Smoke do not go well together.  The obvious signs of smoke from the Tinder fire should be a reminder to everyone about how quickly a fire can start from just a campfire being in an unauthorized area and being left unattended.

It also brings back the memory of the Rodeo-Chediski fire in June 2002 and the Dose fire in June of 2013. The Dose fire I remember well, being I live at the base of Granite Mountain.  My son called from Orleans, California to tell me that the Doce fire was heading our way and if it comes over the pass, we need to get out.  My son is a career wildland fire fighter with the US Forest Service and was stationed here in Prescott.

Extremely Tense Days

I watched many horse owners try to figure out what to do if they had to evacuate.  A good friend of mine who lives on Mint Creek had to evacuate and she called me to help with her horses and miniature donkeys.

There was much that went wrong that week, as well as much that went right.  When trying to get up Williamson Valley Road, I had to dodge look-e-loos parked on the road taking pictures!  Then, there were those that were unable to get their horses into trailers at all.  When the officials finally set up road blocks at both ends of Williamson Valley Road, evacuation then became easier.

As you can see Eileen’s trailer is large enough to hold all six of her horses.

As you can see Eileen's trailer is large enough to hold all six of her horses so when you have a fire horses and smoke do not mix

You are probably wondering where this is all going too?

It just so happened that my Hackney pony mare was in foal at this time. I consulted my veterinarian for the best thing to do with her and the rest of my horses during the fire.

Because my pony was older, my vet suggested that I keep her as quiet, and in no way exercise her!

The smoke has a drastic effect on horses to start with, but her being pregnant, it would be even worse.

This study from the University of California Davis proves that horses and smoke do not go together. Smoke is an unhealthy combination of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot, hydrocarbons, and other organic substances.   Smoke is a mixture of solid and liquid particles that are in the air. They can irritate your horse’s eyes and respiratory tract, which then hampers their breathing.  All horses should have very limited activity whenever smoke is visible.  Even a human has eye and breathing problems during a forest fire.

Remember horses and smoke do not go well together.

If you have a scheduled event in an area that is smoked filled due to a fire, it is always better to cancel and be safe then it is to go! Several years ago, the organizers of the Tevis Cup canceled the race because of the amount of smoke in the area.

Now, if you must evacuate then you are faced with the problem of getting your horse or horses out to a safe area.  In my situation during the Dose fire, we were on stand by evacuation for a week, as the fire management had no way of knowing which way the fire was going to go.  Fires can be very unpredictable!

I had my large trailer hooked up and ready to leave at a moment’s notice.  I can get all six of my horses into my trailer at one time. There were many people who had to evacuate and did not have trailers big enough to get all of their horses into.  Many people need to take several trips to get all of their horses out.

The worst thing that happens when you are told to evacuate is getting your horse into a trailer. Here are some tips on how to get them in:

  • Everybody stay calm!! If you’re not calm your horses will not be calm.  Act as if there is nothing special about this trailer ride.
  • Always be sure that your horse is trained to get in your trailer.  When it’s time to evacuate, it is not the time to train your horse!
  • Load your horse like you would at any other time.  If you use leg wraps, then put them on. If you use a different halter, then use it now.  The horse needs to think that this is just like any other ordinary trailer ride.
  • Don’t be in a hurry.  If you are, your horse will think there is something wrong.
  • If you normally load your horses by yourself, then do it by yourself.  I know it is tempting for friends and neighbors, that may or may not know anything about horses to volunteer their help. Graciously, refuse their help.
  • If you have multiple horses, load them in the same order that you would if going to a show or trail ride.
  • Give your horse time to think if he needs it to get into the trailer. My Friesian Sporthorse will always stand and look into the trailer for maybe up to sixty seconds before getting in.  This is his normal.  You don’t want to change your horses’ normal routine of how he gets into his trailer.

You Can Smell The Fire In The Air!

Most evacuations, especially with fires, we are all able to see and smell them well before the actual notice.  This is the time in which you need to get together any special medication that your horse will need along with a copy of his registration papers to have in your truck.  All of the other stuff you might want to bring like feed, tack, buckets, blankets, etc. are just material items that your horse can do without during an emergency. Your horses will survive on whatever food and water is at the stable of facility you are evacuating too.

The most important thing is to save your life and the life of your horse!

Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy competes at the Arizona Driving and Carriage Society’s first ADT of 2018.  I got an early start on the day, heading from my ranch in Prescott to the event at Apache Junction two and a half hours away.

