If you want to learn the art of horse or pony carriage driving it is important to be taught by an experienced friend or family member or to pay a professional instructor. Carriage driving while terrific fun is potentially very dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. This said finding the perfect teacher to suit your individual needs and abilities can be both difficult and frustrating; initially you have got to find an available instructor.

You need an  instructor with a thorough knowledge of horses and carriage driving but this is only half the problem, however good someone is at driving themselves and passing examinations in carriage driving competence they could prove totally useless as an instructor if they can’t relate to your level of ambition and boldness. Anyone who picks up the reins for the first time, seated behind a horse – instead of on it, is bound to react with a mixture of emotions, depending on how safe they feel using mainly voice commands to control the horse and being so far back from the horse’s head.

Carriage driving is certainly not for everyone and that very first taste of becoming a whip can be either a wonderful or, at worst, a truly terrifying experience. This is where so much responsibility falls on the instructor’s shoulders. A good instructor, who understands people as well as horses, can turn your initiation into the driving world into a huge ongoing success.

On the other hand a poor quality carriage driving instructor who is not good with horses as well as being impatient, patronizing teacher only interested in star pupil quality – to reflect their own glory can do untold damage to a nervous novice, probably ensuring that they will never pick up the reins confidently in the future.

If you only want to learn to drive safely round the local lanes with an old family pony, you need to learn to drive with an instructor who has the strength of character to get you out of tricky situations and yet show extreme patience when you end up on the wrong side of the road with one wheel stuck firmly in a ditch. The tuition you are given should be systematic, comprehensive and show variation. Your instructor must be able to give clear explanations suited to your current level of understanding and training.

Try to meet an instructor before you book a course of lessons, check out the animals you will be driving and take a look at the state of the carriages and harness. Poor quality equipment generally means poor quality instruction. Ask yourself if the chemistry feels right between you and your driving instructor – a sense of humour is usually a good sign that you are going to get along.

If someone makes you feel tense and inadequate or if they are constantly trying to impress you by talking about their own achievements, walk away.

This type of instructor will not be able to give you that vital sense of confidence or well-being when you are driving as a rank novice who needs their confidence built up.

The British driving Society normally holds a list of qualified carriage driving instructors but one of the best ways to track down the right one for you is by asking people already deep into carriage driving who they would recommend. You may fall across someone who knows just the right person to teach you to drive.

Finally, if you possibly can, try to choose an instructor who will take you round quiet lanes, through pleasant countryside. You don’t want to be watching out for heavy traffic all the time; no matter how sensible the horse you will never relax and get into the spirit of the sport if you are dodging heavy juggernauts and noisy motorbikes all the time!

One of the best UK instructors in Karen Bassett who is based in Derbyshire and one of Britain’s top carriage drivers and has competed as part of the British Team at the last 6 World Four-in-Hand Carriage Driving Championships. Karen is happy to offer lessons for complete beginners to advanced drivers for single, pair, team and tandem.  She encompasses every phase of driving trials, private driving and other showing classes, coaching and BDS pleasure driving.  Tel: 07831 277778 for more details.