It seems like 2017 just started and yet here we are looking at 2018. Time does fly when you’re having fun! Though to be honest I can’t really remember what all happened this year. I’ll need to share some photos to jog my memory.

The biggest thing that happened for my little family is my two boys took Drivers Ed and started their journey behind the wheel. I did most of the driving with them all spring, summer and fall and they are now ready to get their drivers license!! They go in on January 8th. Sigh. It’s amazing how fast they grow up…

theboyscollage

Our year kicked off with Bonnie becoming laminitic after getting some grass that she found buried in the snow.

SONY DSC

This morphed into an acute laminitic attack after she was vaccinated in March.

Bonnie in her styrofoam boots. - www.theessentialhorse.com

She really struggled all spring and summer. I read and researched and watched videos and aggressively trimmed her feet to keep her comfortable. I adjusted her diet and barely slept. I tried several different kinds of boots to help her be more mobile and did more reading and more research. I spent $100’s of dollars having all her feed tested, even my pastures at different times of day in with different heat indexes. I learned more and adjusted her diet some more. I talked with my vet and a well respected natural vet. I talked with feed specialists and equine nutritionists and did more reading and more research. I adjusted her diet. Every time I adjusted her diet I did it slowly and watched her like a hawk. Through all of this Bonnie stayed sweet and kind. She became a true pocket pony and enjoyed my company… good thing since I was out there at all hours of the day and night!

As I worried over Bonnie and had several sleepless nights, I also was able to get Sky going in the cart again! I followed the steps I outline in my book and started at the beginning… and in no time she was pulling a cart again!

cropped-funonthefarmpinterest

I found a unicorn in my pasture…

SONY DSC

We went hiking!

Bonnie started doing better and better! She worked up to being out in the pasture with her muzzle on for a few hours a day.

bonniemuzzlecollage

I started using Sure Foot Pads® on all the ponies. Bonnie really loves them. Sky doesn’t love them as much but will stand on them for me. Zorro really loves them too!

On August 21st there was a TOTAL ECLIPSE! My little family drove a couple hundred miles south so we could experience the eclipse in it’s entirety. At first I didn’t want to go, but I am so glad I did! (Though the drive down took 2 hours longer than it should have and the drive home took 4 hours longer than it should have do to traffic!)

Zorro did this:

and continues to be my sweet baby boy.

I continued to purchase parts of the Comfy Fit Harness!! Now all I need is the padded breeching!

Zorro wore this:

IMG_0078

We dressed up for fall!

I painted and finished my sled attachment!

SONY DSC

And I’ve been learning more about fitting a buggy collar and hames. It’s not an easy thing to do! I am saving up to upgrade my collar to one that fits Sky better.

Then I received my suspension kit from Patty’s Pony Place!!! Whoot whoot!!

SONY DSC

We had a wonderful, simple Christmas full of family and good food. The ponies each got a peppermint cookie for Christmas and I hand them out carefully here and there. I love to watch them enjoy them and they smell so good afterwards!

christmascollage

I have a new hobby! I am making felt flowers. I love to dress up my ponies (in case you couldn’t tell) and wanted to have several flower garlands with different colored flowers. I couldn’t afford to buy all the ones I wanted so I figured I would just start making my own!! So far I am really enjoying it. And I’ve started to offer them for sale!

thegirlsflowercollage

zorroflowercollage

I also make bridle crowns…

2017 was a fun year, even though there were some stressful times with pony health, but I am looking forward to 2018!

I wish you all a Happy New Year full of lots of love, laughter, joy and hope!

Next up on the list of harness parts is the breast collar. There are a few types of breast collars and I happen to have 3 of them! So I’ll go through each and talk about pros and cons.

First up is the regular ‘straight’ breast collar. This one actually has a little bit of a shape to it, it’s not totally straight, it’s narrow and doesn’t have the buckle in traces, but has the sewn in traces. If you have this type and drive over rough ground it’s a good idea to have a breast collar pad. They are just too narrow for my comfort.

SONY DSC

In this photo you can see there is a relative straight line from the breast collar to the breeching. This breast collar was adjusted as big as I could make it. I do feel this harness is a bit too small for Sky since she is such a ‘mature’ mare now 😉 So ideally I would want to drop that breast collar just one more hole. I don’t because I need it to reach back to the saddle and hook on the water hook (or bearing rein hook) as I explain below.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The photo collage below shows the breast collar properly adjusted, then adjusted too low and then too high!

narrowcollarcollage
Left: Proper adjustment.  Middle: Adjusted too low.  Right: Adjusted too high.

Also pay attention to the neck strap. That is the piece that goes over the neck and holds the breast collar up. This piece tends to carry some weight if there is ANY balance issue with your cart – and even if your cart is well balanced but you drive over rough ground or hit a bump. If you have a breast collar like this the neck strap tends to be narrow and can put a lot of pressure on a skinny spot across the neck causing discomfort. You can actually see this happening. If you aren’t sure, have someone take a few photos or make a video of you driving so you can clearly see that strap. The best thing to do to help your horse is to hook that neck strap back to the water hook on the saddle. You can buy a little leather piece as shown here or simply use a piece of twine! For years I drove my horses with twine tying that piece back. I actually did that because I got so uncomfortable seeing that strap ‘cut’ into my horses neck. Turns out that was exactly the right thing to do! The saddle will help the horse manage the weight that tends to ride on that strap.

