The British Driving Society (BDS) is the governing body for carriage driving in the UK. The society divides the country into various areas and regions, with an appointed Area Commissioner who deals with local enquiries and organises events in their members.
If your horse is safe to ride and has experience of the wide world outside the paddock or arena – with particular emphasis on safe behaviour in traffic – the likely answer is yes. By introducing driving, the outgrown or underworked children’s pony can really come into its own. One that has ‘been there and worn the Pony Club t-shirt’ would be very suitable, and could really benefit from a little extra work. This can have helpful side effects, such as keeping laminitis at bay.
However, unless you are an experienced carriage driver, or ‘whip’, with very able helpers, it is unwise to attempt the big step of breaking any animal to harness work yourself. You are better advised to send the horse or pony away from its familiar environment to a professional who will have the right equipment and help available to cope with any eventuality.
The BDS can usually put you in touch with someone reputable. Do be truthful about the past experiences your horse has had, as there can be nothing more frustrating for the professional than when it becomes apparent that previous unsuccessful attempts have been made to put the animal in shafts.
So how long might it take? As with getting a horse accustomed to a rider, this largely depends on the animal. Some horses see the transformation it as a wonderful new experience, and are relatively quickly settled into harness. Others are more wary and can take some time to get used to breeching, crupper and of course the blinkers. Lots of ground work such as lunging and long reining then needs to be done daily before considering introducing the shafts and some sort of breaking vehicle.
However when the trainer is satisfied with the progress being made by the horse or pony, and you also are competent enough, then is the time perhaps to begin your lessons with this novice turnout.