Last Updated on February 26, 2022 by Allison Price
Before I begin to describe my recent venture into driving, I want to apologize to everyone. Sometimes I have said, “How difficult can driving be?”
After several weeks of driving lessons I am now standing before you with my whip (probably incorrectly) in my hand. I can tell that I was wrong. Driving isn’t easy. To emphasize my point (pun intended), I almost title this article “Okay So Basically Driving is, Like, Really Hard.”
It didn’t quite flow as easily.
As I drove a small bay pony in a bunch of drunken circles, which appeared to be flat on many sides, at my driving lesson today, I thought about where I’ve been lately with horses. I was thirty-something and started my horse life from scratch. Now, I’m trying to learn something new.
You may recall an article I wrote years ago in which I explained how serious medical issues forced me to give up riding. Although I was eager to get into driving right away, I instead took a short break which quickly turned into a lengthy break. I couldn’t stand being around horses for long periods of time, both mentally and emotionally. I needed space to heal and get my feet under me. I really had to stop bursting into tears each time I left the barn, or saw someone else ride.
So I took a step back for a while.
My adorable little dressage horse was transformed into a beautiful ornament for the pasture. She couldn’t be happier. I worked through my emotions (i.e. I put on my big kid pants) and finally reached a healthy mental state where I felt ready to take the next step.
However, it turns out that for me, the next step forward feels like 15 steps backward.
Although I wasn’t going to the next Olympic Games while I was still riding, it wasn’t like I was a complete beginner. I had taken lessons, owned horses and competed. I was solid in my adult amateur status and had just enough experience to confidently say that I am “mostly not an beginner”.
When I set out on my first driving lesson, it was not something I expected. I didn’t know that I would have to start again, go back to basics, and learn a new sport. I was bombarded with words like “breast collar,” “breeching,” and “trace”, as well as a multitude of driving safety rules. My preconceived notions that driving was “simple” quickly vanished.
Apart from the usual riding lessons problems, such as looking where I am going and maintaining good posture, hand position and hand position, I now have to worry about things like where my cart wheels are and how fast my feet are moving while driving on the ground.
While I do it, I am holding a driving whip as long as three dressage whips combined. My first riding instructor’s voice is echoed in my ear, cursing me for being so close to a horse. Evidently, driving is my death wish. This is where I spend most of my time.
I won’t even begin to talk about the four hundred pieces of leather that make the driving harness. Each lesson is unique, and they all look different. It was difficult to learn how to properly tack a Western saddle or put on a martingale. I was wrong. My adventures in trying to figure out the puzzle of a harness and hitch have been nothing but fun. Is “tacking up” a term used in driving?
My instructor will tell me to get out of my way. I fear I’ll assemble everything upside-down and backwards. I have nightmares about finding a lot of leather straps that don’t fit together.
It’s enough for a girl to go batty.
Although I feel completely out of my element, the lessons are great. It’s amazing how driving feels like riding, even though I’m not sitting on the horse. It’s the same feeling of teamwork and connection with the horse. Trotting down gravel driveways gives me the same thrill, whether I’m behind the horse or in the saddle. I look forward to going back to the barn to see how much I can learn during lessons.
One day, I hope to be able to stop Googling “which is the crupper?”
Driving community, I am sorry again. Thank you all for being so kind to me, and I feel truly welcomed by your community. I would like to offer you a deal and apologize once more. I would be grateful if you could forgive me for believing driving is easy.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!