I have pointed out before about how different the sport of driving is from the ridden events. Well the money part of it is completely different. Aside from the cart & harness, which can run from one end of the spectrum to the other, there are many other things involved IF you are going to compete with the big boys.
I will start with the basic things and move on as we go to things you need for the different types of competitions.
Carts- Most people start out with an easy entry type cart for a few reasons. One being they are reasonably priced (usually around $500 and up) and are a great starter if you just want to dip your feet in the water. They are also pretty light weight and easy to transport. Stateline Tack even carries carts, for those wondering... One of the downsides to these type of carts, they may not be very durable, but the flip side of that- replacement parts can be easily attained and switched out. Also as you progress, the spoked pneumatic tires are only allowed in the lower levels.
If you are going the route of breed shows, then different carts are required there as well.Some of the two wheeled versions seen in the ring are the simple show sulkies starting at around $2,045.00 through Jerald for the stripped version in pony size and then the nice 4 wheel version, the Viceroy for $5,150.00 in pony size. Horse sizes for those interested, $2150.00 for the sulky and $5150.00 for the fine harness buggy or $5250.00 for the Viceroy respectively. These are typically what is seen in the Arab, QH, TWH, ASB, Shetland, Hackney and miniature horse showring rings.
For the competitor who may be competing in events with obstacles, ADT's & especially CDE's, a more durable and sturdy cart is a definite requirement, such as the Sprint Driving Carts by Frey Carriage Company. They start at around $2700 for the mini & small pony size, going up to $3000 for large horse, $3100 for draft size respectively. They offer a lot of standard features on the basic models and of course for a fee you can customize your cart to whatever extent you choose.
Sometimes you can find used carts online for sale at a more reasonable price, since the seller may be moving up to a different type of cart, different competitions, downsizing or even getting out altogether. I found my cart on CL for a fraction of what they went for new, and considering the changes that have been made, I am still managing to come in under the retail price when they were still being made.
If you want to go the route of a 4 wheel carriage or marathon type vehicle, expect to pay more since there is more materials and labor involved. One of the big differences in the 2 wheel vs. 4 wheel carts, while the 4 wheel cart may weigh more- it's weight is distributed on the wheels and not the horse, where the 2 wheel carts- the horse bears some of the weight through the shafts & saddle of the harness. The 4 wheel carts also usually have brakes where the 2 wheel versions don't- relying on the breeching as your braking system. The different 4 wheel marathon type carts tend to start in the $5,000 range and go up from there and some of the carriages are right there with them in pricing.
Harness- We all know about the cheapy nylon harness available for a little over $100 through most tack catalogs and sometimes they come thrown in with a cart. I now have 2 of them. While they may fit some horses ok, for the most part, their best use is when getting started, letting the horse get accustomed to straps flapping around their legs, the crupper being on, the breeching being there, the breastcollar, blinders and maybe some ground driving. If you have one, great, use it for what it's worth, but if you are going to spend the money, skip the nylon harness and go for a decent synthetic (see below). They may cost a little more, but like all things, with proper care, you can usually get a decent return on your investment if you decide to sell it later on.
My own harness is from Amber Hillside, formerly Ron's Horse Tack in Canada. One of the things I liked most about their harness is the quality shown in the comparison photos and their double guarantee. They were also incredibly helpful when it came time to order the harness and with advice on how to make the alterations needed to fit Kat, since nothing seems to fit him off the shelf or out of the box... They have a synthetic harness for under $200 and their leather harness is under $500.00 for minis to draft sizes.
If you are going for the gusto on a harness and money is not an object, believe me, there are some pricey harnesses out there. Smuckers and Zilco come to mind since they are seen a lot and mostly what I have heard of in the horsey circles I have traveled. Smuckers synthetic harness starts at around $550.00 and their leather harness start at $895.00 From their website here- Smuckers Harness. Zilco Harness is available through local distributors and from what I have seen of them on Advanced Equine, their pricing starts around $500 and goes up as well. I have seen harnesses going for $1200 and up, for a single horse, so it all depends on what you want and how much you are willing or more like able to spend.
So there's the beginning of the 'sticker shock' series from the drivers seat. Wait until we look at other stuff like hats, helmets, whips, bits, protective vests and entry fees... If this one didn't blow your mind, maybe some of the other stuff will?? Just remember to breathe and we should all be fine.
To help your breathing... Extreme Carriage Driving