Carriage Driving on Daufuskie Island

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Darley Newman
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It was time for my carriage driving clinic. The equipment was a bit intimidating at first. Once you find out the function for each piece of tack, it makes sense, but I wouldn't want to have to tack up Trotter again on my own--not just yet at least.

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I would be taking a carriage driving clinic with Nancy, who trains horses at the equestrian center in carriage driving and used to harness race herself. We would use Trotter, a 12-year-old Standardbred, who was first used on the racetrack and later by the Amish.

So if you asked me to tack up Trotter again right now, it would probably be a mess. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Driving, on the other hand, I could do again.

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It does help to have some riding skills, because getting the right contact with the reins is so important when driving. I kept thinking back to Sally Swift's book Centered Riding and about holding the reins as if I was holding a bird in my hands. That helped. It also helped to relax my arms, like in riding.

We started out with me driving Trotter on the ground. Nancy said that I would have to get used to standing directly behind a horse and trust that he'll not kick you. Trotter had been well trained, so I wasn't worried about that.

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The hard part at first was turning and keeping the right amount of contact on the reins. The first couple of figure eights that I did with Trotter were a little convoluted. It did get better though. Even harder than turning was going straight. We were doing a sort of crash course, so I would be actually driving a horse by the end of my lesson.

Once I was in the carriage, the greater challenge began, as we started to explore the island with me as the driver. I have to admit that I took us off-roading a couple of times. I also have to say that getting Trotter into an extended trot was exhilarating. We went flying down the road towards the beach and past the pastel colored houses. The wind was whipping through my hair, and both Nancy and I donned big smiles.

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Carriage driving is a lot of fun. It requires a lot of concen- tration and precision. Nancy said that many people take her clinics to become better riders. I could see how it would help me with my concentration, contact and control and could see why the sport and leisure pursuits of carriage driving have so much appeal. Onward, Trotter!

Tonight, we are eating at Jack's Place on the island. I will be happy to have a nice cool shower and get out of the sun. Til manana!

Learn more about Equitrekking on PBS and learn about exceptional equestrian vacations at EquitrekkingTravel.com.