Driving Tips

    History of Coaching | Accidents | The Bath Road
    Coaching Stories | Gentlemen Drivers | Postillions |
    Turnpike Trusts | Inns | The Mail | Styles of Coach
    E-mail me | Join the Regency Ring | Back to the Regency collection

    How to Hold the Reins
    Start with the reins in the left hand and the whip in the right. Reins shouldn't be held in both hands and up around the nose with and the hands 8-12 inches apart. It is enough to give a man a fit of the shivers.

    For driving four horses take the two reins of the lead horses and put them by thumb and first finger of your left hand, then take the wheel reins and put them on either side of the third finger of the left hand.

    The reins should be in one hand, so to give the horse 'the office' you only need to bend your hand. The driving hand should be front and and centre with the knuckles of your hand to the fron tand your forearm excatly square to the upper arms, the elbow and back of the fingers when you when shut over the reins lightly touching your coat.

    If you hold the reins too long then when the driver has to pull back they end up saying 'hello' to the groom behind them - or perhaps see a balloon flying overhead.

    Avoid sqauring your elbow or swagger of any sort when driving.

    Hold the whip in your right hand but not right at the end - where the collar is - this is about 14-16 inches from the thick end of the stick - it is best balanced there.

    Driving is about keeping on good terms with your horse, this means treating your team lightly and not jobbing at the bit.

    This has been paraphrased from the Duke of Beaufort's book "Driving" which is part of the Badminton Library.

    Return to the top

    Speed of a Team
    Speeds - you generally need to gallop a team to make 10 miles in an hour, but a good team trotting cover that distance, a more general team will cover 8 miles.

    Big sixteen hand horses look slower, but have a longer gait, smaller high stepping horses look showy but don't cover the distance. See Carriage types for some of the discussion on various horses suitable for Tilbury's and Stanhope's.

    Return to the top

    Choosing the right Horse
    A coach horse is similar to a hunting horse - but don't need something as big boned - it doesn't have to carry that weight across country.

    The head should be small, broad across the forehad and well-cut, the nose not projecting or Roman. Eyes should be prominent as so to give a wide range of sight and not show too much of the white which is supposed to denote a tendencey to vice. The neck should be light not too long and the head so set on that the horse can carry it slightly bent but neither pointing his nose striaght out in front of him nor up in the air. The shoulder is of less importance for a harness than for a riding horse, but both bones should be placed at their proper angle and the point of the shoulder should be nearly in a line with the point of the toe. The chest should be both deep and broad giving full room for the vital parts of the animal. The upper bone of the leg should be large and thick and longer in proportion than the lower bone. Muscular development should also be sought. The lower bone of the leg should be prefectly straight beween the knee and the fetlock. The feet should be neither large nor small for the size of the animal; the fore-hoofs should form an angle of about 50 degrees with the ground the hind feet being slightly more upright. If the feet are too straight it may be found that they are contracted. The back should be straight and short, the loins large and muscular the quarters long and well let down, not short, round and drooping. the hock clean and well defined and so placed as to come into direct line with the back of the heel and it should be possible to draw a line from the middle of the front of the forearm, down the middle of the knee to the middle of the hoof.

    So you all have been told! I expect no slugs a trifle tied at the knee!

    Return to the top

    Action of the Horse
    High action while very showy means a horse is inefficient a horse should step moderately without kicking over a sixpence, but not so high an action that it jars its feet. The best is a short quick stepping team. The wheelers should be thicker and shorter than the leaders.

    While the working life of a horse owned by a family might be several years, the life of a coach horse was not long - around 3 years. During this time they were required to trot 10 miles per day at a furlong a minute pulling two tons. Once retired they were often sold to farmers where the work wasn't as hard.

    Return to the top

    Handling your Whip
    You should have a stick five feet long and a whip twice that length (ie 10 feet although 9'6 is perectly acceptable.) it should be perfectly balanced and made of well seasoned holly or yew. Blackthorn is the most difficult to get so quite sought after - many whips are found to be too long in the stick.

    While a novice is learning it is quite acceptable to have the thong slightly heavy. A knot below the quill will assist beginners in catching the whip and a little soft soap rubbed on to the thong to make it more pliable. A few laether points should always be carried which can easily be plaited on to the whip in case.

    Again, The Duke of Beaufort's book 'Driving' is drawn on heavily for this passage.

    Return to the top

    Return to Regency Collection