Updated: May 23, 2022
ISO: Miniature or small pony easy entry cart. Nothing fancy will be used for training.
I see this ad all the time. Then I see the replies:
$200! This cart needs new tires but is good to go!
$800! This cart will fit anything from 30" up to 15 hands! Perfect for training.
$400! This is the perfect training cart. Heavy Duty and will hold up to anything!
$200 just a great cart for banging around the farm. (Literally!)
And the replies go on and on!
I always wonder... why would someone want an old beater of a cart for training? Why do people look for the oldest, ugliest and most unbalanced cart for their training cart?
I have asked a few times and always get the same answer, "I don't want my horse, pony, mule or donkey, to ruin my nice cart." And I'm sure the look on my face is WHHHHAT?
Because the first thing that pops in my head is, why are you hitching your horse, pony, mule or donkey if they are going to ruin anything? And also, hitching them to a rattle trap such as the carts above will most likely ensure a poor result for you and the equine.
If the comfort and safety of the animal being hitched isn't a priority, I would think the comfort and safety of the person who has to GET IN THAT CART would be one! LOL!
I know that people will often look for an inexpensive cart as their first cart because they aren't sure they are even going to like driving, or if their horse will be suitable. I do understand that. I always recommend getting the best you can afford... Once in a great while something used will come up that is completely suitable, but you may not really save money on a used vehicle. They seem to hold their value quite well. When shopping for a big horse cart I do think it's a good idea to go with tried and true carts. Ask around, online if you don't have people near you, and see what experiences people have had with the various kinds of carts.
I'm not really going to get into the kinds of appropriate carts here. I will say that when I am looking for easy entry style carts I want a few different options on said cart:
Sliding seat - I feel it's very important that the seat is able to be adjusted to help balance the vehicle. The seat should be able to slide both forward and back.
Adjustable Shafts - most easy entry style carts will have shafts that can be adjusted height wise. Some will even accordion in and out, which I really like. There are some "easy entry" style carts that have the shafts go all the way under the seat - which I would like to add makes the cart not easy to enter! This style of shaft is not adjustable. Others, that are home made will not have the ability to adjust and should be avoided.
For the taller minis and small ponies I really like the curved shafts. They seem to make balancing the cart easier. I have noticed that curved shafts don't seem to really help with the 34" and under minis. Straight shafts seem to be better for those sizes.
Large wheels with GOOD bearings. The bearings are what make the wheels easy to spin. If these are low quality they will not allow the wheels to freely spin, making the cart harder to pull, no matter the wheel size. Wheels can be TOO big for the minis and small ponies. Be aware of the appropriate size tire for your individual equine.
I like my vehicles to be relatively quiet. There will be some vehicle noise that becomes normal for your vehicle, after all, there are quite a few moving parts! But if you have a lot of squeaking and rattling then there is something wrong and you need to address it. For this reason I also stay away from fenders on my carts. They are typically a lightweight sheet metal and are super NOISY!
A Single Tree - if you are looking at a cart that does NOT have a single tree just keep looking.
Proper maintenance will keep your vehicle going strong for many many years. Things like spraying off mud after a particularly muddy drive, cleaning and re-greasing your bearings (if your cart has those!) greasing parts that require grease, (the turn table on a four wheeled vehicle), some of the suspensions will require lubrication and parts and pieces that slide together will often need a little grease.
Check your vehicle over for rust spots, weak welds, rusted nuts and bolts, regularly. I usually check mine twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. I drive a Hyperbike and there aren't a lot of parts that CAN rust or wear but I do check things over!
Here is a great blog post written by Todd Frey of Frey Carriages about vehicle maintenance. I think it is very appropriate for most styles of carts and 4 wheeled vehicles:
A few other things:
If the cart is stored with the shafts on the ground, pass on the cart. Shafts will warp over time and should NEVER be stored on the ground. This photo shows exactly what I'm talking about. These shafts are clearly warped/bent (and you can see they are NOT adjustable!):
If the cart is horse sized but has had smaller wheels and the shafts cut down to "fit" a mini or small pony, walk away. In most cases this cart will never balance correctly with a smaller equine as it was NOT MADE for a smaller equine. Often the shafts will be far too wide and will be completely unusable.
A cart that has 18" wheels and 75" shafts. I mean really. Why did any cart maker ever make a cart like this? Small pony wheels and horse shafts. And usually the shafts are so narrow no pony or horse can FIT in them!
An easy entry cart at an auction that is covered in rust. I literally see these all the time on Facebook. Someone went to an auction, bought this cart for $50 and can't wait to hitch their pony or horse to it. Often people think if it's a horse size cart but eaten up by rust it will still work for a pony because the pony is little and can't hurt it. I have actually read responses that said this. Mind blowing. Not only will a horse cart NEVER fit a small pony but any vehicle that is rusted is garbage and needs to be disposed of. Believe me when I say, in the long run, you will save money by purchasing a brand new cart.
Driving horses, minis, ponies, donkeys or mules is already an endeavor fraught with things that can go wrong. So set yourself and your equine up as well as you can for success. If you can not afford a decent vehicle then please just have your equine pull tires and logs for now (with a collar and hames!!) and continue to perfect your communication and their confidence until you can afford something safe.