SONY DSC

Next up is my favorite breast collar for most every day driving with the proper line of draft –  the Deep V breast collar! This one is from Chimacum Tack and is called the Comfy Fit Breast Collar Deluxe black with the russet leather lining.

In the photo below you can see the relative straight line from the breast collar to the breeching. I love the fact that this collar has the buckle in traces. Once you have buckle in traces you never want to go back!! They are much more adjustable as far as getting them positioned in the shafts just right. This makes them more user friendly.

SONY DSC

The photo collage below shows the breast collar properly adjusted, then adjusted too low and then too high.

deepvcollage

You need to be sure the breast collar clears the point of shoulder but doesn’t cut into the wind pipe. This can take some adjusting to get it just right.

SONY DSC

I love the fact that it has the double strap neck strap. Again the neck strap has a buckle that goes back to that water hook. This keeps in place. The width of the neck strap helps if any extra weight happens to land there. I do all I can with the balance of my cart to assure there isn’t much weight there. Using the correct collar with the correct line of draft is extremely important for the comfort of your horse, as you’ll see soon!

SONY DSC

And from the front. I love the V as it helps the collar sit at the right spot without interfering with the windpipe.

SONY DSC

Okay now we are going to get into the interesting stuff!!! Breast collars were designed with a certain line of draft in mind. When using your typical breast collar, as shown above, you need to have a line of draft that goes from the breast collar relatively straight back to the front of the cart – with the single tree in line behind the horses rear end.

SONY DSC

If you are using a cart that has a low line of draft, with the single tree below the horse’s rear end then you need to use a different collar, the collar and hames. There is a reason they use these collars for hard working horses that are dragging logs, farm machinery, harrows, and/or fore carts. The collar and hames helps the horse manage the lower line of draft by allowing the horse to pull from the chest and shoulders and NOT the neck strap. When you use a regular collar for a low line of draft most of the weight from behind (the weight of you and your vehicle) ends up on that neck strap. Just flip through some photos online and you’ll see the pressure that ends up on that neck strap!

We set up a little experiment here today and harnessed Sky to my sled and put 3 tires in the sled for weight. I didn’t want her to work too hard as we have so much smoke from the fires all over our state, but I did want to show this! It’s absolutely astounding how much weight ends up in that neck strap when driving with the low line of draft.

SONY DSC

My son took the photo on the right right after we stopped moving and you can see how upset Sky is about this set up. She is not shy about telling me when she isn’t happy or is uncomfortable… plus she is in heat right now so she is even more sensitive! I hope you can see the pressure that is pushing down on her neck strap. Watching her try to pull this wasn’t fun. You’ll see in the video below!

improperdraftcollage

I talked about this issue with several people over the last year. Trying to understand why this happens and what to do about it. When I showed some photos I found to my Handsome Hubby (who went to college for engineering) he knew what the problem was immediately. He explained to me that the weight from the load behind is traveling up the traces and then hits the Y where the breast collar goes around the chest and over the neck. So the weight tries to disperse across BOTH places. It does not just disperse across the chest. My youngest son, who is my photographer and videographer, doesn’t know anything about horses or harnesses or carts (I know. It’s so sad and breaks my heart a tiny bit.) BUT he could see how hard it was for Sky to pull this load. He said her legs were buckling more with the deep V collar than when we switched to the proper collar and hames. It was so noticeable.

Now we’ll see the proper collar for this low line of draft, the collar and hames! My son took this photo immediately after we stopped and she looks relaxed and happy. The draft collar allows the horse to pull the vehicle weight with the front of their shoulders and their chest. When she was pulling this set up she could lean into the collar. When she was pulling with the deep V collar she didn’t feel able to lean in because of the pinching across her neck.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I see people driving their beautiful marathon vehicles (or two wheeled vehicles) that have this low line of draft and using a regular style breast collar all the time. I am constantly cruising the internet studying driving photos and videos as I feel I have so much to learn. But when I see these set ups it breaks my heart a tiny bit for the horses. When you can visibly see the weight pressing down on the horse’s neck in photos it just starts to seem so obvious! I hope that this post helps you understand why it’s so important to use the correct breast collar or collar and hames based on your vehicle and it’s line of draft.

Here is a few videos to leave you with. Hopefully it will give you something to think about 🙂

 

 

 

There are many options out there for miniature horse vehicles. So many that it can be overwhelming! There are two wheeled easy entry carts, two wheeled show carts, two wheeled marathon carts, two wheeled Hyperbikes. There are four wheeled buggies, marathon buggies, wagons, viceroys. So many options!

