I finally decided that I deserve to have quality tack and since your life kind of depends on it, girths, reins, etc... It is worth the time in researching brands, materials, etc. and the time saving up to spend the money and buy something nice. With driving being far more expensive than anything else 'horse' I have tried so far, I am learning a big lesson in all this. Do your research, try things out if you can before you buy them and most of all, spend your money wisely and spend it ONCE!
Buying quality tack, bridles, harness, saddles, carts/carriages, saddle pads, splint boots or whatever, is far less expensive in the long run compared to buying cheapy crap and replacing it several times over because it falls apart. Hopefully when it falls apart, you, your horse and any spectators/witnesses are not hurt. Another thing about quality, it makes you 'feel' the part. You will exude confidence, knowing your shit won't break mid performance or mid stride. It still happens now and then, freak accidents and all, but a lot of times, if things are starting to wear out, you should catch it during routine care.
That all being said, on to the costly part...
Sticker Shock, Part 1- covered carts and harnesses. The basics of what you would need to get started. Part 2 will cover the essentials you need to look the part when you compete in the breed show arena, pleasure driving classes or the dressage arena for the CDE's.
Whips- One thing you need when driving is a whip. A whip should be long enough to reach your horses shoulder. The one I was using to start out with, even for Kat, was not. It was also green with a piece of white, blue or sometimes yellow baling twine as a lash & popper. I was stylin' and nobody could touch that! (Not that anybody wanted to... but yeah. ROFL!)
Gary was kind enough to send a whip down to the show with another competitor and it is awesome! He told me to try it out and if I liked it, send him a check, if not, send the whip back with them. I liked it and when I asked about the price, I gotta admit, $40 for a whip sounded a new kind of crazy to me. I have never spent that much on a whip before, but it is a very nice whip and I paid him for it without
Carriage Driving Essentials has them in categories by price- $25-$65, $65-$99 and $100 & over. But the prices don't stop there. Another website, Driving Essentials, Inc. has whips starting at $12.95 and going up to $650 for a holly whip for driving a 4 up hitch. $650 for a whip? Seriously???? But if you are driving 4 horses, have spent a ton of money on horses, carriage, harness and everything else to get there, what's another $650 for a whip? ACK! New Farm Carriage has whips for $25, $70, $80 and 'Call for pricing'. That's okay, I will skip the call and stay with what I have. Thanks.
Gloves- When driving, just as you must carry the whip at all times, you are to be wearing gloves. And don't think you can 'wing it' and use your black gloves from showmanship or riding English. No, No, NO!!! For carriage driving, the proper gloves are to be brown. Just as russet reins are correct even if the rest of the harness is black, your gloves are to be brown, not black. CDE has them from $25-$109 and DEI has them from $11 - $120. NFC has gloves for $45 in two different leathers.
Personally I like the SSG marathon gloves for $30 from CDE, but I may go with the SSG Pro Show leather gloves above them for $40. Otherwise I may go with the gloves from NFC. If money were not an issue there is a pair for about $100 that I like the look of, but I just cannot justify in my own mind $100 for gloves... Am I the only one here on this one? (I hope not!)
Driving Aprons- Just as holding the whip and having brown gloves on are a requirement, your turnout is not complete without a driving apron. I made mine from a piece of cotton fabric, a strip of wide nylon webbing and Velcro. All totalled it was under $20. I think it turned out quite well, but then I do need to make another one since mine is black and when you are dressed in all black, you look like a funeral procession... Not the look everyone is going for, but black does go with everything.
CDE's and driving show classes- they are a must. CDE has aprons for $144 unlined or $159 lined. Of course you can get them monogrammed and in several different colors... DEI has them for $45-$150 and NFC has them for $55 which is not unreasonable at all, in standard colors that are reversible. If you can sew or know someone who does- you can always make your own or have it made for you too.
Hats- This one is a killer. For pleasure driving classes at breed shows, dressage competitions at CDE's and driving shows in general, you are to wear a hat. Otherwise most competitions require or call for helmets. Driving turnout advice is to find the proper hat and build your outfit around it. At the driving show there were a couple of nice hats which were the same color as the ladies jackets or otherwise complimented their outfit while tying in the apron as well. Quite the nice look I gotta say, but when you are talking price and limited budgets, you might be shopping the closeout sections or discontinued items.
While neither CDE or DEI have a big selection, $250 for a hat seems way out of range for me and probably a lot of other people too. Of course there are special order hats, available through DEI, but the part about call for pricing tends to scare me off. NFC has some beautiful hats, but $150-$200 is still a bit much for me to justify for a single hat. I did find two hats at a local antiques shop and will post about them soon. I got quite the deal on them and can work with them to change things up for more than one look. One will be taken apart and used as a pattern since the color just doesn't work with or for me.
Clothing- For women a nice blouse should work for breed shows, but a coat is a more finished look for your turnout in the dressage ring and formal driving classes. Men, it's pretty simple. Shirt, tie and coats pretty much cover it no matter which show ring you are going in. (So not fair, I know!)
So there we have another mind boggling and checkbook draining portion of the "Must Haves" for driving. Since it covers both the breed show requirements, driving show requirements and the turnout/dressage portion for the CDE's, we can move on to other things for different events in the next section. Remember this is supposed to be fun. Don't forget that part. FUN!
*Since driving Kat over the weekend and having issue with his bridle slipping off I was looking at the buckle on top for the piece supporting the blinders and the teardrop decorative piece. The blinder strap was on top of the teardrop piece and I wondered if switching them, putting the teardrop piece on top, would make a difference?
Well it did. It allows the browband to slide down a little further, almost in the correct spot for Kat and the bridle stayed put even though he was shaking his head a lot during our workout last night. Who would have thought? Such small things can make the biggest differences. If this doesn't work, I will be trying a gullet strap, which is another low cost option.*