Trail driving is my passion. This is what I love to do. Enjoying my mountains with my pony and my bike or taking my ponies hiking are the two things I truly love to do.
Here are a few things that will help you also enjoy trail driving!
#1 - Be sure your pony is in good shape before trying to climb any mountains. I enjoy keeping track of my miles when driving. This is fun because I get to see how many we can rack up (we are nearing 300 miles!!) and I can keep track of how far we are going so we can build on it. We start slow, when the weather clears, after the deep freeze of winter and aim for 2 miles at a walk. Then we move up to trotting a mile, broke into two 1/2 miles, trot for 1/2 a mile, walk for 1/2 a mile, trot for 1/2 a mile, walk for 1/2 a mile. As Zorro can do this without getting winded I will add in another mile. Ponies are amazing and seem to get in shape much faster than we do!
This leads me to...
#2 - Do your best to be in shape yourself. If you have mobility issues then mountain driving may not be for you. I hate to say that but there are times I have to get off my vehicle and do some climbing. Sometimes the trail is filled with boulders or is too steep for Zorro to haul me and the cart up. But since my bike is so light he can easily bounce that up the trail as long as I'm walking.
#3 - Try to find a vehicle that is well balanced and light weight. If you are driving a big horse then the marathon vehicles seem to be really great for trail driving. They will sometimes be too wide for some trails but logging roads are usually wide enough. And the horses don't seem to mind the weight.
Minis and small ponies are much harder. When you add up your weight and the cart weight it shouldn't equal more than the pony itself weighs. As you can image this gets easier the bigger the pony is!
I love my Hyperbike for this type of driving. It weighs 30#'s and is very well balanced. (After some work on my part! LOL!) I do have to work to keep things balanced and working with my pony. It's actually very similar to riding. I am quite active when I'm driving in the bike. It's up to me to be sure my vehicle isn't beating up my pony! I know there are a few other options out there, sulky style carts would be great as well! Anything that is light, sturdy and balanced. And the bigger the wheel, while staying balanced to your pony, is better.
#4 - Make sure the harness you are using is comfortable and fits your pony well. I prefer a nice wide breast collar or at least make sure your breast collar is well padded. If you are using a vehicle with a low line of draft make sure you are using the appropriate collar and hames.
#5 - Be sure your safety kit is well stocked! After being on a few group drives where things did NOT go as planned here is a short list of the essential items I have in my kit:
A lead rope
Bandaides/a small First Aid Kit
A water bottle
#6 - Take a Camera! I run across the most beautiful things when driving in the mountains. I always have at least one camera, sometimes two or three. But I am a little crazy... LOL!
I hope this has sparked your interest in trail driving. If it has and you need a good harness for your mini or pony take a look at the Trail Harness I designed! It's on sale once a year over at Chimacum, for the month of September only!