Rules of the Road
Vehicle and harness must be serviceable and in good repair
Horses must have bridles on with reins attached prior to hitching to a vehicle
Vehicles must be unhitched prior to removing reins and bridle
Never tie a horse or leave it unattended when hitched to a vehicle
The driver must always have a whip and carry it while in motion
Never pass another carriage at a fast trot and never drive too close to another
THE BASICS OF CARRIAGE DRIVING
To begin, you must have a cart or carriage, a harness and of course a horse or pony. It is important that your harness be in good condition and that it fits your pony properly. Extra padding is recommended for the saddle and breast collar in order to keep your driving partner comfortable.
Your cart or carriage should also be in serviceable and in safe condition, and when available, brakes are recommended. A cart should be well balanced on your horse so not to put undue pressure on his back and a four-wheeled carriage should allow for the traces to be at the right angle so that the “line of draft” or pull from the breast collar to the swingle tree, allows your horse to do his job correctly and comfortably.
Many, many different breeds of horses can be considered for driving, but the main criteria when assessing whether or not your animal is suitable to drive, is that he is physically sound and not too young or old to learn this new job. He also needs to be mentally sound, that is to say that he has the temperament for this job and does not have an overly developed flight instinct, as some breeds do.
For obvious reasons, the colder blooded varieties and the heavier horses and ponies, such as draft horses, Friesians, Fjords and Haflingers are generally good candidates. But, when considering a competition animal, often a horse with more stamina such as the Morgan or a higher stepping horse, such as a Dutch Harness Horse or warmblood may be desired. Welsh Ponies and German Riding Ponies, as well as Hackney ponies are certainly often seen at driving shows. Arabian and Thoroughbred horses have their success stories, however, may not be suitable for a beginning driver. VSE’s, (Very Small Equines) aka “mini’s” certainly have their place in carriage driving and are often the starting point for many beginning drivers.
For all beginners, it is always recommended to have an extra person with you and on your carriage if driving a medium pony or horse. It is invaluable to seek out a professional or seasoned amateur to help you get started on the right path. The Florida Whips can help connect you with a mentor in your area who might lend a hand, to help you assess your pony if it has never driven, and/or suggest how to get more education with your current pony if you are just starting out.
A Whip in hand, long enough to touch the area behind the saddle, is required of all drivers while in the box seat. Helmets should be worn at all times.
Recreational Drives, Fun Drives, Shows and Competitions
If you have moved to Florida and wish to seek out other drivers and events, The Florida Whips is your source for everything driving. With roughly 200+ club members on average, the Whips offer everything from clinics, recreational drives, pleasure shows, driving trials and fun days, which can be found on the Calendar of Events.
Florida is unique in that many carriage drivers from around the country, migrate to Florida each year for the extensive driving show season. As a Statewide organization, the Florida Whips runs events throughout the year and its members are the backbone of the Winter Driving Sport Season, as our Whips are organizers, competitors and volunteers.
The American Driving Society (ADS) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the national governing bodies for the sport of driving, along with the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI), all sanction events during the winter and many of our Florida Whips members participate in all levels.