Have you ever wanted to learn how to drive a team of draft horses?
Now you can by enrolling in our beginning drivers class.
We limit the class size to 6 (3 minimum). The course is taught by Pete Johnson, and Jon Nauman, the owner of the Horse Drawn Carriage Company. Seasoned drivers from the Horse Drawn Carriage Company serve as helpers so there is one instructor or helper for each student.
The first class was held in the spring of 1994 and there has been enough interest that we plan to continue offering the course once a year. The course is conducted at the Carriage Wheel Ranch in Chugiak Alaska.We teach single as well as team driving, and offer hitch driving and carriage driving classes.
The course is one day, approximately 8 hours. We start by getting the class accustomed to the horses and the horses accustomed to the students. This involves rounding up the horses, brushing, combing, and preparing the hooves. Even students who have had previous horse experience can be intimidated at first by draft horses that weigh over a ton and stand up to 18 hands high, so getting to know the “Gentle Giants” is an important step.
After the horses are brushed and cleaned, the students learn about harness function and proper adjustment. Then we demonstrate how to harness a draft horse. Harnessing can be physically demanding for someone who hasn’t developed the correct technique. But done correctly, even the smallest and shortest individuals can harness our largest horses Bob and Barney, who weigh over 2000 pounds and are over 18 hands high.
Instructor showing how to adjust the hames on the collar with students looking on.
The collar and pad are placed.
Placing a 75 pound harness.
Student adjusting the harness while Jon brushes the “feathers” on the horse’s legs.
Learning how to check the bridle.
After harnessing, students learn to line drive singles and teams in our arena . Working with the teams builds confidence in the driver and horse. Students learn to do circles, figure 8′s, and backing maneuvers. Next we break for lunch with a campfire next to Peter’s Creek, a glacier-fed stream. Lunch provides a good opportunity to discuss what was done during the morning session and answer questions.
A test drive in the arena before going out on the open road.
Learning to line-drive a 2,200-pound draft horse.
Driving a wagon
After lunch the fun begins. We drive a wagon, carriage, or sleigh through the Birchwood country side. The morning part of the class is physically demanding- grooming, harnessing, and hitching walking behind the horses.
Now the student gets to sit down and learn to drive a wagon. There is nothing like the feeling of driving these strong and powerful animals, learning to control their power with your own hands while traveling through a beautiful birch forest near Chugiak.
Driving in a light training cart with staff along for instruction.
The training ride takes us over a one lane wooden bridge, along a swift flowing stream, down a narrow country road and finally on a well traveled busy road.
With the wagon over Peter’s Creek, a glacial stream.
After the session
After the driving session is over, the class learns how to unharness and care for the horses. Particular attention is given to horse care during cold conditions and the necessary precautions that must be taken. When the day is done, the student will be tired, but proud of their accomplishments and newly-learned skills. We hope to see you in our next class!