Therapeutic Carriage Driving Lesson Plans

Recently a reader asked if I had any lesson plans for Therapeutic Carriage Driving. While I don’t teach driving, my good friend Missy does, and she has graciously written this wonderful article for us today. Enjoy!

Therapeutic Carriage Driving Lesson Plans

By Missy Hughes

Below I have outlined some different areas and types of activities that I do with my driving students.

Driving Safety: There are four golden rules of carriage driving that we adhere to in our lessons and which I teach to the driving team.

  • 1) The able bodied whip (volunteer trained to carriage drive) is always the first person into the carriage and the last person out of the carriage.
  • 2) The horse can never be tied while hitched to the carriage.
  • 3) The bridle must never be removed while the horse is hitched to the carriage.
  • 4) The reins must never be removed from the bridle while the horse is hitched to the carriage.

I take several lessons to educate my students on how to recognize safe and unsafe horse behavior and how to keep their horse’s attention on their job and handler in order to avoid a spook or incident. Prevention is the best way to avoid an accident.

Harness Parts and Function: Learn the different parts of the harness and what their function is. Learning how to harness and unharness are great things to do as a part of a driving lesson. You can have the student harness up on one side of the rig and the Able Bodied Whip do the other side. Great review for everyone. 🙂

Cones courses: sets of cones arranged in a pattern for the driver to navigate the rig through. I usually set up each set of cones with one numbered cone and one colored cone so that the driver can see which set is first, second, third, etc. When driving the cones courses, I talk to the driver about being precise (ie going through the center of each set, not knocking down any cones, keeping the same pace). You could also place a tennis ball on the top of the cones to see how many sets the driver can get through without knocking any cones.

Driven dressage tests: I found these tests on the American Driving Society website. They are really nice because each test has the written instructions as well as a picture of the pattern. On the score sheet, there is a section for collective marks which explains what the judge is looking for within the gaits, impulsion, submission of the horse, and driver. They are outlined below:

  • Gaits – Freedom and regularity
  • Impulsion – Desire to move forward, elasticity of steps, relaxation of back, engagement of the hindquarters
  • Submission – Acceptance of the bit, correctness in lateral bend, attention and confidence, lightness and ease of movements
  • Driver – Use of the aids, handling of reins, whip, and voice, driver’s position

I take advantage of this information to educate the student on what bend, straightness, forward impulsion, etc are in the horse. We also practice individual elements of the dressage pattern such as driving a symmetrical and round circle, straight changes of direction on the diagonal, driving up the center line, and transitions.

I have attached PDF’s of all the cones courses and driven dressage tests that I have. Some of them may have to be printed out in order to read them. … I hope that this info helps!

driving cones course 1

driving cones course 2

driving cones course 3

driving cones course 4

driving cones course 5

driving dressage test 1 pattern

driving dressage test 1

driving dressage test 2 pattern

driving dressage test 2

driving dressage test 4 pattern

driving dressage test 4

Missy Hughes is certified PATH Intl. registered level therapeutic riding instructor at HorsePower Therapeutic Riding. (She is not a PATH Intl. Certified Driving Instructor (yet) so as usual this post is personal recommendation, not endorsed by PATH Intl.) She is also an instructor-in-training in Philippe Karl’s Ecole de Légèreté, an international program dedicated to training professionals in the art of French classical dressage. She manages her own dressage training and instruction program, Dare to Dream Dressage, which you can find out more about by clicking here and here!


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

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