Arriving at the event center about 8:30, there were already a lot of competitors there.  I picked up my entry number and settled into the routine of getting Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy out of the trailer and comfortable.  Next in line was to get the carriage and other equipment out also.  Then it was all about waiting for our time to go 10: 26.

I had Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy tacked up and harnessed by ten and we headed for the safety inspection, and then it was on to dressage.  Dressage not being Pinegrove’s Sailor Boys favorite thing we just headed into the dressage court in a very relaxed mode.  The whole test went terrific and I was very happy with a score of 54 at the Intermediate level.

  • Dressage

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona in Dressage
  • Dressage

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona in Dressage
  • Safety Inspection

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona at safety check
  • Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona heading to Dressage
  • Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona heading to Dressage
  • Harnessing

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona harnessing up

I then headed over to the cones course which was large and sweeping and Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy decided that an extended trot for the whole 800m would be the way to go. We went clean with no balls down and I think we made time but as of this news release the final scores are not posted.

Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy and I made about a two hour break during which I walked the four obstacles that we would be driving at 2:45.  Our time came and Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was eager to get going and we cantered about 95% of the four obstacles.  No whistle was blown so we had no course penalties.

All in all it was a nicely run event in a great location.  All of the organizers and the helpers did a great job keeping it running on time.

I will post out final score when I get it, and everyone out there keep driving!

As we head for the winter solstice, we find that we are pressed for daylight hours in which to drive our horses. Thursday, December 21, will be the shortest day this year.  The sun will be up at 7:32 am and it will set at

5:23 pm, which will only give you nine hours and fifty minutes to get up, go to work, and drive your horse.  Really, not much time when you figure that most of you work an eight hour job.

When you become pressed for daylight, what can you do to fit your passion for driving into your somewhat small leftover time in your day.

The first thing one needs to do is to be organized, both in their lives as well in their barns.  A well organized barn and tack room will make it easier to minimize pre-driving activities, such as grooming, harnessing and hitching up your horse.

If you board your horse, then you need to be sure the stable you are at has enough space for your carriage and harness to be stored properly.  There is nothing worse than having to dust your equipment off before you are able to use it.  A carriage cover does work well but it’s that extra time it takes to remove it and then put back on that is it’s downfall.  There should be proper space in the tack room for you to be able to hang your harness properly.

When you have your horse and equipment on your own property, you do need to keep it organized as well.  I have six horses myself and without an organized tack room and carriage barn, I would never get any driving done!

My tack room contains all saddles and bridles used for riding and training.  I also have trunks for storage of blankets for each horse.  This is also where all grooming and miscellaneous supplies are kept. This building is only twelve feet from the tie rack, which makes it even more convenient.

Now my carriage barn is where all of my carriages and harness are kept.  Unfortunately, not all my horses are the same size, so there is at least one carriage for each.  The one wall has all of the harness for the horses hung on it.  Again, there is a separate set for each horse, and all of them are labeled with the horses name. The carriage barn has it’s own hitching rail for harnessing and hitching also.

All of this organization helps me be able to quickly groom and hitch up my horses in the fastest time possible, especially for this time of the year when we are pressed for daylight.   So organize, organize, organize!

Some of the other things that you can do to save time during your busy week are:

  • Be sure if you are boarding, that your horses feed schedule is well before or after you plan to be there, that way you don’t have to wait for him to finish eating.
  • If you have lights at your stable or home then plan to use them during the winter months.  It will give you extra driving time.
  • Don’t schedule shoeing or vet visits during the late afternoons, so you are not tied up during your driving time.  Most vets now days have at least half days on Saturdays for appointments.
  • Remember to make your chosen time to drive just that if you board your horse. Long conversations with other boarders can eat into your time really fast.  Explain to them that you have limited time and that driving your horse is your first priority.
  • Leave your cell phones in your car or house to save precious time!
  • We all know that our horses love to be brushed all over, but for the sake of time, limit brushing to only the needed areas.  When time is short, I brush where the saddle sits and down around the girth area, which are the most important. The rest really can wait until the week- end when you have more time.  Forego the combing of the mane and tail, believe me, your horse won’t care about his hair-do!  Finally, just check his feet for any rocks stuck in his shoe or frog areas.  The poop in there will not be his downfall, after all he has been walking around on it all day and is just fine with it.
  • Now you are ready to harness your horse.  You should have just three sections of harness to put on.  The saddle with back strap and breeching.   The breast collar and traces already buckled in and lastly, the bridle with reins attached. I have found that having the reins attached to the bridle and the traces attached to the breast collar is the quickest way to get them on the horse.

