Driving horses seemed to be the perfect alternative to riding when my mare, April, became too lame to ride much. I myself, suffering from a hip injury decided it was the perfect thing to do until I could resolve the painful issue of mounting and dismounting. I had a miniature horse so decided to put her to work. A cart and harness was eventually purchased and we began the process of getting Chloe into the cart to drive.
For the past year or two, I have been driving Chloe. She seemed to take to the cart without a hitch and we’ve been enjoying uneventful drives from my house to the bank, the pharmacy, downtown and other ventures. She has been a dream..until she wasn’t. I was so grateful that she had no fear of cars, dogs, or semi’s, it was really surprising. I gather she must have been driven before she came to live with us.
As a green driver I guess I took for granted what could happen. A little over a month ago my husband, dog and myself had driven Chloe to do some errands. She always stood quietly no matter where we went, she waiting patiently in line at the bank or wherever we had stopped. One afternoon on the way home from the pharmacy she decided to bolt and started kicking like mad. It was frightening to say the least and it came out of nowhere. There was no warning this was going to happen.
I got her stopped, got my husband and dog away from the cart and unhooked her. She was shaking and bleeding from kicking at the cart. Nothing serious but we were both pretty shaken. I unhooked her from the cart. She seemed frightened of it being behind her. I drove her with one hand and pulled the cart with the other. I figure a bee had either stung her or something had hurt her.
Some friends offered to come and look things over, make sure there was no cart or harness malfunction. They took her through the sacking out process from beginning to end. She didn’t seem to have any holes that would have caused the incident. She had a sore under her tail from the crupper being too tight so we figured that was the issue. So, I gave her a week off, treated the sore area and figured we were good to go.
I remember having a really tough day working in the office, one of those days where things just seem to unravel and continue to do so. I thought a nice drive would put a positive spin on an otherwise crappy day. It wasn’t to be. I hitched Chloe and drove her around the yard. She was fine. I decided to go ahead and take her down the road like we usually did.
I didn’t get a quarter mile from the house when she started the bolting and kicking again. I assumed that all this nonsense was done but obviously there’s an issue that has begun. I got her stopped, stepped out of the cart (big mistake) and went to unhook the crupper, thinking that was the issue. Before I could step back in the cart again she started kicking and bolted again. I still had a hold of the lines but the cart hit my right side, knocking me off my feet. I had the presence of mind to turn her hard to the left into an empty field. She dragged the cart and me, kicking like a wild horse that had never been hitched before. How she was able to drag me with her mouth is beyond me. She weighs 300# if that but a frightened horse no matter what size is a force to be reckoned with. I kept her in a tight circle until she finally stopped.
Fortunately for me the lines didn’t break. A frightened horse dragging an empty cart was not something I wanted loose in traffic. Perhaps it was the only thing from experience that kicked in. I was embarrassed and humiliated. I’ve had horses my entire life, but this was one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me. I’m sure I’ll need counseling (smile). The Blaine Fire Department happened to be driving by when all this was going down. Several big guys came over to give me a hand. I got to my feet and started to unhook Chloe. She was still ready to unload with her hind end. She was pretty amped but the 4 big guys holding on to her seemed to keep her still. I got her unhooked. I had to take the harness completely off. She was still freaked out even after getting the cart off of her.
My neighbor had been driving by and saw the whole thing happen. He stopped to help me take the cart home. I led Chloe home, limping and bleeding, humiliated. In retrospect there’s a few things I should have done:
I tell you this to share some thoughts about what this has done to me and hope that you never have to experience something this terrifying. Twenty years ago I would have cowboyed up, picked up the whip and pushed her forward into a gallop and ran her until she couldn’t buck or kick anymore. I know that sounds terrible but once a horse starts this nonsense you have to correct it immediately or you’re in for the same thing the next time you step on or hook up. I was in traffic so it really wasn’t an option but she needed to be taken home, hooked up again, turned into a wide open area that she could not escape from, and run her until she couldn’t kick anymore. I know this sounds harsh, but I know from past experience with any horse that is bucking, to push them forward.
The only other possibility is an injury. If she hurts somewhere, she’s going to run or kick to let it be known that it hurts. Again, I’m not an experienced driver so being able to recognize the difference between a formal protest or an honest injury is perhaps something for a trainer. Either way, it shouldn’t be solved in traffic. With horses you just never know when something unexpected will happen. It just does.
I don’t share this story to scare you but to make you aware of what CAN happen and to be more prepared than I was.
If you have thoughts or an experience you would like to share with our viewers, please email me directory. I’d love your feedback and perhaps share an experience that taught you a valuable safety lesson. Our goal at HorseSafetyTips.com is to build a library of helpful articles to make your horse experiences safe and enjoyable.