Global saddlechariots. Fun for ponies, fun for people ................ and SAFEIt's fun, it's easy, it goes anywhere, it fits any animal, it fits any person. What more do you want?
OK Safety,...............well you have to accept that equestrian activities are dangerous. You attach a vehicle to a horse or a pony and its difficult enough to get off, let alone get the vehicle off the pony.
Except this is a saddlechariot, and it is easy. The red rope in the drivers hand allows the driver to step off, and release the pony from the vehicle..............instantly. See the video, click this link.
. I have just returned from the Saddlechariots first ever Equestrian Magazine Demo. Endless thanks to John Mikisch of Cavallo magazine, the leading German Horse Magazine. Pure magic, after 8 years building horse drawn vehicles to actually demonstrate to an Equestrian Magazine, and their team of experts (names to follow when I have the spelling right) just what a Saddlechariot can do. I must thank Gunnar Schillig who I originally met via the Web from Papua New Guinea, then Tasmania USA or whatever so it seemed perfectly natural to finally meet in the flesh in Warmbrunn and carry on as if we had worked together for years
I stayed with Robert and Ulle at a charming riding stables in Warmbrunn, just outside Stuttgart and they let me and Gunnar play with their ponies. I decided to use Tony, an 8 year old 9hh Shetland as he pretended he was going to be really co-operative, and he was, up to a point. He had never been driven, but in a couple of hours gentle training he was giving the impression of a well behaved driving pony.
Charlotte was about 15.2, six year old, a very pretty piebald who had apparently had been trained to drive at three but hadn't been driven for the last three years. The photoshoot was on Friday and I showed her the Saddlechariot on Thursday evening and she seemed pretty cool so I thought I would leave it at that and just drive her the next morning.
It should be clear that this is an insane set up. Neither animal can be considered trained, because they aren't, so I start by fitting Charlotte into harness and Saddlechariot with everyone watching, asking questions, taking photos, gossiping and whatever. I thought long reining Charlotte might be an idea, so I tried with a rope halter which she just ignored. So I put on a snaffle, and drove her into the yard. She headed straight for her own bit of the yard. We then did a big erratic circle round the yard with no semblance of control and I pointed her towards the open road. She was naturally worried because she had an idiot driving, we had no form of communication through the bit and she was getting progressively more difficult to handle. Skittering round on concrete she almost lost her footing so I let her get her balance back but I could see there was no way that the next corner was going to work......................
So I stepped off and pulled the ripcord. Charlotte relaxed the minute she wasn't in the vehicle, though my loud YEEEEHAH upset her a trifle. I was shouting because I was safe, she was safe and all the spectators were safe. This was a demonstration, not to show how to do things right, but that when things went pear shaped, I had a solution.
The closest analogy is an inventor who has invented a double parachute. I can start the aeroplane, I can take off in the aeroplane but I haven't learned how to fly or land the aeroplane. What I have instead is a parachute that will get me and the aeroplane down onto the ground safely, not flying, but down on the ground.
That is what the Saddlechariot does. It lets you make mistakes with a simple, safe, exit strategy.
Charlotte was unharmed, and relaxed when I put her back between the shafts, but no way was I going to drive her again without getting her used to the bridle and me, and long reining and all the bits that go with training to drive. This was a demonstration of just how stupid you could be while keeping everyone safe.
So we tried Tony. Tony has attitude sticking out in all directions. We took him into the sand school and attached a spring tine harrow to the saddlechariot so he could work that through the sand. No problems, but I could feel the "I want to get going" message loud an clear. So we took him over a narrow bridge with the Saddlechariot detached, to a nice wide expanse of unfenced grassland, maybe 5 hectares, seriously wet underfoot, and put the saddlechariot on and started being silly.
Rather than let him learn gently about the vehicle following him, and learning to steer and stop in a bitless bridle, I shook the reins and turned him loose. So he grazed. More mad flapping of the reins and he said, "If that's what you want, I'm going," and off we set at a very bouncy trot, with absolutely no speed control and not much control of direction. I did persuade him that heading for the hills was out, so he spun round to head for home. The pace increased, and he got bouncier and stroppier till it was quite clear I had no control at all.............
So I stepped off and pulled the ripcord. As his mistress was waiting at the bridge to catch him, I let him go. Went over took him back, harnessed up and tried again. This time he lost his temper much earlier and I stepped off, keeping the reins and stopped him the other side of the bridge.
Stupid yes, but Tony was unharmed and unfrightened. I know, because we put him back in the Saddlechariot for another hour of close up photos. Tony was unhurt, I was unhurt, the spectators were unhurt.........because I have built in a safety system that works. That lets you make mistakes. I just made the biggest and most obvious mistakes I could to prove a point, and I am eternally grateful to Cavallo magazine for giving me the chance to show what you can do with a saddlechariot...........even if you are stupid.
If you use common sense, you can do vastly better. So on Tuesday I trained Boy for Guido and Annie, but Boy had been driving for a year and Guido takes things sensibly, so on Wednesday Guido went for a two hour drive with Boy and the saddlechariot in the forest, knowing that if problems did crop up, he only had to step off and pull the ripcord. It isn't much to learn.
Here is me introducing Boy and Guido to the Saddlechariot. see video at the bottom of the page
Training with a saddlechariot is radically different and much simpler because it is safer. I did a really stupid demonstration to prove a point exactly like car manufacturers who drive their shiny vehicles into concrete blocks. To show it is safe you have to do something stupid. But I do the stupid things, so my customers don't have to. If they are sensible and careful, they will never need the ripcord. But if they do, it is there. So you don't have to decide that whatever happens , you can drive your green animal out of trouble. You just have to decide that whatever happens, you can step off and pull the ripcord. And I have done it in front of the biggest German Equestrian Magazine, Cavallo and their experts, so if anyone has any doubts, they can check with John Mikisch of Cavallo.