Now you are ready to hitch up to your carriage.  I always leave my whip, helmet and gloves on the floor of the carriage, so they are always handy when I go to hitch.

With a bit of practice and a well trained horse who will stand there either ground tied or facing a hitching rail or fence, you will be off in no time driving your horse when you are pressed for daylight.

My carriage barn with hitching rail!

Eileen's Carriage Barn and Hitching Rail right outside at her Combined Driving Center in Prescott Arizona

If you do your grooming, harnessing and hitching the same way every time and at the same place, your horse will quickly learn what is going on and what to expect.

With organization and the above steps to save time you will be able to drive your horses during the short days of winter.  I have found that I am able to groom, harness and hitch up in fifteen minutes.

Is it a circle or an egg?  One of the hardest movements in a dressage test is the circle.

When it comes to the driven dressage tests one needs to learn circles from 40 meters at training level to 10 meters at FEI level, along with every size between.

When you start learning how to drive circles at training level you are starting with the 40 meter size. That size circle is in each of the four tests for training.

A lot of the preparation of being able to drive a circle, is first having the basic knowledge of geometry and how the size of your circle relates to the total size of the driven dressage arena.

For example:

  • The normal size of the arena is 40m x 80m so, if you are doing a 40 m circle it is basically half the size of the arena.
  • If you are doing a 30m circle it is 3/4 the width and 3/8 the length of the arena.
  • If you are doing a 20m circle it is 1/2 the width and 1/4 the length of the arena.

Once you get the basic geometry in your head, it becomes easier to drive the circle.  The easiest circles are those that start at the edge of the arena. These are also the easiest for the judge to see if you are making a circle or an egg. The barrier gives you a starting and ending point of your circle.  When the circle starts in the inside of the arena, it is harder to envision where you need to go.

If you, as the driver is not sure where you need to drive the circle to keep it round, can you imagine your horses frustration with the whole process!  My horse does not know geometry, so he is depending on me to help him get it drawn correctly!

The other thing I see drivers do, is they will do ten circles in a row with no relief for the horse. When the horse is first learning the proper bend, it is hard on their muscles, so ten circles in a row and your horse will become sore and bored. Each size of circle takes a different degree of bend in the horses body to make the correct size circle.  The 40 meter circle does not take much more than a slight bend of the nose and neck and the rest of the body flows right along.  Where as the 10 meter circle takes much more bend through the horses whole body to make a well driven circle.

The other thing that I see drivers do, is that they don’t follow the circle with their eyes.  You can not look straight ahead and drive a proper circle.  That is like looking straight ahead while driving your car and turning right at the same time.  You are going to run into something!

So, how do you drive a circle that does not look like an egg?

First, be sure that your horse is able physically to bend his body throughout his total spine.  If your horse is unable to do this, then he will not be able to make a proper circle.

For example, my Morgan gelding who has driven his whole life, suddenly had trouble bending his body to the right. It was as though his spine was stuck and no matter how hard he tried he could not do it.  I had some body work done on him over a six week period and we found that somehow he managed to dislocate his right shoulder which made it painful for him to bend to the right.

Next, as you are driving say a 40 meter circle, break it down into four quarters.  Find a focal point for each of the quarters, such as a cone, tree or a letter on your arena. If you are starting your circle at letter “A”, then your first focal point would be half way between the corner at letter “F” and letter “B”.  Your second focal point will be at Letter “X”, your third point will be half way between Letter “E” and the corner at “K”, with your last point being at letter “A”.

As you leave letter “A”, you will be turning your head slightly to the left looking at that first focal point, by doing this your left shoulder will drop slightly which will put a little pressure on your left rein. As you are driving this first quarter, keep a very steady outside rein (right rein) and every four to five steps do a slight pull on the inside rein.  This will keep your path of travel at the right arc.

Once you have reached that first focal point, you will then turn your focus to the second focal point letter “X”, continuing around in this same manner until you are back to the beginning letter “A”.

As you practice doing your circles this way, you will find that they become easier to drive.  If your circle starts to fall in then you are asking to often with your inside rein.  Try increasing the number of steps between the asking.  If you are traveling and your horse is moving out away from the arc of the circle, then you may have to decrease the strides between or ask with a bit more intensity.

