Minis at Myopia

Myopia Driving Club has been actively trying to encourage the owners of miniature horses, also known as VSEs (very small equines), into the driving community and joining in the excitement of combined driving trials. Happily, the minis have become a success in proving that even the “little horses” have big hearts and give it their all when doing three phase events. Yes, we may need a smaller ring and a shorter marathon, but just watch out for us in the cones! Those little minis think the cones courses are made just for them and really enjoy the competition.

The minis bring a “curiosity” factor with them. People are attracted to the little ones, which are much less intimidating than a big horse. When the minis are on the move, people are snapping pictures and asking all sorts of questions.

There are many perks to owning a mini. They eat much less, basically a flake of hay a day and small amounts of grain. Blankets and equipment are much cheaper. They do not wear shoes, so farrier costs are much less. You don’t need big rigs to transport them and for the price of one Freedman harness, you can outfit 10 minis for driving. I think the best thing about owning a mini is that I can do it all by myself. I don’t need a header or someone to help me load all of my gear and horses. This is the perfect driving horse for people who are getting a little older and don’t have the manpower anymore to load the cart, load the horse and drive the rig. Another plus is that the cart is closer to the ground, so if you happen to fall out of your cart, it’s a very short distance.

Minis also seem to “get it” quicker than a big horse. You can teach a mini something in say, three attempts, where a big horse will take six attempts. They have a greater intelligence (my opinion) and for the most part are very kind. This is proven out by how wonderful they are at therapy work, going into buildings, riding in elevators and generally just being a lot of fun. You can walk them like you do your dog, of course, the looks you get and the traffic you stop is always a hoot. They are also really good at raising money for charitable events. Have I said enough about the perks of owning a mini….if not I can go on. For instance, we can go under gates that big horses have to find a way around… not that I am advocating trespassing, just giving a little more insight to mini ownership. The minis have become great ambassadors for the horse industry with the general population but especially the elderly and children.

So with all that said, you might just want to try driving a mini before settling on your next driving horse, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Nancy LeBaron-Kiley

Nancy LeBaron-Kiley and Maggie the mini…

Spring Cleaning Your Rig

As we look forward to a new driving season, here are some carriage maintenance tips. Let’s start at the front with the harness.

I’m not going to get into leather care. I think there are others who can do a better job on this subject. I would like to address the metal bits. If brass, they have to be cleaned and polished regularly. Even stainless ones need some work if they are to look really good. I have found two products that have worked very well for me. I’m sure there are many others on the market as well.

The first is BRASSO. Anyone who had any contact with the military before they went to black buckles and insignia will know of this one. It will polish up the most green and dirty brass and make it shine brilliantly. It does take some work, though. Available at hardware stores.

Another that works very well is SIMICHROME. It is a German product that is available at motorcycle shops. I have used a lot of it on my bikes and have been very satisfied. Bike shops are interesting to visit. You may meet your doctor or lawyer there!

Both of the above are applied with a rag (old t-shirts work well) so some effort and patience are needed, but the results are worth it.

For those with less time or patience, or who are just plain lazy, the process can be motorized. A Dremel tool with a felt mop can be used to good effect. You will need some polishing compound for the mop. The ones to get are Tripoli and White Rouge. Start with the Tripoli and then go to the White Rouge, if you want it even brighter. You may well be satisfied with the Tripoli. If you are a real fanatic, there is also the even finer Jeweler’s Rouge for the ultimate shine, but I don’t think this is practical or desirable on working harness. However, a few notes on safety.

Firstly, a Dremel tool turns at an incredible rpm. The little tools are obviously turning at the same speed. They can fly apart, especially if mishandled. The possibility of serious eye injury is real. The solution is to wear goggles or a face shield. I have used these tools for years with no trouble, but why take a chance?

Once you have used one of these, you will find they are handy for all sorts of things. There are an almost unbelievable variety of attachments available. Dremel tools can be purchased at hardware stores and the like. The buffing compounds mentioned above are more of a problem. Try automotive specialist stores that cater to the DIY set such as hot rodders, the tuner car people, or auto body supply places. Don’t be afraid to go in. They’re cool! You’ll meet some interesting people! If you can’t locate some, check out This is a good company with good products. I have found them to be good people to deal with.

Another safety problem is the dust, filled with abrasive, that comes off the mop. Granted, you won’t be doing much and the mops are small, but why expose yourself at all? Simply wear a face mask that can be purchased at any hardware store. Read the label to get the right one, as there are many types. You want one that protects from fine dust. In the old days in motorcycle factories where they had chrome plating facilities, the buffers, who usually didn’t wear proper safety equipment, would often come down with an affliction called “plater’s cough” which in time could be fatal. When they died, it was said they “fell off the wire.”