OklahomaHorses Magazine July 2022

July / August 2022 • OklahomaHorses 11 athleticism in three demanding phases: driven dressage, marathon, and cones. • Dressage: Horses or ponies and their drivers navigate through specified pat- terns and gaits to demonstrate the skills, obedience, and development appropriate to their levels of training. • Pleasure driving: Pleasure driving might include obstacle driving, pleasure driving on trails and roads, and ring classes. This class also often includes cones or obstacle courses in which the driver is judged on speed and accuracy while going through cone markers set only a few inches wider than the wheel width of the carriage. “Horses are divided by size, and then there are classes for singles, pairs, and four- in-hand,” explained Wallis. “I drive a single, which is great fun.” Benjamin’s favorite competition is com- bined driving. “I enjoy the challenge of getting a horse to work in that fantastic way,” said Benja- min, who uses two Morgan horses and a Welsh pony in competitions. CARRIAGE-DRIVING EQUIPMENT AND APPAREL Wallis explained that although carriage driving might look expensive, it is fairly affordable, especially if you purchase a used carriage. At most competitions, drivers wear contemporary clothing that includes a suit, hat, and lap robe or apron which protects the driver’s clothing from dirt and manure. Men wear coats and ties, and all drivers wear brown gloves. However, in speed competitions, drivers and navigators (the second person on board) usually also wear helmets and protective vests. Two key pieces of equipment needed for carriage driving are the harness and a driving whip. “The whip is used to cue the horse just like your leg if you were riding your horse,” noted Wallis. Carriages can be antique or modern. Speed carriages are built wider at the base, making them less likely to tip over. TRAINING A CARRIAGE HORSE Many riding horses and ponies can be trained to become carriage horses, but as one might expect, the training process is a bit different. Both Benjamin and Wallis have trained all their own horses, although sometimes with the help of experienced trainers. Benjamin starts by teaching the horse respect and ground manners as well as how to move away from pressure. She ensures that the horse completely understands the stop command before introducing the harness. From there, she slowly adds more equipment such as the crupper, which goes around the horse’s tail, and blinders. Before adding the cart, Benjamin teaches the horse to pull a log. Her husband will often walk behind the horse with the cart before she attaches the horse to the cart. The whole process takes about a month. “I take each step really slowly, always gauging the look and feel of the horse,” said Benjamin. Wallis starts her horses with ground driv- ing in an enclosed area and then has them pull a pallet. She stressed the importance of the horse learning and understanding verbal com- mands as part of the training. For example, Wallis uses the command, “Trot, trot,” for a working trot and “Big trot” for an even faster gait. Because the driver’s voice plays a more important role in driving than it does in riding, some horses develop a large vocabulary of understanding. Although Wallis and Benjamin still saddle up on occasion, they both have come to enjoy carriage driving more than riding these days. “Driving allows you to develop a real rapport with your horse,” said Benjamin. “I prefer driving because of the camaraderie that develops with your horse.” If you are interested in learning more about carriage driving, contact the OHHA or the American Driving Society, Inc., for more information. Lorri Wallis, her horse Proclaimation, and navigator Megan O’Brien splash around a corner at the Spring Fling Combined Driving Event at Florida Horse Park in Ocala, Florida. Photo courtesy of Lorri Wallis.