Remember, that circles are easier to accomplish at a working trot than at a walk.  Do not over do your circle drawing so your horse does not get bored.  Put some straight lines or diagonals across the arena to keep the horse focused on you and what he is supposed to do.

Once you get the process down, and you can do it without thinking at the large circle, then you can start moving on to smaller circles.

Smaller circles require the horse to be more under himself and truly working from his rear-end. The smaller the circle, the more often you will need to tap on that inside rein.  The horses body will need to be on a more pronounced bend as the size of the circle goes down.

Now, I am sure you are wondering why there are circles in all dressage tests?  Everything you do in a dressage test will translate to both the cones course and the obstacles.  Being able to properly execute a circle will make those turns in the cones course easier to execute.  Cone courses are all about full circles or partial circles that take you from one set of cones to another.

Circles, properly executed, will be of great assistance when you are making your way through an obstacle that has tight turns that can slow you down.  A well executed circle can save time and energy, for the horse, in an obstacle.

So you see the execution of great circles is very important in all three phases of Combined Driving!

“Have fun and drive a circle”

So you have arrived, with your driving horse, at the driving venue with all of his paraphernalia, now what do you do?

If it is your first driving event, whether it is show ring driving, Combined Driving Event or a sanction breed show with driving, the enormousness of it can be scary to say the least.

If you do things in the proper order than this process will be less stressful for both you and your horse.  Usually, there will be people or signs that will lead you to a temporary parking area or your assigned barn.  You now need to hunt for the check-in booth or tent to pick up you packet.

Things you will find in your packet:

Diagram to your barn stall

Your driving horses number

Papers that you need to fill out and sign

Your order of go

Information and maps of the grounds layout

Maps and timing information of the obstacles and course.

Information booklet about the event that is given to all spectator and competitors.

Some shows give you coupons and souvenirs of the show (pen, horse cookies, sun screen etc.)

Now that you have your packet, it is time to park your trailer and find your driving horses stall. I know that everyone likes to be close as they can to the meeting tent, bathroom and the manure dumping area.  But being totally honest, this is the area that becomes the most congested thereby making it an accident waiting to happen.  If you have a choice and are able to park a bit farther away, it really is quieter and nicer.  Lets face it, we all bring with us another source of transportation (bicycle, moped, golf cart etc.) so being parked at the front door of your driving horses stall is really not that important.

Your driving horses will get along just fine in the barn with all the other horses. If you don’t spend all day in the barn with your driving horse at home, then why do it at a competition?  Your driving horse just might think that you don’t trust him!

First of all, do get your horse out of the trailer, after all he has been standing all the way from home to the event site.  If he stands being tied to the trailer, then leave him there while you get his stall ready.

You will need to take his water and feed bucket, your poop cart and rake, and a pen to fill out the information required on his stall card.  Inspecting the stall to be sure it is safe and there are no faulty latches, sharp edges or boulder, that you horse can hurt himself on, is the first thing you should do.  You normally will find a sack of shavings sitting in the middle of the stall if you have ordered it.  Open and spread shavings around the middle of the stall and place water and feed buckets in corners. The corners work best as they keep the buckets out of the movement zone of the horse.  These stalls can be as small as an 8 x 8, so space is at a premium.  Now your horse is ready for his hotel room for the weekend.

Pinegrove's Sailor Boy and Eileen at their trailer at the Lets Have Fun In Texas Driving Trial

Never depend on the supplied latch or clip to keep your horse in.  I always buckle my driving horses halter around the bars for extra security.

Now it is time to set up your camp area, which is also your tacking and hitching area.  Be sure you give yourself enough room between your neighbor for you both to be able to work at the same time.  Parking/camping areas can become very crowded at many venues as space is at a minimum.

Once you are settled in and are having a bite to eat, it is a good time to go through the items in your packet. Remember also to check the official competitors board at least twice a day for any changes or update on information.  Times can change if some competitors do not show up or when the weather decides to change.  Marathon courses can change after the TD and Judges do their official run of the course.  Remember what you see on the course is always right, as people are only human and some maps might show obstacles differently.

Now that you and your driving horse are settled in and you have checked out the grounds and courses, there is one more thing you need to do.  Go to the competitors briefing that is generally scheduled around five o’clock on the day that everyone is arriving.  You will generally be introduced to your hosts, as well as the judges and technical delegate.  They will let you know of any changes thus far and you will have a chance to ask questions.  Be sure you listen and pay attention, because you never know if an answer to an asked question will be of help to you.

