Updated: May 23, 2022
I am sitting here thinking about driving ponies. I know! That must be such a surprise.
Something that has been rolling around in my mind for some time now is what it takes to drive a pony and a two wheeled cart, an easy entry cart or a Hyperbike or a show cart or a sulky. Anything that only has two wheels and must be balanced for the pony to pull it. Because they only have two wheels, they will often want to tip forward and balance on the back of the poor pony pulling it. It's up to us to work hard to balance our cart so this doesn't happen. I have shared quite a bit about that on this blog. A few posts about that are:
But balancing the cart isn't only about working on the cart itself but it's also about how we sit in the cart. I have talked about posture and driving but this is something a little different. This is how we use our body to keep the cart balancing well while we are actually driving it.
This is much harder with an easy entry style cart because they are bigger and heavier, but it is still something that must be done. I use my core muscles and shift my weight forward and backward on the seat to help keep the shaft floating when I drive. I do this if I am driving in the easy entry cart or my Hyperbike. (Disclaimer... I sold my easy entry cart so I ONLY have my bike now!)
Driving in a two wheeled vehicle should not be taken lightly. This is not a chair that you simply sit in and go along for the drive. This is a balancing act between you and your pony and a beautiful dance, if done well. It's possible to keep that cart so prettily balanced that it never bothers your pony!
With my bike I find it is easier and also harder. It's easier because the bike is so lightweight and responds instantly to any weight change. It's harder because the bike is so lightweight and responds instantly to any weight change. LOL! So I have to be very aware of how I am sitting, am I sitting too far back or leaning too far forward, am I sitting in the middle of my seat or leaning more to the left or the right. Are my feet balanced evenly in my stirrups or is there more weight in one stirrup than the other. All these things will effect the balance and how the bike travels along behind my pony. Now typically my body automatically makes adjustments for the terrain, as my eyes watch the shaft loops and the shafts. Sometimes I have to try a little harder to keep it balanced but mostly it's become second nature. I suppose driving 100's of miles with the bike last year really helped with that!
In some of my blogs and videos about balancing the bike I talk about bounce in the shaft ends. This occurs if the bike is not well balanced and is harmful to the pony's back and tummy, depending on how you have it strapped to them. When the bike is well balanced there will be zero bounce in the shaft ends BUT there will be bounce in the PONY! I think this confuses people. The pony is moving, it's body is either moving side to side - at the walk - or up and down at the trot and canter. So if you don't have any float in your shaft loops, if you choose to drive with wrap straps, you will feel this movement more, and so will your pony. If you have float in your shaft loops then the shafts will stay completely still while the pony moves. This is because the shafts are just running through the shaft loops and not resting ON them. For instance when Zorro and I are galloping over rough terrain I can see that my shafts are totally still, based on how I am sitting and adjusting my body, and Zorro's body is moving up and down and he runs across the pasture and rocks and ruts. This means I have to pay attention! I can't just lean back in my seat and sit there like it's a recliner. I have to sit up or lean forward or lean back a little or put more weight in my feet. All these things help keep the shafts still and out of Zorro's way. And I make adjustments as he is moving, constantly. And I'll add that achieving this perfect float is far more easily done with the bike than with an easy entry cart!
Now the trick here is to be sure your traces are not too long and your breeching is not too loose. Because if either of these things is not adjusted correctly you run the risk of the shafts popping out of the shaft loops, or the cart will start rolling forward and backward violently, as they canter or gallop. All things should be in balance. And with the bike this balance is even more delicate than with an easy entry cart. Adjusting the breeching so it's a little more snug that you would typically with an easy entry cart, is key to keeping the pony forward in the shafts as well as keeping your bike in place as the pony canters along.
Though driving is technically easier than riding, it's still work! We have to be careful with our ponies so they enjoy it as much as we do. This will make for much happier ponies and drivers.