Written 9-2007



It is now 2013 and I giggle at this page....You may find some jewels on this link, but better yet to go to our training blog at http://iamranch.blogspot.com/

 How did I teach our Miniature Horses to drive?

   This page is written by our 10 year old trainer!

  Entry page


Contact us

For Sale



Our Dogs

How do you teach your little mini to drive???? Well, we got two minis that we didn't know anything about, but my sisters and I  all were dying to drive a miniature horse. We asked Mom if we could teach them to drive, and she said yes, but that she wasn't going to help us. If we could get them driving, she said she would buy us a cart and harness. At the time, all we had was a training bridle and surcingle. Here is how we taught our first mare and stallion how to drive.

First, I would spend time with them on just a halter practicing the "Whoa" word and reinforcing it. If they didn't stop, I would first hold the driving whip out in front of them, and then hit their legs with it if they still didn't stop. After they got that down, I would ride my bike dragging them behind, practicing "Whoa." Then, I put on just the bridle, and I attached a tie-down to it. I lunged them for a while every time I could with that on. I started very loosely for them to get used to it, and each time got a little tighter. To serve as a second tie-down, I would put on the bridle, reins, and surcingle, and just turn them loose, but supervised, in the stall with the reins tied to the surcingle so that it would pull in her head if she put it up, but she soon learned that if she put her head down, it would loosen. Next, I added the surcingle and reins, ground driving them around the arena or around the neighborhood to non-spook them. Then came the fake cart. A PVC "cart" that Dad made for us to drag behind with cans and cow bells clanking and rattling attached to it by hay string!

Getting dragged behind my bike!

Here she is with her tie-down on:

With her head tied to her surcingle

Then, with the surcingle and bridle on:

With the PVC "cart" on behind Donny, the stallion.

Next, the full harness on:


Then, resting the cart without attaching it

Finally, Mom bought us a cart and harness. I immediately put the full harness on, breeching and all, not knowing that on flat-ground we don't need breeching! I drove them around many times with the full harness on, and once, I even rested the cart in the stirrups without attaching it, until I finally told Mom she was ready to drive. That was when Mom said that she had no idea how to put a cart on.

One day, Mom and I were coming home from our small post office, when she suddenly told me she knew of a man who shows minis very World level that lives about 1 mile from our house. We went over there to see if he could help us hook up the mare, which was the only one I'd been working at the time. When we got there, he said he would gladly help us drive our first mini, and to bring her over there in a few days. Well, we did just that! (Thank you to Chuck Rousch). First, he taught me the basics of driving with one of his other retired horses. Then, for the first time, Turbolina was finally hooked up correctly, driving his show cart, and I was in it! I was hysterical, because that was my horse, that I  had trained for 1 full year, although we didn't know it, but she had been ready long before! The next day, I got to drive her, by myself in our cart in our beautiful grassy front yard!

And then, Turbo had to carry a friend and me!

Turbo is now a wonderful driving horse that we love to drive all around, as well as our second mini, the stallion, who pulls a large, four-wheel cart that is very fun to drive in! We are now in the business of training four of our other mares, Lily (now trained) , Jewel, Dolly, and Magic (now trained)!


When driving a miniature, the driver's sitting position is very important. You need to be even more aware of this when driving a miniature. Leaning back or forwards with your upper body greatly affects how the weight is carried on your miniature's back through the shafts. You need to be aware of this when going up and down hills. The back rest on your cart is not for you to lean back on. It's purpose is to prevent you from falling out backwards if your horse were to lunge forward. I hear some miniature cart shoppers asking about the backs and if they are cushy and comfortable.....this should not be a question. The small back rest is not there for you to lean on. Your proper seat should be a few inches away from the back rest with your sitting straight and tall. You will also be able to balance yourself better if you're not leaning on the back rest. I do tend to be somewhat fluid in my seat in the cart like you are when riding a big horse. Your mini will be so much happier while driving if you keep this in mind.

Hi! it is now, me, mom talking about finding help driving...

When little Turbolina waltzed into our home, it was my youngest who was so determined that she get her driving. I was "too busy" with the big horses. I told her if she could get her driving I would buy her a cart. So, she started ground driving her.....and ground driving her.....and then some more. Finally she came to me and said it was time to make good on my promise. Thus, the cart and harness arrived. But, we still had no idea how to hook up.
One day, my horseshoer told me about a man in our neighborhood who enjoyed teaching young children to drive if they asked. I knew this man....long time shower of minis and hackneys. But, that was it. Jess was at his door asking to be taught. He taught us all how to harness and then hooked up Turbolina. He literally cracked up and said she was dead broke already....thanks to Jess and the ground driving. We celebrated our first drive at home the next day.
Each horse that we have trained has been a bit different, some needing more than others, but the time has been worth it. I really recommend finding a mentor to help you along the way.
There has got to be someone hidden away near you that can help. In our 4H club, if someone wants to drive, there has to be a proficiency test. The evaluator is always a good driver. Maybe call your local 4H and ask if they know of someone. Look up Miniature Horse clubs and ask if someone can help or if they are putting on a clinic. Or, ask a boarding facility if they know of someone, or join Minihorsedriving@yahoogroups.com  Maybe someone on there will know of someone in your area.
The weather is getting so nice and it is so relaxing. Besides, the sight of your little horse pulling a cart will make your neighbors smile. I usually drive with my daughters, but I also love hooking up and putting on my Mp3 player (in one ear only so I can still hear the world, too) off we go. An added bonus is witnessing the excitement of other animals when they see your mini driving. The horses, cows, llamas, donkeys all come a'running to the fences to check us out. And so do little children!! I can't encourage you enough to pursue this. Driving is such a joy!


Driving Books and Online Tutorials

Here is a harnessing tutorial online! http://www.regencymini.com   (click on Driving 101 link)

And here are vintage driving tutorials that are applicable today:






And, here are some books for you to look up for reading more! (** these are books we have read and have been helpful)

**The Essential Guide to Carriage Driving by Robyn Cuffey and Jaye-Allison Winkel.

**Understanding Harness and Balanced Draft by Barb Lee

**Teaching Your Horse To Drive by Doris Ganton (video also available) (This author has other good driving books)

The Art of Driving by Max Pope

Drive On by Doris Ganton

Breaking and Training the Driving Horse by Doris Ganton

Starting to Drive by Sallie Walrond (there are many other driving books by this author)

Getting Ready to Drive a Horse and Cart by Jessie Haas

Driving the Horse in Harness by Charles Kellogg

Driving the Light Horse by Charlene Roth

Care and Repair of Harness by Robert H. Steinke

Make the Most of Carriage Driving by Vivian and Richard Ellis and Joy Claxton

Bits and Biting by Hilary Vernon

Competition Carriage Driving on a Shoestring by Jinny Johnson

Driven Dressage with the Single Horse by Sandy Rabinowitz

Drive Smartly, Drive Safely by the Carriage Association of America

Harnessing Up by Anne Norris and Caroline Douglas

The Driving Horse and His Schooling by Tjeerd Velstra

Combined Driving 101 with Muffy Seaton


If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong.  ~Pat Parelli

Miniature Horse Directory Top Websites