by Ann Pringle
It’s been over 25 years since I drove a horse or pony on a regular basis. A lot has changed in that time, and as a writer and editor of a carriage driving magazine, I am very aware of these changes, but knowing and doing are very different things.
It was during a New Year’s Eve party here in Southern Pines that Marcie Quist and Craig Kellogg decided to take me on as a project. At least that’s my perception of how it went. They both thought I should come out to Marcie’s and drive some of her horses with Craig. (Marcie has a real job during the day.) Fortunately the weather was cold for several weeks and although Craig is from New England, he’s been in the south too long to venture out when it is below 50 degrees.
The forecast for the day was in the 60s. The phone rang. It was Craig. “Want to go driving?” “Sure” was my tentative response. So I drove out to the farm at the appointed hour.
The last time I drove, the harness was all leather, the traces sewn in, the hardware was brass. The carriage was all wood and iron, the shafts were a pair, not independent, the seat held two people. This time, the harness was synthetic, the traces buckled in, the breeching was attached to the ends of the shafts on the carriage. The carriage was a four-wheel van den Huevel competition carriage. The seat accommodated one, snugly. The ‘passenger’ or groom had to stand on the back.
I think I could have gotten the harness on correctly, but there was no way I could have hooked Hal, my driving ‘teacher,’ up to the carriage. I don’t know who had the most patience, Hal or Craig. I’ve known Craig for about 30 years. I’ve know Hal for a couple of years, mostly throught the view finder of my camera. Hal is Halstead’s Shale, Marcie’s eight year old chestnut Hackney gelding that she now drives at Intermediate level – very successfully I might add.
Craig just chuckled as he, on one side, me on the other, talked me through attaching the shaft to the tug strap (if that is even its name), then the trace to the singletree. Then the breeching strap.
I kinda thought I was going to ride on back step, but nooooooo….. Craig told me I was going to drive. Me. An intermediate CDE horse. I took a deep breath, Craig stepped away from Hal’s head, and off we went! More later…..