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Pony/Horse Cart Basics

Updated on March 7, 2019

Two Haflingers Pulling a Wagon

Haflingers puling a cart.
Haflingers puling a cart. | Source

Pony & Cart


The Good Ol' Days

Back in the day, everyone had a horse and a carriage. You couldn't conduct your life without a horse and carriage:

  • You need groceries at the market, hitch up the horse.
  • You went to church on Sunday, hitch up the horse.
  • You wanted to move, hitch up the horse.

The horse and carriage were such a basic part of life a person wouldn't imagine living without one.

It was in 1885 when the first petrol/gasoline powered, internal combustion, engines were first completed. It was determined that an automobile would need to go 5 mph in order to be superior to horse drawn carriages. A race date was set for a 200 mile race. Two automobiles showed up for the race, only one finished. It took him 33 hours 27 minutes to cover the 200 miles at an average speed of 6 mph. Thus, surpassing a horse at 5 mph by 1 mph. It was the beginning of the end for the horse and carriage. Within 20 years the pony and cart were nearly obsolete.

Some communities continued with the horse and carriage out of necessity. An automobile was not in the budget for a lot of people, especially those living in mountain regions where gainful employment was hard to find.

One carriage I restored was used as late as 1940 to transport two boys to school.

Sport Carting

Carting has become a sport! Sport carting involves taking your cart on a trail at full speed to beat the other carters. Some teams have multiple horses pulling, some have a single rider, the events vary by their club. Carting is not an easy sport to get involved in. The price of a good harness, a cart and a horse or two to pull it will run you into thousands of dollars. If you enjoy refurbishing equipment you'll save yourself a LOT of money.

See the Potential

Carting enthusiasts, like myself, have kept carting alive! Whether a cart is purchased new, used or in a cart kit that you build, it's all the same, we are carting.

I especially enjoy locating an old cart in a barn, or field, left for the elements to devour with rust and corrosion. I remove the overgrowth and haul it out of it's solitude. It may have decades of growth on it. The weeds and vines have grown through the metal spokes on the wheels and the floorboards. I can see, through rose colored glasses, the potential a cart has. I can see what it was at one time, and what it can be. With my rose colored glasses on I can see the fine workmanship on the metal decorations, the brass fittings and the fine detail on the wood, it's all laid out perfectly. I can almost hear the clip, clop, clip, clop of the ponies hooves on the worn path.

Now, let me take off my rose colored glasses so we can go carting!

Horse and Buggy!

Have you ever ridden in a horse drawn carriage, buggy or cart?

See results

An Old Cart

An old cart used back in 1930s and 1940s to take two boys to school. The pony would wait in a paddock at the school until school was out, then take them home again.
An old cart used back in 1930s and 1940s to take two boys to school. The pony would wait in a paddock at the school until school was out, then take them home again. | Source

One Old Cart

An old cart is located in Fiddletown a small town in the California foothills. A two hour drive brings us to the location. The owner has saved us the work of hauling it out of the brush and it's waiting by the gate. After we say hi to the owner and exchange pleasantries we load the cart, and gear, and head for home.

This cart is in very good condition considering it's nearly 90 years old!

I do a walk around and note what repairs are obvious and make a list:

  1. Both seat kick boards (front and rear) are missing.
  2. Seat is missing.
  3. Remaining boards show signs of rotting. Replace.
  4. Paint (All).
  5. Tires & Wheels Replace both.
  6. Struts not working, replace both.
  7. Remove rust from all surfaces.

An Old Cart Restored


A Horse is a Horse, Or Not

Horses are the tallest in the equine family. To be considered a horse it should stand:

  • Around 16 hands at the withers.

Cob is the mid-size horse. To be considered a cob it should stand:

  • 14.2 to 15 hands at the withers.

To be considered a pony it must be:

  • No more than 14.1 at the withers.

Mini's are the smallest of the horse family. To be considered a mini it should stand about:

  • No more than 38" at the withers.

Now What?

Now that we have a cart ready to go, do you have a horse, cob or pony to pull it? When choosing a horse to cart make sure the horse will fit into the rails of the cart and that the rails are long enough. A normal horse (quarter horse average) cannot fit into a harness or pull a cart that is sized for a pony, it just won't fit. Measure the cart and harness, then take those measurements and see if they fit the horse you choose. If it's too small for a horse, maybe a cob would work better. A cob is a mid-size horse. It's not a pony and it's not a horse. It's usually built stout and strong. And if the cob doesn't fit you can try a pony and even a mini! Horses come it all sizes now-a-days.

You have the cart, now the horse, it's time to gather the harnesses equipment together. There's going to be several pieces needed:

  1. A headstall equipped with a bit and blinkers. Blinkers (or blinders) are very helpful for keeping the horse focused on forward propulsion. If the horse see's the cart behind them, it may cause panic and a runaway.
  2. Long reins. The reins need to be long enough to go from the bit all the way over the back to the cart this can be 10+. Make sure to measure it.
  3. The harness itself. It will include the breast, shoulder and croup pieces.

If you need equipment here's a website that has it all: They are a bit pricey, but you can see what you need and shop around.

Now that everything is ready follow this link to Carting Your Horse.


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