A Horse-Showing How-To: Pleasure Driving

Hang up the saddle and try your hand at a different kind of horse sport.

Hang up the saddle and try your hand at a different kind of horse sport.

To maximize your chances of a safe pleasure drive, always check that your Quarter Horse is harnessed and hooked to the cart correctly.
To maximize your chances of a safe pleasure drive, always check that your Quarter Horse is harnessed and hooked to the cart correctly. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

It’s no secret that American Quarter Horses are a versatile breed. Many people think of Quarter Horses as a breed that excels in events like working cow horse and cutting, but they’re also used in dressage, over-fences classes and even pleasure driving. If you’ve considered trying the sport of pleasure driving, brush up on the basic rules and safety tips first so you can succeed in the show ring.

What is the purpose of pleasure driving anyway?

According to SHW610 of the 2014 AQHA Official Handbook, the purpose of this class is to evaluate the horse’s ability and pleasurable attitude while pulling a cart. Additionally, SHW610 offers these three standards:

  • The horse should have an engaged trot with more impulsion and a long, ground-covering stride. Style, conformation and safety are paramount in this class.
  • A pleasure driving horse should carry himself in a natural balanced position with a relaxed head and neck.
  • His poll should be level with, or slightly above, the level of the withers.

Before you head out for a drive with your Quarter Horse, you’re going to need to grab him from the pasture. You know what makes that process more efficient? Knowing how to tie a rope halter correctly! Download AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report so you spend more time driving and less time struggling with your horse’s halter.

Now that you’ve got the pleasure driving expectations nailed down, be sure that you’re practicing the sport as safely as possibly with safety tips from AQHA Professional Horseman Kevin Dukes, a world champion driver. Kevin, of Weatherford, Texas, provides these top-10 pleasure driving tips:

Top-10 Pleasure Driving Safety Tips

  • Know your horse. Be sure your horse is ready for competition and is totally comfortable and confident pulling a cart.
  • Be sure your equipment is in good working order. Check tires, leather and all attachments.
  • Make sure the horse is harnessed and hooked correctly to the cart. Have your header – someone standing at the horse’s head – double-check before you enter the arena.
  • Always have a header holding the bridle as you enter or leave the cart.
  • Never lead a horse into the barn or stall with blinders on because the horse can’t see on either side and can easily catch a hip on a door.

Now that you know how to safely partake in the sport of pleasure driving, you’re probably ready to hit the road ASAP. Speed up the getting-ready process with AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report. With this report, you’ll learn how to tie your horse’s halter properly and efficiently so you can have more cart time with your Quarter Horse. Download the report today, and you’ll be on the road quicker tomorrow!

  • Troubleshoot before your class. Be sure your horse has been in the arena and know what might bother him — and drive accordingly. Know your competition. Note whether those drivers are in control of their horses.
  • Never leave your horse and cart unattended.
  • Never stand in the cart while driving. It’s too easy to fall out.
  • Always show courtesy to other drivers. Don’t cut too close. If another driver is having trouble with his or her horse, give extra room.
  • When in doubt, don’t.

19 thoughts on “A Horse-Showing How-To: Pleasure Driving”

  1. excellent tips!! I have just started driving in the last few years and enjoy. I believe that a well trained, older been there – done that show horse is a great way to start out.

  2. I have had limited driving experience from years ago and would like to find a camp or clinic to get current on training and showing in this venue. Does anyone know where to find such a program our West or will I have to go East? I have been looking in my area North of Seattle WA. with no luck. Thanks Jo Anne

  3. JoAnne,

    A search for AQHA Professional Horsemen in your area that are listed as having the experience to instruct in driving yields a couple of results:
    Peggy Ann Rogers, in Medical Lake, WA
    Teresa M. Sullivan, in Snohomish, WA

    You can get more information about these trainers, and view other trainers at: http://4ahorse.aqha.com/findatrainer.html

    Driving instructors are listed under the “English” category.

