UC Davis Draft Horse and Driving Club teaches horsemanship and driving skills to both experienced and inexperienced horsemen
Trotting past the sea of bikes, skateboards, walkers and buses are Olive and Dee, two Percheron mares, ages 10 and seven respectively. They traipse across the grassy Auad at peak commute time between classes pulling their wagon, which holds smiling members of the Draft Horse and Driving Club.
The Draft Horse and Driving Club, a student-run club that teaches its members how to drive draft horses in both team and single carts, has been a staple at UC Davis for 12 years. One of the past Horse Barn managers started the club when he was a student and continued it until he eventually became the barn manager.
The club meets at the Horse Barn and provides eight three-hour practice times: two on Tuesdays and one each day Monday through Saturday. The president of the club, third-year animal science major Christy Collins, said that members do not have to come to all of the drives; they have many options for involvement, so students have a lot of opportunities to come.
“Just the horses, getting to drive, getting to go out and about on campus — it has been a very fun, very cool experience,” said Keely Davies a fifth-year animal biology major and club member.
“Any student or anyone affiliated with UC Davis can join the club; there is no horse experience required,” Collins said.
“I didn’t have real horse experience before I joined, so I thought it was a different challenge,” said the Vice President of the club and fourth-year biological-sciences major Henrique Noro Frizzo. “And you have to learn how to deal with the horses, and since I have become an officer, the people too, and that’s really cool.”
Collins said that 270 people are signed up on the roster but closer to 40 to 50 actually show up to drives consistently. How many people come usually depends on the day of the week. During the week, usually around 4 to 7 people show up, but on Saturdays anywhere from 8 to 15 people will attend.
The club is hired for many events for different university departments like Horse Day or parades for Picnic Day. For some events, people just want the aesthetic look of the horses and wagon, and for others, they want rides. Even though the club is not paid for these events, Collins said that they like doing them because they enjoy it, in addition to receiving publicity and making connections with professors.
To join, Frizzo said that people should just show up to one of the drives at any point in the quarter. They can meet the club members at the back-east corner of the Horse Barn; the first drive for the club is free.
For new members, Collins said they start by driving in the arena. Once they learn how to drive, they work their way up to driving on a bike path in the arboretum or out west on the road by the Sheep Barn and Beef Facility. Once members are very comfortable driving, they go on campus in the quad.
“We teach them everything they need to know with handling draft horses, grooming them, driving them and all the steps in between,” Collins said. “We try to provide experience for people who do not necessarily have the opportunity to work with horses. This is purely for people who are interested in horses at all.”
All of the draft horses and most of the equipment, like harnesses and carts, have been donated. UC Davis funds the club and pays for the upkeep of the horses in exchange for one horse being used for breeding to make the school a profit. However, Collins said that since they only have two horses right now, none are used for breeding. Other funding for the club comes from selling t-shirts and member dues.
From donations, the team has a wagon for team driving, two single carts, a two-seater cart with two wheels and a four-seater cart with four wheels, Davies explained.
The horses that the team currently has, Olive and Dee, are both used for single and team driving. Collins said that the team has had Olive for about six years and Dee for about three. Dee was completely untrained when she was donated, so the team was in charge of teaching her how to drive.
“Dee is very cool because she had no training whatsoever,” Davies said. “I think they are both really great horses, and they are both very quiet, very mellow.”
Collins said that she joined the club as a first-year because she thought it was the easiest way for her to get horse experience. The only expenses for the club are team dues, which are $20 for the first quarter and $25 for the rest.
“Many of the other horse clubs and teams require a lot more expenses or a lot of experience or your own horse sometimes,” Collins said. “This club is solely [so] you come out and work with horses, which I really like.”
Since Davies has previous horse experience from being around horses her whole life and riding on the UC Davis Hunter-Jumper Team, she said joining this club and learning to drive horses was a novel experience for her. Davies explained that driving is similar to riding horses, but you cannot use your legs to make the horse go forward. Davies stated that team driving is hardest because one person must control two horses at once.
“There are more brains at work,” Davies said. “In riding, you’ve got yourself and your horse with its own mind, and now you’ve got two of them and a bunch of people sitting in the wagon.”
After joining the club and fulfilling her childhood dream of getting to drive horses, Davies said that she recommends others join the club.
“I met a lot of different people, made friends and felt like I am a part of something historical,” Davies said.
Written By: MARGO ROSENBAUM — firstname.lastname@example.org