We’re taking Rocky down into Stockbridge today. Its a good town for training horses because you’ve got cars parked on the side of the road and they angle in towards the kerb so you get people reversing, they can’t see because you’ve got cars coming up passing them, engines starting as the horses go past, the cars moving which is another good thing for them to see. Today we’re taking Rocky down into town. He’s on one of the main roads going into Andover so you get lots of traffic, from cars, light vans to big articulated lorries and tankers. You can see this grain lorry coming past him now. And the traffic’s quite fast moving as
well which is another good thing because very often when we have cars passing wide and slow, which is what they’re told to do, so many times the horse isn’t actually frightened of the car, or the lorry, in actual fact as the car overtakes, it brushes against the hedge on the other side of the road so you get all this scraping sound, twigs breaking and cracking as they’re trying to get as wide as possible to pass you and that makes the horse spook. So when we’re training horses we train them to experience fast and slow moving vehicles. Certainly in our opinion we think its better for cars to overtake us; you can see the road ahead is clear now, and at this moment in time if the cars overtook at a normal speed instead of creeping past, they’d overtake us quicker, they be on with their journey faster, we wouldn’t have a large queue of traffic behind us, which means that car drivers or other road users are more likely to be tolerant of horses and carriages on the road, because we’re not causing that much of an obstruction. That’s why we believe in training horses to be safe and confident on the roads. Obviously they’re animals so within that there’s some degree of unpredictability but then parked cars can be unpredictable as well – opening their doors or going past them, people can run out from between parked cars so all those hazards we’ve got to contend with. But we believe if we’re not that much of a problem on the roads then other road users are going to be happier seeing us on the roads and therefore they’ll be more likely to listen to us when we do have a problem and say “Please would you mind holding on there” or “Please come past” and we can share the roads and make them a better place for everyone. The same goes for riders as well, its not just horse-drawn carriages that that applies to. If the horses are trained and they’re happy and safe on the roads, other vehicles can pass us and continue on with their journey, and they’re not going to be frustrated sitting behind us. We’ve been working on Rocky’s head carriage, lovely arched neck. Coming down over these different coloured surfaces on the road, its something unusual for him to look at. We like to see that he’ll just go straight over it with no hesitation. I also had someone ask me a question the other day; apparently they’d heard that it was against the law to drive a horse younger than 6 on the roads, but there’s a lot of confusion over this, and in actual fact in the Code of Practice for Horse-drawn vehicles it states that horses that are used for carrying passengers, as a guideline should be at least six years old. The British Driving Society Road Driving Assessment states that horses used for the test should be six years old and have a
minimum of I believe six months driving experience this isn’t for any other reason other than to
ensure that the horses they use for the test are safe and sensible. But we;ve had horses sent to us that were 10yrs old and hadn’t had anything done with them, so when they’re broken the fact that they’re older doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re always going to be more sensible or more experienced. So age is not always an indication of how good a horse is in traffic. Ninety percent of the horses on our Youtube videos are between three and four years old and this shows that with the right training even a young horse can cope with traffic perfectly well. At Horse Drawn Promotions we’re insured for training horses of 4yrs on the road, we’ve also got special provision for training horses of 3yrs old on the roads because we feel its better for them to be trained in traffic during their initial breaking. We’ve brought Rocky down into this big roundabout and again this a lovely thing for training horses. They;ve recently widened the roundabout so we’ve got three or four lanes. You get cars passing on the inside and obviously if you go on the middle lane you get cars passing both on the inside and on the outside. So its a lovely thing for training them because a lot of times when the horse is out on the roads. you only get cars overtaking on the right hand side. So its a good thing for them to experience having cars coming up on their inside for instance if you’re going past a junction and somebody pulls up to the white line sometimes it can spook the horse. So its one thing we like to do with them so they’ve experienced traffic on both sides. Its also a very good thing to do with horses that are going to be shipped abroad for their driven career. You can see here he’s working on his head carriage again he’s just being driven on a soft piece of rubber. Not got a lot of pressure on the reins at all. Just going forwards confidently and happily. Back to a walk as the traffic lights are red. its a good thing to have a horse thats responsive so by that I mean he’ll walk when he’s told, he’ll stand still when he’s told, especially if you’re in a busy environment like this with cars either side of you and it also applies for situations such as going showing. You want to know your horse will stand still regardless of how many people are moving around past him or the noises coming out of the loudspeakers or
other turnouts. So its a good situation to put them in during training. Certainly for our training its what we like to do with them to make sure that they’re perfectly happy in all sorts of different situations because you never know what they’re going to end up doing in the future; he might go in the show ring, he might just be a pleasure driving horse but at least he’s experienced plenty of different things and it’s
going to make him a safer and above all a more confident and as a result a happier horse in harness. They’ve been doing quite a lot of roadworks up this road; we’ve got brightly coloured signs, cones but he’ll go past without looking at it, without shying. We want them to go past as if they’re not there. Barry: You’re happy with him? Owner: Yes B: you feel confident to take him home and drive? Owner: Yes B: No problems at all? O: No. Owner: Barry’s done a brilliant job, very pleased with what he’s done considering how the horse was to how he is now. B: Was worth waiting that other time wasn’t it? O: Definitely. B: That other year has made the horse, made the difference to him.