I’m going to share some of my all time favorites. A few of the carts and buggies that I would buy if money wasn’t a problem. Some of the carts and buggies that are affordable, even for those of us on a budget and a few that I’ve had in the past and wish I still had!

I’ll start with the past. I had an easy entry cart for training. It was an older used easy entry cart, nothing fancy and very light weight. I had a Graber show cart and a four wheeled buggy built by a friend of mine and a Hyperbike. I loved my Hyperbike and am looking forward to getting another!

cartscollage
Left: Inexpensive Easy Entry Cart $400   Middle: Graber Show Cart $1700   Right: Hyperbike $1550
118-a_0001-skyandbuggy
My buggy hitched to Sky a 36 1/2″ Mare.
parade-and-angus-019
My buggy hitched to a Dane, a 32″ stallion.

I loved my buggy and so did the minis. It was lightweight and very easy for them to pull. I could load up the back with kids and go for a neighborhood drive. It was an awesome vehicle for parades as well. I’m hoping to get another buggy someday!

hyperbikecollage
Hyperbike hitched to Cammy a 36″ mare.

My Hyperbike was awesome. I would hitch up my main driving mare, Cammy, and we would fly around the hay field. The cart is so wide that we could gallop around and I was never worried about tipping over. I didn’t do any mountain driving then, but do plan on doing a lot now so will be getting another Hyperbike!

Here are a few photos of my little stallion, Dane, hitched to the Graber show cart.grabershowcartcollage

We had this beautiful wooden easy entry cart that we bought from Silver Penny Farms. It was a heavy cart, but so well balanced that the minis could pull it without any problems. I loved the big wheels as it made the cart pull so much smoother.silverpennyeasyentrycollage

Here are a few photos of the metal easy entry cart as well. The mini is Ellie and she’s about 35″ tall.easyentrycartcollage.jpg

Now onto the vehicles that are on my dream list!

Then there is the Graber Marathon buggy. If I had a team I would definitely want one of these!!grabermarathoncollage

I also really like the looks of the Pacific Smart cart. Lots of people that do CDE’s use these carts. They are sleek and very well built. And I’ve heard they are very comfortable!pacificsmartcartcollage

Now onto the affordable vehicles. I have the Kingston Saddlery easy entry cart. The price was so right ($475 and that INCLUDES shipping!!) that I wasn’t sure about the quality. I had mixed reviews from different people, but decided to give it a try, knowing if it wasn’t heavy duty enough for driving here, I could sell it and easily get my money back. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality! I’ve had a few easy entry carts over the years and this is the nicest one (besides the Silver Penny wooden easy entry cart) that I’ve had! The cart weighs just under 100 pounds, because I upgraded to the heavy duty motorcycle tires. The spokes are really nice as well and will not bend or warp. I will be driving through sage bushes sometimes so I needed heavy duty! I also got the curved shafts and so far am very happy with everything!kingstonsaddlerycartcollage

 

As I said, there are many miniature horse vehicle options out there! Part of the fun is reading about them all and figuring out which one would best suit your needs. There is always so much to learn!

Oh I have so many harness dreams! Buying harness can get quite expensive. Over the years I’ve learned that trying to save money by purchasing the cheaper, lower quality harness just doesn’t work. They are not well made, don’t fit the minis well and typically are not even worth the little amount you’ll pay! So saving up and getting a good harness (or two or three!) will actually save you money.

I have always loved the Camptown Harness. I had one years ago that my main driving mare, Chamomile, wore. It was beautifully made, really a work of art. They have a saddle with a tree and the nice Deep V breast collar. Their bridles are well made and fit the minis tiny head perfectly.

The Camptown harness ($799) is a mix of leather and synthetic materials. It was my first synthetic harness. Cleaning it was a snap!

 

I have been looking at the Comfy Fit harness ($700) recently. I did purchase the Deep V collar from them and LOVE the quality. Their customer service is awesome! I do plan on getting one of their harnesses. It’s on my “To Buy” list. They have saddles with trees and a sliding back strap saddle. Their bridles are very well made and fit the miniature horse head perfectly!

 

Another harness – the next one that I will purchase- is from Patty’s Pony Place ($335). She makes nylon harness. I have never been a fan of nylon, but after reading about Patty’s harness and visiting with her on Facebook I have decided I am going to give it a try! I LOVE the color options and think this harness would be so fun for parades. I am going to get a Turquoise/Teal harness with black lining. I think that will look so nice with my black draft style collar. And I will be able to use my black leather driving bridle with it to mix things up as well! This harness has a saddle with a tree and Patty is willing to make me a sliding back strap. I like how well the harness is padded and the bridle fits the mini head very nicely!

pattysponyplaceharness
Patty’s Pony Place purple harness.

I am also going to purchase Patty’s newest design… a skijoring harness ($160 this includes rope driving lines) for miniature horses!

There are other even more expensive harnesses out there, but these are my top three favorites. I know that I can use the Comfy Fit harness for Combined driving, which is my ultimate dream/bucket list. It has been around for quite awhile so I know it’s a good quality harness that will stand the test of time!