Styles of Miniature Horse Driving in Breed Shows
I just had a young lady email and ask me to teach her about driving in breed shows. I urged her to find someone local who could help her since we are relatively new to showing and so someone could help her in person. She replied that there were no others near her in her Alabama town. I started with asking her the style of driver she believed her horse to be, and she did not know that there were different divisions of driving classes in Miniature horse shows....so here goes my explanation to her.
There are 4 basic driving divisions:
I will try and summarize the various classes and style of horse needed.
Watch these videos of Country Pleasure horses:
Click here to see Country Pleasures Horses at Western Regionals 2014
Click here to see Country Pleasure Driving at the 2013 World Show
Here is our Design who won World Reserve GRAND champion in 2012!!!
Click here to see Country Pleasure horses over 34" (AMHR Nat'ls)
Click here to see Rivenburghs Lets Roll SE
In this class, the headset is still high, but not as high as the single pleasure horses. The action is still fancy, but not quite as high either as the single pleasure movers. There is good extension, but high action is not as needed. Country movers are fluid and smooth. The horse's behavior is important and the horse should look like a pleasure to drive. The horse's weight does not have to be as rocked back on the hind end. The standard calls for 60% of the weight to be on the hind end. You may see some horses who have very fancy front end action, but if their hocks and hind ends are not under them, then they are usually put in the Country class rather than the Open Pleasure/Single classes. The horses are required to walk and perform at 2 trotting gaits called the country pleasure trot (the collected trot) and at the extended trot ( also called the working trot). These horses remind me of the Arabs of yesterday or of Morgans in their movement.
Watch these videos for examples of Single pleasure horses:
Click here to see Single Pleasure driving at the 2013 World Show
Click here to see Single Pleasure movers under 34" (AMHR Nat'ls 2011)
Click here to see Single Pleasure (Open Pleasure) movers over 34" (AMHR Nat'ls 2011)
And, our Rivenburghs Lets Roll SE
The Single Pleasure movers are very rare and hard to find in the Miniature horse world. It takes a specific confirmation to move like this. The horse must be upright as far as how the neck is set on the shoulder. The headset is high in the bridle, and that requires an upright horse. The horse also must have excellent action. Again, behavior and consistency is not as important as the style of moving. These horses are very collected, rocked back on their hindquarters and have nice hock action. 70% of their weight should be on that hind end!!! In this class, the horses must walk and perform at 2 different speeds of trot. The carts have a basket on them and can be open or closed wheel. As the Miniature horse has developed over the years, the action has gotten even more exaggerated and the headsets higher. Many horses that used to be competitive in this class have now moved into the Country Pleasure classes. These horses remind me of Saddlebreds or Park Arabs.
Often I see horses start their driving career as Country Pleasure horses for one or two seasons, but develop into Single Pleasure horses as training progresses. I also have seen many horses who were once competitive in Single Pleasure, age and mellow out, and get to the point that their stamina demands that they return to competing in Country Pleasure.
In each show, an individual horse cannot show in Country and in Single. The shower must decide which division to enter into and then stick to it throughout that show. Both Country and Single horses can enter Roadster classes.
Here is our Sam who is one of the prettiest classic horses I have seen.
Kody with Leia - good video with some explanations about movement and conformation
I compare the horses in this class with the modern hunter under saddle Paints. The headset is low and extension is important. I think some people tend to belittle this division and wrongly consider it to be for horses who aren't good enough movers for Country or Single. I disagree and think the horse who is accomplished in this class still needs great movement and great athleticism. They need long extension and ground covering, sweeping strides. Their conformation is more like the "hunter under saddle Quarter Horse" with a neck that comes out level and a poll that is at the level of the withers. Manners and consistency are a very important factor in this class.
Watch these videos for examples of Roadster horses:
In this class, the drivers wear caps and racing silks. The crowd whoops and hollers and the atmosphere is fun. The carts must be close wheeled are light weight and the speed is fast. The horses never walk in this class and have 3 different speeds of trot. In this class, you want a horse that has fast leg action along with good action. Some horses have action, but can't move their legs fast enough. The head set is not as important, nor is behavior. You want to see extreme extension and some action. In many Roadster classes, I see horses breaking gait and acting up. The cheering crowd often facilitates the horses' excitement. This class is a blast to watch and drive in. It is a good class for horses that have super fancy or fast motion, but their necks do not allow them to bridle up as nicely...however, many horses do both; bridle up and move!
Patty Cloke has an article on the different styles of driving horses at this link. Patty Cloke has been involved in training driving horses for many many years and is one of the most successful trainers alive.
I do have a page that lists some of my favorite driving bloodlines in the A division. This list is not complete; it is forever growing!