Fred Scott, Jr.
(434) 295-4188

Frequently Asked Questions - about the School

What's the differences between driving draft and light horses?

It's like night and day ... or not much at all ... depending on what one means by the question. Both kinds of horses are really fun to drive. Generally, the lighter horses are quicker, and more responsive, whereas the heavies are quieter in disposition, easier to work with - particularly for beginners, initially, but the big guys are more difficult to harness for a small person - yet they have so much more power that having a handful of four huge drafts is an experience most people will never forget. Four light horses at speed is equally impressive, and that is an environment that demands genuine expertise mixed with caution, as is also true for four heavies. Each size horse has its purpose; today that purpose is often simply to satisfy the personal desires of the owner.

We prefer the heavies: we use them for teaching drivers, for parades, and special events. When they arrive, the ground shakes and the huge wagon wheels are noisy. Never have we seen anyone look at them and go "ho-hum" in boredom. Our sponsors can see that response from the crowd, which is one reason why they continue our sponsorships.

What kind of horse should I buy? or, what to look for in a driving horse?

One with a good brain, who is willing to go forward (at the speed the driver wishes), who is not skittish or afraid of his own shadow, who does not startle easily. "Laid-back" is apt, but not so much that he won't move forward over obstacles or come up to speed. This question has books written to try to answer it !

If you already have a horse with an "attitude", we'd suggest not even trying to drive him. There are way too many good horses out there to take such chances.

Can I learn to drive and teach my horse at the same time? It would be so much fun for us to learn together.

We can think of few things that are more dangerous. There are so many little things that matter - and can go wrong - putting life and limb at risk. We hear this question in every class we teach and we could not be more sincere when we respond: Never! Always use an instructor, and make sure that the driver is fully trained to drive before hitching a horse of any kind. As for training a horse, many believe that's also an area for experts. We generally buy broke horses, as we believe it's more efficient, but we have started a few, as well.

Why do all the driving bits have different places to locate the lines?

Horses attitudes and energy levels changes over time, each drive.. We often will start out a fresh powerful horse "bitted down" with some curb action, only to see an hour later that he'd be happier, more forward (or less) with less curb action (or more). With the multiple line slots in the driving bits, adjustments are simple to do, and everyone is happier and more comfortable.

Why do you put so much emphasis on harness fit and adjustments?

Simple. The horse cannot communicate in words. He will tell you if something if fitting incorrectly, but in his own way (head bobs, refusal to push, etc.) and the driver must be able to interpret the horse language and then make the corrections. The fit is critical to the horse being comfortable; if comfortable, he can work all day; if not, he'll be sore in an hour and will remember who did it do him.
So, it is really important that a teamster be able to identify and readjust an ill-fitting harness long before the horse begins to complain.

What kind of shoes are needed for driving.

It depends. Ask your farrier about what your own horse needs, but we find that bare iron (and heavy) shoes work best on our heavy horses. We do not like thin shoes at all. Sometimes we add borium when we know we will be driving on asphalt or concrete and pulling heavy loads ... even on the level. If we are headed for a paved road and need to pull a load up a hill, we'll always add the non-slip borium. Don't forget borium on the front feet, as horses use them to pull as well, especially when the load is really heavy.

When to use a breast collar and when to use a neck collar and the pros and cons of each?

The heavy neck collars are mostly used for the heavier loads. They are more effective because - over a long day - the horse is more comfortable and the neck collar fits his natural curves a bit better. There are two styles: work collars are made with as much collar-to-neck surface as possible, while coaching collars (often made of patent leather) are smaller and more elegant, as the loads often are.
The breast collar - a horizontal strap around shoulders below the neck - is for lighter loads.. It works just fine for that purpose, and - when occasionally pulling a heavy load - can be made even more comfortable by adding wide pads between the leather strap and the horse.

What is your biggest problem with driving students

The incorrect use of the human voice. Most of them talk to the horse way too much. It takes a while for them (often nervous, which makes them chatty) to realize that the horse responds best when the driver (and her hands) are quiet.

Driving horses must know some words. "WHOA" is one, and perhaps the most important, but we spend a lot of time explaining to humans that WHOA does NOT mean SLOW DOWN. It means STOP, and should never be used otherwise. Lots of expert horsemen get this wrong.

I usually use "Whoa" to get my riding horse to slow down, why is it used differently in driving?

We'd argue that you should simplify things for your horse. Save "WHOA" for the critical "STOP" command ... meaning "Stay here until I tell you to move, and do not move your feet again." When driving (and on the ground when hitching up a team), it's important that they stay stopped. The horse does not get to vote on this matter. When they learn you mean it, you rarely have to raise your voice at them.

We'd suggest that riders who say "Whoa", meaning "Slow Down," really ought to say "Easy" or "Yeahh" or almost anything else (but consistently) to get the horse listening, but NEVER say "Whoa" when they really mean "slow." There is more on this subject in Lesson One!

Is leather harness or synthetic harness best?

Not really; it matters more what your purpose is. The leather is more "traditional" and smells nice, but is harder to care for. The newer materials are perfectly suitable - and washable- AS LONG AS THEY ARE WELL MADE, but that's true for leather as well. That means that the inside near the horse's hide must be smooth, with no sharp burrs. The nylon and Biothane harness can develop these burrs during manufacture (stiffer material, cut with a hot iron) and these should be avoided.

What heavy breeds are best for driving?

All are good. Use your own personal preference. Ditto for color. Remember the basics: "No foot, no horse"... and search for a sensible animal... stay away from the squirrely ones... of any breed. Really short people may want to avoid really tall horses, though; harness seems to get heavier after a while ... and the bigger the horse, the more it weighs!

Are there any organizations or clubs in Virginia for draft horses and contact info?

Yes, see our Driving Club Information.

If you'd like to ask about or sign up for the next class: Contact Us.