Picture credit: Bennington Carriages
Fancy a new challenge for you and your horse? Carriage driving is a great way to get the whole family involved, and is suitable for all types of horses, from Shetland to Shire.
Whether you fancy the thrill of horse trials or just want to potter around the countryside, this sport that has something for everyone.
We spoke to Julia Crockford, chairman of the White Horse Harness Club, to find out more about carriage driving and how you can get involved.
It’s something the whole family can get involved in – as three or four of you can all go out for a drive. There’s a real camaraderie with driving – and most events are big family gatherings with a picnic after.
You also get to drive at amazing venues not normally available to the public, like Sandringham Estate and Cirencester Park. How often do get the opportunity to do that?
There are loads of different ways to enjoy the sport of carriage driving, from the fast and furious, to the steady and sedate.
Contact your nearest club, who will be able to offer advice and recommend a driving instructor. They will have their own horse and carriage so you can try it out in a safe environment, before progressing to your own. If you want to train your horse to drive, they can also help you get them going.
The British Carriage Driving website has a link to all the local clubs in UK. There are also lots of books that can teach you the basics. I recommend Learning to Drive by Sally Waldren
Absolutely anything, as long as they are safe and want to learn – if your horse bucks or kicks you don’t want to put them in a harness. All breeds and sizes can drive, from heavy horses to Shetlands.
If you’re buying your own carriage it depends what you can afford. You can pick up a two-wheeler for around £500 to get you started, but if you want to do showing you’ll need something a bit smarter, which can cost several thousand pounds.
These days most people use a harness made of webbing, as it’s much easier to clean. You can even put some of them in washing machine. Again, if you’re showing you will need traditional leather.
You can get all the gear second hand – most driving clubs will have a ‘for sale’ page on their website. Dragon Driving advertise horses, carriages and harnesses and Carriage Link is another good place to look.
Always use high-vis gear for you, your horse and your carriage. You will be going much slower than anything else on the road, so you need to be clearly seen from in front and behind. You should also make sure your horse is safe on the roads and you need to be insured.
Ordinance Survey maps will show you all the local bridleways and byways. Byways are wider as they’re open to all vehicles, but you need to check out local bridleways first, to see if they are accessible. Your local driving club will be able to help you find some good routes.
A carriage can go over any sort of ground, although deep mud is hard for the horse. It’s easy to pull a carriage on flat ground, once its moving, even with four people on – you could even pull it yourself! But you have to check what is underfoot to be on the safe side.