Small ponies make wonderful carriage driving partners and are very popular for this purpose. It is the ideal way to keep a much loved outgrown pony happily working in the family as once broken to harness it can comfortably pull adults as well as children.
This means the whole family can enjoy the pony, going out in various combinations of ages and enjoying a wide range of activities.
The Shetland pony is understandably popular as it is so strong for its diminutive size and so hardy.
My first driving pony was a 9hh Shetland called Sherry (pictured top) and she was very happy pulling me and my father or another adult. I had a tremendous amount of fun with her and we especially enjoyed cones driving.
Being so small she was extremely nimble and could turn on a sixpence. She would canter the whole course with obvious enjoyment. Likewise, in obstacles Sherry would keep up her momentum throughout and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We even qualified for the National Indoor Driving Trial Championships in our first year of trying.
Small ponies have become so popular that there are now special classes at the finals for ponies under 11hh which can be driven by just one person so they can enjoy all three phases without getting unduly tired.
Specialist carriage makers such as Sycamore Carriages build two and four wheeled carriages which have the correct axle width of 125cm for indoor and club level driving trials, yet the vehicles are also smart enough for showing in pleasure and exercise classes.
Hillam vehicles are also ideal for the stronger small ponies and I used one with Sherry which is still in excellent condition. I have used it to break in and exercise Welsh section A and B ponies and a friend has driven her 13hh pony in it for pleasure and showing.
The Hillam easy access design makes it very suitable for a disabled driver or passenger. It can be supplied with pneumatic tyres which are ideal for soft surfaces like sand or field work or steel carriage wheels of traditional appearance.
At the upper end of the price range, Bennington manufacture elegant well engineered small carriages and also make fun bugs (a four-wheeler — pictured left). For pleasure driving and for novice drivers this carriage also has the advantage that it can’t jack-knife.
Amanda Saville uses these very successfully with her speedy small ponies for the disabled drivers she coaches and a special pole option enables driving pairs as well as single small ponies.
Without doubt one of the great thrills of driving small ponies is to drive a pair. Doubling up increases the pulling power hugely so a small pony pair can take on more strenuous activities than a single — such as long hilly drives, outdoor marathon courses and longer beach drives.
For years people have enjoyed the thrill of scurry driving — the speedy pairs of small ponies are exhilarating to watch as well as to drive.
The Scurry and Trials group have introduced a special category for very small ponies — singles as well as pairs — enabling the tiniest of ponies to compete on more equal terms against ponies of 11hh and over. With all these new competition classes and incentives, there has never been a better time to be a small pony driver!
There are many advantages to small ponies — they are cheaper to keep with appetites in proportion to their size and native breeds are very hardy as well as good-doers.
Good equipment is widely available with Shetland and mini harnesses on the market from excellent makers such as Zilco. The equipment is scaled down so it takes up less space — which is a real advantage when transporting pony and carriage as both can fit in a standard double horse trailer — making a small turnout a real option for a riding family hoping to break their outgrown small pony to harness.
Owners of small ponies will never be short of helpers as people generally feel very comfortable around them. They are a very manageable size and even a pair instils confidence. At events a group quickly gathers round a small pony turnout as they definitely have the appeal factor for all ages!