Sometimes our driving ponies can be very fast/forward... but does this always mean they are confident?
I always see questions from people asking if the smaller minis can pull a 120 pound cart and a 200+ pound person. My general rule of thumb is, I don’t make my mini pull more than it’s own body weight. So if my own weight is nearly equal to my minis then I will need a VERY lightweight vehicle so together we don’t exceed my minis weight. (This is where a Hyperbike comes into play!!)
But a common answer I see is “My 30″ mini pulls me and my Bellcrown, or Frey or wooden meadow brook cart around just fine! He is a power house and runs everywhere. It’s hard to get him to walk!”
Hmmmm. The key words in that reply is “it’s hard to get him to walk.” People will also say their minis are very forward. I have been watching lots of different minis pull lots of different vehicles for a long time. I have also been a student of natural horsemanship for a long time. Something I am always thinking about is, is that mini calm and confident in it’s job? Certainly there are lots of small minis that ARE confident in their job. Usually these minis are fairly well matched in driver/vehicle weight to their own size and weight. These minis confidently canter out and tackle the courses. They easily come down to a walk and trot in a very relaxed way when asked.
BUT for the most part what I see are over faced small minis just trying to get the job done. They are racing around, heavy on the forehand, wanting to canter everywhere because the walk is just too hard. This exact thing happened with Sky. She had a hard time pulling the easy entry cart with me in it. So what did she start to do? She started to race everywhere. It’s very hard to get her to slow down and be calm when driving. She was starting to when pulling the Hyperbike, but she can NOT do it when pulling the easy entry cart. She just simply feels over faced with that cart. In her case it doesn’t matter that she is 37″ tall and the cart and myself weigh nearly equal to her weight. The simple facts are, it’s too heavy and hard for her to pull. Zorro and Mikey don’t have a problem pulling that cart at all! Both can walk and trot calmly when pulling it. There is no anxiety in them at all. But they are bigger ponies for sure!
Sometimes they are not confident because of other things. Even if they are well matched as far as vehicle weight + your weight, they can feel unconfident about their surroundings, what they are being asked to do in cart, other horses being around them – such as group drives- and this will come out as impulsiveness. They will want to rush around and not stand quietly. They will fidget, paw, sometimes back up uncontrollably, rear and generally be difficult to manage. This is all anxiety that is coming out in the only way they know how to show it. It doesn’t mean the mini is a jerk and it definitely doesn’t mean the mini is enjoying himself. I hear that a lot as well. “My mini really loves to go driving he does A, B and C (insert rearing, pawing and not standing still for the person to get in the cart).”
I think it’s interesting that some people see this behavior and see an excited mini that wants to go, when other people see the same behavior and read it as anxiety and dread.
There are many things you can do to help the mini feel more confident with driving, including taking a look at your harness, your cart and yourself. Are you sitting correctly when driving? Does your harness fit well? Is your cart balanced?
If your issues are more about the environment then taking a step back and doing some ground work with obstacles, taking them hiking and figuring out what helps them feel confident will translate to the harness as well.
Sometimes what we perceive as being excitement about hitting the trail is in fact anxiety. It really is all about perception and learning to read and understand our minis.
PLEASE REMEMBER!!! This is my blog full of my opinions. If you don’t like what I share you can simply click off the page. You do not have to keep reading nor do you have to take into consideration what I am sharing. You can simply move on!