Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia horse and buggy rides aren't just thing of the past

Driving — a horse that is — allows people to maintain a connection with a horse even if they're not physically able to ride and some say it offers a life-long challenge.

Nova Scotia Driving Society membership has doubled from 30 to 60 in the past decade

Horse-drawn carriages aren't just a thing of the past, they're part of a growing pastime in Nova Scotia.

This weekend, the Nova Scotia Driving Society hosted a two-day clinic to offers its members the chance to improve their skills. 

"It's like any other sport. You have to practice it and you have to have the proper skill to do it and first of all to have fun," said equestrian coach Francois Bergeron, who is based in Quebec. 

The basics are the same but instead of riding the horse and signaling to them through leg, seat and hand movements, the driver gives hand and voice commands from a carriage. 

Unlike harness racing, the goal is presentation, not speed. 

Nova Scotia horse and buggy rides aren't just thing of the past

7 years ago
Duration 0:49
Nova Scotia horse and buggy rides aren't just thing of the past

Membership of the Nova Scotia Driving Society has doubled from 30 to 60 people from all over the Maritimes over the past decade. 

Members range in age from 12 to 83 and Bergeron says it's an ideal sport for people as they get older. 

Now on his third visit, Bergeron says he see new faces every time. 

"A lot of people who were riding before, and they're too old and their back is not following the rest of the body, they want to continue to work with the horse," he said.

Lifelong challenge

Gordon Young of Enfield got hooked on the sport early on and has been driving for 26 years. It's a pastime that has its rewards, he says. 

"You're trying to communicate with an animal twice your size. To get an animal to listen to you and your voice and want to work with you and it's there. When it comes together it's just a really nice feeling," he said.

Young says many people are taking up the sport when their kids leave home without their horses.

He says there's a supportive community in the province that helps people learn the ins and outs of using the carriage and harness. 

But the trick, he says, is ensuring it's the driver guiding the horse and not the other way around. 

This weekend Bergeron, who also judges combined driving shows across the region, offered tips to about a dozen drivers about the proper form and what judges are looking for in a competition.

"It's a partnership. It's not just your way or the highway. You have to consider your partner and make sure they're on the same page as you are, that they're happy and supported," said Anne Wilson, who owns and runs the boarding and training facility that hosted the clinic. 

She says part of the discipline's appeal is that it never stops being a challenge.

"It's something you can work at over your whole life."

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