    Whitney Price
    AQHA Marketing and Publications Intern

  4. i love horses alot and have always wanted to ride one my cousin has 2 horses but she lives far away so i dont get to see them that often

  5. I am the owner of a Quarter Horse who is competed very successfully in open (American Driving Society) shows by my husband. We started him in harness ourselves,but my husband has many years of driving experience and absolutely,someone just starting needs the help of a seasoned whip(driver). For more driving info,check out the ADS website at http://www.americandrivingsociety.org. I do wish that the AQHA would follow the lead of the more “traditional” driving breed registries and encourage Quarter Horse owners who compete in open shows. We are very often the only Quarter Horse folks out there in the ring with the Morgans,Dutch Harness Horses,Welsh ponies,etc. Quarter Horses are great between the shafts and we need to spread the word!

  6. As experienced drivers, it is disappointing to us that you would write an article and post it that would imply that clucking and rein slapping is correct – or even acceptable. Any whip worth their salt or so called “trainer” should know that rein slapping is for any reason is a terrible habit. When a driver does this, they lose contact and then jerk the horse’s mouth. This is why, at any open driving show, a driver may not compete without a whip in hand. Although it is wonderful that you are encouraging people to learn about this wonderful venue, please make sure in the future, that you encourage them to learn it correctly – for their sake and the horse’s.

  7. Having just read the last comment,I’d like to add to it,that yes,a whip should always be in hand. In proper reinsmanship,since when driving you cannot use your legs,the whip takes their place. You can lightly touch your horse to place his hindquarters,to keep his shoulder from falling in on a turn,etc. The whip is used to communicate a multitude of instructions to your horse,not just to encourage him to move out. Therefore,it is a vital piece of equipment,just as your voice aids are.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with these comments about AQHA pleasure driving. There are only three aids to use when driving a horse, the lines, the voice, and the whip. Not only can the whip control the forward motion and the lateral motion of the horse, but also will help to drive the horse forward if it should start to back up. Slapping the lines on the horse’s rump is unacceptable. I would never attempt to drive a horse without the whip in hand.

  9. Can anyone suggest a place to start shopping for show harnesses, and show carts? I will be attending the Congress and was wondering if that would be a good place to start shopping? Thanks!

  10. I’m the disabled driver of a quiet Shetland used on our farm as a mobility vehicle. It would save lots of time if I could leave him tied to a hitching post during the day. Could anybody resist the urge to hyperventilate, fulminate, fustugate and preach nay, long enough to offer some constructive advice. He is not going to bolt anywhere or come to harm.
    Many thanks
    Felix

  11. I’m the disabled driver of a quiet Shetland used on our farm as a mobility vehicle. It would save lots of time if I could leave him tied to a hitching post during the day. Could anybody resist the urge to hyperventilate, fulminate, fustigate and preach nay, long enough to offer some constructive advice. He is not going to bolt anywhere or come to harm.
    Many thanks
    Felix

  12. When we train our horses to drive we also train them to stand tied quietly while hooked to the cart. Years ago, when horses were the means of transport, this was a necessity. Too often the quarter horses I see driving are not really “broke” to drive, and their drivers aren’t adequately trained, either. If you couldn’t take your driving horse out for a drive around your neighborhood and feel safe, you shouldn’t be showing him, either! If a ridden horse spooks or runs off, you can be thrown…if a driving horse spooks or bolts, you could be killed. Make sure your horses will stand,even for hours, and are calm around traffic, other animals, tractors, equipment, and all other spooky objects before you get to the show pen. And remember, driving is a great thing for young horses-it gets them moving and broke without putting undue stress on their legs. It also develops a great hip and topline!

  13. Quarter horses are shown at AQHA show with the same equipment that would be used for many saddlebreds. A good place to look for used show harness and two wheel carts are saddlebred groups and listservers.

  14. I have a brand new Jerald sulky with cover for sale. Used for 14.2 hand horse, suitable for breed shows. Was used less than 3 times. Also a wooden Meadowbrook cart for small pony, used with 39 inch and 46 inch ponies. Located near Kirkwood College in CR IA. Email me for photos if interested.

  15. Iam looking for cart and harness suitable to show at the AQHA shows, I have a 16’1″ hand gelding,, I had driven ADS shows in Kansas and Nebraska for years, loved it,, had a small quarter mare…

  16. Will be nice when I see AQHA have some rules about using carts to actually fit the horse. Shafts pointing up are alot of pressure on the saddle.

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