The following are a few of the crazy things I have come across as I have competed across the United States.

  • Competitors that cross tie their horses in the small isles of the barns whereby blocking other competitors from getting their horses out.
  • Competitors that use the isle of the barn to harness their horses.
  • Competitors that park their carriages at the entrance of the barn and proceed to hitch up there.
  • The competitor that warms up their horse in the warm-up arena with no consideration for anyone else in the arena. Remember that not all horses are at the same level of training. There are also horses for which this is their first time at an event.  “Courtesy” is the best policy.
  • Courtesy when driving ATV’s and golf carts should be the norm. The horse and carriage always has the right of way.
  • When warming up on marathon day, remember that the horse and carriage on the course has the right of way. Many events, due to space limitations, you will find that the marathon track will cross the warm-up areas of the road to the start of the marathon.
  • When it is not your time of go for dressage, do not block the entrance to the dressage arena. You do not want to be the person that causes another competitor to be eliminated, because they could not get into the arena.
  • After the marathon when you take your horse to the wash area be sure that all horses have been cooled, before you decide to wash your carriage. The horses health is more important then your carriage being clean.
  • Never depend on the organizers to have a first aid kit, for either people or horses. You should have a well stocked one of your own.

Go to driving shows and combined driving events and have fun, but remember to be courteous and aware of everything around you.  If we all follow this, then we will all stay safe and have fun!


Rejoice Of Monarch is an American Morgan Horse mare who excels in trail riding.  She is fifteen years old and stands 14.3 hands.

“Rae” as we call her here has an impressive pedigree which parallels some of Daniel Dawson’s. She was bred and born at the Monarch Morgan Farm in Payson, Utah.  She was shown once as a yearling at the Morgan Medallion Show in yearling filly placing third

Her prior two owners used her for trail riding in the Phoenix Arizona area.

I am using her for trail riding here in the Prescott area and so far she is proving to be very reliable.

As we get better acquainted with each other I will post information on the web-site.

Have you ever gone to a horse show or a combined driving event and wondered why some competitors look great and others are drab and boring?  Then there are the drivers that are wearing a color that does not compliment their horse, their carriage or even them.  I know that yellow is the last color I would ever wear in a competition or anywhere for that matter. So what colors go best with your horse?

Lets start with the items that are required if you are doing Dressage and Cones at a Combined Driving Event, or you are at a Carriage Driving Event.

The American Driving Society rule book states that all drivers will wear jackets, driving apron, hat and brown gloves. Grooms must wear and have the same.  The driver must also carry a whip. In a Carriage Driving Event the ladies also have the choice of a conservative dress, tailored suit or slacks.

Your dress should also conform to the type of vehicle such as Formal, Park, Country or Sporting.  Less traditional attire can be used with a Combined Driving Marathon vehicle if it is specified in the class descriptions of the show.

Now that you know what you need to wear lets talk about what colors go best with you horse and vehicle.


First of all you need to know the primary color of your horse.  For the purpose of finding what colors you should wear with your horse, your horse will be in one of the following color groups:

  1. Black – black is universal and can wear any color.
  2. Brunette (Bay, Black, White, Gray, Blue Roan) – these horses look good in bright jewel tones such as blue,  purple, pink and red.
  3. Redhead (Chestnut, Sorrel, Live Chestnut, Red Roan, Dun) – these horses look great in soft earth tones such as vanilla, buckskin, rust and   chocolate.
  4. Neutral (Buckskin, Palomino, Grulla) – these horses look good in the same colors as the redheads or brunettes depending on their exact color tone.

For Appaloosas, Paints, Pintos and other horses with over 50% body white, they will look good in purple, blue, teal and turquoise.

Now that you have an idea of what colors go best with your horse you have to decide what colors from that group will look good on you also.  The majority of my driving horses are bay.  Colors in that group include pink, which is not my best color so I would not wear it.  Also the blue would have to be the right shade for me to be comfortable with wearing it.  The idea is that you,  your horse and carriage will look as one cohesive unit.

What colors go best with your cart or carriage will also have an effect on how all of your colors will blend together. Most metal carriages can be painted any color.  Black is by far the best color  that blends well with all colors of horses and any color that you might wear.  Now if your carriage has been painted say blue or maroon, then you have to think twice about the colors in your horse’s palette that will also match.

