Does fast = confident?


I always see questions from people asking if the smaller minis can pull a 120 pound cart and a 200+ pound person. My general rule of thumb is, I don’t make my mini pull more than it’s own body weight. So if my own weight is nearly equal to my minis then I will need a VERY lightweight vehicle so together we don’t exceed my minis weight. (This is where a Hyperbike comes into play!!)

But a common answer I see is “My 30″ mini pulls me and my Bellcrown, or Frey or wooden meadow brook cart around just fine! He is a power house and runs everywhere. It’s hard to get him to walk!”

Hmmmm. The key words in that reply is “it’s hard to get him to walk.” People will also say their minis are very forward. I have been watching lots of different minis pull lots of different vehicles for a long time. I have also been a student of natural horsemanship for a long time. Something I am always thinking about is, is that mini calm and confident in it’s job? Certainly there are lots of small minis that ARE confident in their job. Usually these minis are fairly well matched in driver/vehicle weight to their own size and weight. These minis confidently canter out and tackle the courses. They easily come down to a walk and trot in a very relaxed way when asked.

BUT for the most part what I see are over faced small minis just trying to get the job done. They are racing around, heavy on the forehand, wanting to canter everywhere because the walk is just too hard. This exact thing happened with Sky. She had a hard time pulling the easy entry cart with me in it. So what did she start to do? She started to race everywhere. It’s very hard to get her to slow down and be calm when driving. She was starting to when pulling the Hyperbike, but she can NOT do it when pulling the easy entry cart. She just simply feels over faced with that cart. In her case it doesn’t matter that she is 37″ tall and the cart and myself weigh nearly equal to her weight. The simple facts are, it’s too heavy and hard for her to pull. Zorro and Mikey don’t have a problem pulling that cart at all! Both can walk and trot calmly when pulling it. There is no anxiety in them at all. But they are bigger ponies for sure!

Sometimes they are not confident because of other things. Even if they are well matched as far as vehicle weight + your weight, they can feel unconfident about their surroundings, what they are being asked to do in cart, other horses being around them – such as group drives- and this will come out as impulsiveness. They will want to rush around and not stand quietly. They will fidget, paw, sometimes back up uncontrollably, rear and generally be difficult to manage. This is all anxiety that is coming out in the only way they know how to show it. It doesn’t mean the mini is a jerk and it definitely doesn’t mean the mini is enjoying himself. I hear that a lot as well. “My mini really loves to go driving he does A, B and C (insert rearing, pawing and not standing still for the person to get in the cart).”

I think it’s interesting that some people see this behavior and see an excited mini that wants to go, when other people see the same behavior and read it as anxiety and dread.

There are many things you can do to help the mini feel more confident with driving, including taking a look at your harness, your cart and yourself. Are you sitting correctly when driving? Does your harness fit well? Is your cart balanced?

If your issues are more about the environment then taking a step back and doing some ground work with obstacles, taking them hiking and figuring out what helps them feel confident will translate to the harness as well.

Sometimes what we perceive as being excitement about hitting the trail is in fact anxiety. It really is all about perception and learning to read and understand our minis.

PLEASE REMEMBER!!! This is my blog full of my opinions. If you don’t like what I share you can simply click off the page 🙂 You do not have to keep reading nor do you have to take into consideration what I am sharing. You can simply move on!


  1. Hi Mindy, I love this because I have seen so many anxious horses over the years. You are right that many newcomers think that “bad” behavior is because they are “anxious to get going”. My pony Frank has periods of anxiety I think that are caused by being made to go, go, go (before I got him). I have been working hard for him to be quiet and relaxed, but am not having a whole lot of success. I have decided to work more on the ground and less in harness for a while.

    Thanks for your sensible advice and helpful comments always!

    1. Thank you for your comment Vicki! I too see far too many very anxious horses that probably shouldn’t be hitched to a cart. For some reason it seems to me that people rush horses into the cart even faster than they rush them to ride! I don’t understand that since adding the cart makes everything so much more dangerous. I go back and mix in ground work, one line work, ground driving and am starting some bitting work all without the cart. I love keeping Zorro guessing about what we are going to do. I also think that is why he is more relaxed in cart than Sky is. I have so much work to do if I want to drive Sky again!

  2. It is SO good to read common sense! Having had horses & ponies since 1956 , observed plenty being ridden or driven , I absolutely agree with your ‘anxiety’ theory. So many do not seem to consider the consequences of their (human) behavior upon the animal (dog, cat, horse or child). So often I have wondered why they have animals at all.

    1. Thank you Kathy! I just hear all too often how much this or that pony loves to drive because they go go go. And also how little tiny minis can “easily” pull 120 pound cart plus a 240 pound person, also because they go go go. To me this does not mean they are doing it easily at all but are over faced and struggling. I wish more people could read their horses and understand what is actually going on. The world would be a better place for them!

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