Miniature Horse
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Driving the Miniature Horse
by Portia Sue Owens of Moondance Ranch Miniature Horse Training Center

   Driving a miniature horse is a relaxing and rewarding sport. But, before you put the cart before the horse, spend some time developing a game plan. The following are a few points to consider to help you and your horse have many positive experiences.
   Determine what it is you want to do. There are many different types of driving: trail, parade, single or multiple hitch, open or country pleasure, obstacles and roadster. Do you want to focus on a single type or do you want a horse capable of a variety of activities? If you know what you would like to do, it will be much easier to choose the correct horse for the job (or job for the horse if you already own your driving partner.)
   When you have a good idea what you want to do, work on who you want to do it with. Pick a horse with a suitable mentality for the job. A quieter, calmer horse may be more suitable for trails and parades. A top show competitor may need to be more aggressive and energetic. Fortunately, there are many horses able to do both pleasure and show driving. Also evaluate conformation, size and athletic ability. Keep in mind your physical size in relation to the size and strength of a horse to pull you. Consider the pluses and minuses of mares vs. stallions vs. geldings. A gelding will give you the most consistency with the least amount of special care. Most mares are similar in ease of handling, but the price will be higher for a breedable mare. Be sure you really need a stallion if this is your choice as they require special care and facilities. Make a list of the traits you desire in order of preference. This will help you avoid buying the horse with the sweetest eyes, and help you purchase a horse happily able to do what you desire.
   Honestly evaluate yourself. Do you have the skill and time necessary to train a young horse, or would you be better off with a horse already trained to your specifications? Do you prefer bold and speedy or well-mannered precision? Spend time with different horses and see which ones best suit your personality.
   Now that you have your horse, you are ready for the cart, the harness, the bit, the whip,etc. Closely evaluate your existing equipment for fit and safety, or shop carefully for new equipment.
   There are quite a few sources for Miniature driving equipment. Shop carefully to get the best value. Remember, quality workmanship takes time, and time generally means money! For non-show Pleasure Driving and Show Obstacle Driving, an Easy Entry cart is your best choice. As the name implies, these carts can be entered and exited very easily and safely. The seat is bench style, allowing two adults comfortable seating. The metal construction is very durable, but also quite heavy. New Easy Entry carts will run approximately 400 dollars.
For show ring Pleasure Driving competition, a wood cart is desirable. Jerald Sulky Company manufactures an excellent, well balanced Pleasure Driving cart. Features include choice of colors, 20 inch or 24 inch wire wheels and a removable basket. (Roadster Driving classes require a cart with a removable basket.) New Jerald carts run approximately 800 to 900 dollars. Optional items such as brass fittings, patent leather trim and wooden wheels are also available.
   Quality harness makers will be interested in your needs and willing to assist you in your harness selection. Never buy a harness without trying it on your horse. It is extremely important that your harness fit correctly. When properly adjusted, your harness should have extra holes for either increasing or decreasing the size. Beware of cheap harnesses - you usually get what you pay for.
   For basic Pleasure and Show Driving NW Harness and Tack offers a great fitting, quality, leather harness for approximately 400 dollars. NW Harness also offers a fancy, top of the line, leather show harness priced at approximately 800 dollars. Dale Lutke produces a very fancy, extremely durable harness made of patent leather bonded to Biothane. This is a beautifully detailed harness specifically designed to fit the miniature show horse.    This harness is priced at around 800 dollars.
   Both NW Harness and Lutke Harness offer nice working harnesses ideal for daily training and breaking.
Take time to take care of your equipment. Good harness cleaners are Lexol For Leather and Armor All for synthetic materials. Check the air in your tires regularly. If you drive in rough areas, special puncture proof tubes are available. Keep your wooden carts covered during storage and transportation. Buy quality equipment and treat it well for many hours of safe driving! Utilize the knowledge of reputable craftsmen to help you select the best types of equipment for your needs. Review your AMHA rule book to make sure that your equipment is appropriate for classes you plan to show in.
   Hopefully, consideration of the previous points will help you gain many pleasure hours with your miniature driving horse.

Written with permission of Portia Sue Owens of Moondance Ranch Miniature Horse Training Center

Difference of country & pleasure - What exactly is the difference between country and plain pleasure?

  • I'll do the best I can to explain the difference between Country and regular Pleasure: --- Two or three years ago there was only one type of Pleasure classes (regular Pleasure). What a lot of people were finding is that there was starting to be a distinction between two types of horses--those that were more animated, and those that were more calm and free moving. The AMHA decided to formalize this difference by adding another category of Pleasure Driving--Country, for horses that are more relaxed. According to the rulebook, the classes are described as follows: PLEASURE DRIVING: Contact on reins at all times. Animated, but should not have exaggerated high action. Judged on (in order): quality of performance; manners; way of going of horse; conformation; appropriateness, condition and fit of vehicle and harness; neatness of attire. The gaits are: Walk; Collected Trot--an energetic trot with forward impulsion. Horse should be submissive to the bit; Working Trot--a little bit faster than the collected trot, with a clear increase in the length of stride of the horse. COUNTRY: Light contact on reins. Relaxed head and neck carriage. All gaits to be performed with willingness, obvious ease, cadence, balance, and smoothness. Low, ground covering action. High action MUST be penalized. The gaits are: Walk; Pleasure Trot--relaxed, easy going, yet with impulsion; Working Trot--Longer stride than Pleasure trot but still relaxed and calm. Judged on (in order): attitude, manners, performance, quality; conformation. --- The main difference between the two is that Country horses are a lot calmer. They have a low, relaxed head carriage, whereas in Pleasure, the horse's neck should be carried high with flexion at the poll to give a headset of no less than 45 degrees. Country horses should have a stride that is long and free moving. Pleasure horses should be more animated; their stride should be more upward moving. Some people use artificial appliances to enhance their horse's movement. This is wrong, and is against the rules. It is usually quite apparent when a horse has had this done to it. It states in the rulebook that gaits should be natural and not artificially enhanced.


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