My carriage for my bay pony is actually maroon, which is a brownish red color so it will go fine if I wear black, or maroon.

I have seen a lot of brightly painted carriages over the years, from bright yellow to all  shades of green and blue.  Most of the time these are the marathon type vehicles which for marathon is not an issue but, if you choose to do Dressage in that same vehicle, it can be a problem for your presentation score.  It can also be a problem in a Carriage Show to try and make it look cohesive.

If your carriage or cart is all wood then it is probably just stained or left natural.  These light wood colors look best with your redhead or neutral colored horses.

Horse clothing color wheel

using a color wheel can help put your look together when you are doing dressage or show ring driving

Some other things to remember is that the judge is going to be fifty to one hundred feet away from you when they are judging.  What the judge sees from across the arena is color, silhouette and the cohesiveness of the carriage, horse and driver.  Black is always a good choice but unfortunately 75% of all who show will be wearing it, so you need to stand out from all the other black drivers and this can be done with a contrasting scarf that also carries into your hat or a bright tie and pocket square for the men out there driving.

Bright colors will help you stand out from the rest but you need to be bold to wear them.  Light colors have a tendency to accentuate flaws where dark colors will minimize them. Remember that your lap robe and your hat need to go with your jacket, slacks, skirt, shirt or tie to complete the picture.

If you want to get an idea of how colors go together, go to a few carriage shows and watch what colors are being worn by drivers and ask yourself, does that driver stand out from the rest?  Will the judge remember one of the drivers over the rest and how that driver drove over the rest?  Ask yourself does the driver, horse and carriage make a complete pleasant picture to look at?

Doing this will help you to pick out the colors that go best for you and your turnout. What colors go best with your horse?

A Mini Horse Club Gymkhana was hosted by the Saguaros State Miniature & Shetland Pony Club at the Davis Ranch on Sunday the 30th of April.  Twenty two members showed up, bringing with them about ten miniature horses and ponies.  It turned out to be a beautiful day with no wind, rain or snow to spoil the atmosphere!

The morning was taken up with in hand gymkhana games including an egg balancing race that all had fun doing.  I think that a  few of us older adults found running with our mini’s was harder than when we were younger.  There was a lot of huffing and puffing going on.  By 11:15 all were tired so we broke for lunch and our horses had earned a drink of water and a snack.

After lunch those who had horses that drove proceeded to get hitched up for the driving games.  Those that had proficient driving horses did some cantering which shows that these little horses can get there fast if need be!  Others with newer driving horses kept to a trot or walk and all went well without any mishaps.

When all was said and done this Mini Horse Club Gymkhana will go down in the history book as a success.  I think everyone received a prize and the horses got mint snacks!  A few of the drivers checked out the bridge  and water crossing as well as the hazards that are on the property.


Fitting your harness to your horse might seem to be a simple thing to do.   But in reality, it is an ever evolving process. 

The first time you will fit your harness to your horse is when you are training him to drive.  Most new horses to driving have never had a harness on them, so the process of dressing the horse must be slow and methodical.

The first part of the harness to be put on your horse is the saddle, with the girth, back strap, crupper and breeching attached.  As when you saddle a riding horse, the first thing to do is place the saddle on the horse.  The saddle should set about two to three inch behind the withers.  As you place the saddle, let the back strap and breeching drop down over the horses butt. Now, cinch the saddle in place so that it will not fall off.  This does not need to be gut wrenching at this time. Be sure that the back strap is flat and down the center of your horses back, and the breeching is even on both sides of the horse.  Now carefully lift the horses tail so that the breeching is under the tail and touching his butt.  If your horse has never had a crupper strap on, than now is the time to be careful and proceed with gentleness.  Gently hold the dock of his tail up just a couple of inches and slip the crupper strap under and around the tail, then gently put his tail back down.  If he is okay with this, then buckle the crupper loosely,  at this point you don’t want to give him a wedgie.

The other part of the harness that you need to put on your horse, when you are training him is the bridle.  First thing to do is put on a bit that your horse is used to.  Most driving horses are started in a drop cheek snaffle. If you ride your horse, then match the driving bridle to his riding bridle to get the bit at about the right length.  Undo the nose band and put the bridle on just as if it were your riding bridle.  Take it slow as the blinders will be a new item for the horse.  If your horse is okay with his driving bridle, then adjust the blinders so that his eye is at the center of the blind.  You can adjust the side straps, as well as the crown buckle, to do this. Now adjust the bit so it sits properly in his mouth.  Then buckle the nose band leaving enough space for two fingers between his skin and the band.

