Horse Driving

Horse Driving  
A Quick Beginner’s Guide
By Iris West

I must acknowledge right from the outset that I am a die-hard fan of horse driving; I’ve been one for almost a decade now. The historical and ingenuity aspect of this equestrian sport cajoles to my basest and innermost feelings. Herein, I will walk you through a quick rundown on what horse driving or carting is, its historical background, and the basic styles of the sports.

What’s Horse Driving?

Horse driving is not as popular as it was a century or so ago, but it’s now a sport that is enjoyed by many equestrian across the globe. Simply put, horse driving is the art or rather a sport which entails hitching a horse or several horses to a cart, wagon, sleigh, carriage or any other equine-drawn vehicle by way of a harness. Today’s horse carting or driving incorporates a broad variety of activities, from harness racing, pleasure driving to horse shows and international combined driving tourney. In essence, horse driving or carting offers an excellent choice for equestrian lovers who prefer not to ride or aren't able to.

Horse Riding: A Little History

Horse carting is no longer an essential skill in today’s digital world, and thus, not a favorite mode of transport. Nonetheless, many individuals across the world take up horse driving as a leisure pursuit and a sport. Historically, carting has come a long way.

Although there’s a bit of historical evidence that shows horses were ridden before they were carted, some anthropological studies have shown that horse driving dates back to the 2000 BC Southern Urals, where horse chariots were used in royalty burials. By 500 years later, horse driving had spread throughout Europe, with the use of horse-drawn chariots witnessed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. By circa 1000 BC, horse-drawn chariots had spread to today’s mainland China.

Even before that, Hyksos, the veteran Greek fighters had been able to invade Egypt in circa 1600 BC using chariots that featured spruced up harness style. Hyksos chariots encompassed the use of a breeching and breast collar which enabled the horses to run faster and lug more weight. The breast collar harness technique is still in use today. By the 5th century, however, the Chinese dynasties had invented a better horse collar design which enables horse drivers to cart heavier and more goods. The Chinese horse collar design made its debut in Europe in the 9th century, and by the 12th century had spread throughout the continent.

Then came the invention of automobiles, a milestone that marked a slide in the popularity of horse driving skills. Nonetheless, the luster of horse driving for sports and leisure has continued, with harnessing racing and horse shows keeping the interest alive.

Common Horse Driving Styles

Pleasure Driving:  This kind of horse driving entails the use of a lightweight, two-wheeled cart. The horses are to execute two speeds of the trot and a majestic walk.

Carriage Driving:  Here, the cart used is a bit larger and heavier than regular ones, and can consist of either fours or two wheels. In practice, the cart or carriage is typically a restored antique.

Combined Driving:  Popular in most international horse show tournaments sanctioned by EFI, combined driving is a multi-activity harness style that includes three phases: marathon, dressage, and cones.

Harness Racing: Harness racing varies from region to region, with Standardbreds used mostly in North America and Orlov Trotter used elsewhere. In this style of driving, the horse runs either the pace or the trot.

Draft Horse Showing: This horse competition series is limited to horses meant for draft breeding. However, all horse drivers are welcome.

These are just but a few horse driving styles, but there are myriad other horse carting or driving techniques out there.

I invite you to explore!