You are now ready to start your horses ground driving in preparation of him eventually pulling a carriage.  As the days go by and your horse gets comfortable with his new tack,  you will be able to buckle the crupper tighter along with the girth.

For the horse that is an accomplished driver, the process of dressing him when you as the new owner go to hitch up the first time is easier.  If your harness is new, be sure it is totally put together ahead of time.

Again you start your process with placing the saddle with the back strap and breeching attached over the back of the horse with the saddle two to three inches behind the withers.  With the trained driving horse, you will start by placing the crupper under the horses tail and buckling it.  Then you will adjust the saddle to the appropriate place and adjust the back strap so that it is straight and not floppy.  Adjust the breeching so that it sits at the level of your horses stifle.

Next comes the breast collar with the false martingale and neck straps attached.  Holding the breast collar on one side of the horse, toss the neck strap over the wither and attach it to the breast collar.  The breast collar should sit about two inches below where the horses neck connects to his body.  If to high it will interfere with the horses breathing.  Toss the traces over the back of the horse so he will not step on them.  Bring the false martingale between the legs and run the girth through the loop on the end, then buckle the girth.

Now, put the bridle on the horse and buckle the nose band and the throat latch.  The throat latch needs to be tight enough that the horse will not be able to catch it on anything and remove his bridle, but not so tight that he can’t move his head properly.  Lastly, run the reins back through the terrets on both the shoulder straps and the saddle, then buckle the reins together.

You are now ready to hitch your horse to your carriage. Have a helper head your horse and you bring the carriage up to the horse.  Remember to talk to your horse while doing this, as he can not see you when you are to the side or behind him. Place the shafts in the tugs.  The shafts should not extend past the horses shoulder.  Bring the traces back and connect to the singletree.  The traces should be taunt and not droop when the horse is pulling.  If they are to long then adjust to fit properly.  Buckle in traces make it easier to fit the horse.

Run the breeching wrap straps through the D-ring on the shaft, wrap around the shaft one to three times and then buckle.  After you do this on each side the same, there should be enough room for your fist to fit between the breeching and the butt of the horse.  Too tight and it would be like you riding the brake and too loose would be like having no brakes.

Buckle the tug down with the strap if you have French tugs, or wrap the wrap straps if you have traditional tugs. On a four wheeled carriage, they need to be just tight enough to keep the shafts in place at the sides of the horse.  On a two wheeled cart they will need to be tighter as to hold the entire cart down.  If too loose when you enter the cart and sit down the shafts will rise up and the cart could tip “they must be snug”.  You are now ready to get in and drive your horse.

I have always had a harness for each of my horses.  The reason for this is that it is much easier than trying to readjust the harness every time it is put on a different horse.  Even with each horse having his own harness, it does not mean that it will always fit the same.  Over time your horses shape will change as he grows, and his conditioning will change how his body looks.  Because of this, you will always need to adjust as the time goes by.  One example is with synthetic harness, it will stretch over time and you will need to adjust for that stretch. This happened with my Friesians bridle to the tune of one inch longer on the bit straps. 

I have always told my students that when they are at a show to never change their harness even if the judge, TD, or other competitor or trainer says it should be a different way. Always show just as you practiced at home because that is what the horse is used to.  If you want to experiment with adjustments the place to do that is at home not a competition.  So just tell the helpful people that you will take it under consideration.

The  other thing you will see is that many drivers harness in many different ways.  For example, some will wrap the too long traces around the shafts and others you will see them bring the back breeching straps and put them through the loop at the end of marathon shafts.  These are the worst things one could do.  The wrapped traces take the play out of them, making pulling the carriage harder for the horse because they are not pulling off of the singletree that does move.  When you run the breeching straps through the loops on the end of the shafts, you are basically making an enclosed box that the horse now is confined in. The distance from the front of the shaft to the butt of the horse is all the horse has to work with.  So his body and legs are confined to that space.  This is not a good scenario for doing Dressage.  Every time you ask the horse to go forward, the breeching hits against the horses butt and brakes the carriage, so you are telling the horse to go and stop at the same time.

Harnessing is the major component for connecting your horse to your carriage or cart so it needs to be correct and safe for both the horse and you.