Very Small Equines and Their Place in Modern Horse Driving Sport

The Miniature Horse

The miniature horse has been around since approximately the 1600s and are thought to have originated in Europe. They were developed by breeding small breeds of horses and ponies to promote their small size and continually reduce height over many generations.

The miniature horse is not classed as a pony and retains many of the characteristics of horses rather than ponies. The American Miniature Horse Association requires that they are no taller than 34inches at the wither. Their lifespan is typically longer than regular horses and ponies and they may well live for nearly 50years.

Miniature Horse

Originally they were thought to have been bred for jobs which required small stature such as down mines. They then became popular as pets and small carriage horses.


Shetland Ponies

Very popular in the UK these tiny yet mighty ponies are rugged and tough as well as often being opinionated! Shetland ponies have roamed the Shetland Isles for more than 4000 years where they originate.

Shetland pony

They have become very popular and are now exported far and wide. Like the miniature horse their original purpose was working in places like coal mines where they could fit in small tunnels and haul heavy loads. In modern times they are frequently seen as children's riding ponies as well as being a popular driving breed

Shetland riding pony

The Shetland pony is also extensively featured by Emma Massingale the horse trainer. Emma is a brand ambassador for Riding and Harness Stuff and she has acheived some incredible things with her Shetlands


Thought to originate from Spanish, Andalusion and Iberian blood lines the Falabella stands up to 34inches. Their body is small and compact with sleek and slim frame though they have retained some of the cob like characteristics from their pony bloodlines such as a thicker coat and mane and tail.

Falabella Horse


This is by no means an exhaustive list but these breeds are probably the most typically seen in horse driving sport.


VSE in Modern Driving trials

VSE's have competed for many years in America with great success in both driving trials and show driving. Until recently there wasn't really a place for VSE's in outdoor driving trials in the UK though they were growing in popularity indoors. So why is this?

Outdoor driving trials has marathon sections which have previously been inhibitive for such small ponies due to the length and the requirement to carry a groom. It simply wasn't practical or fair from a welfare point of view to ask them to drive a full marathon pulling so much weight

Shetland Pony Driving

For 2023, British Carriage Driving, in conjunction with VSE drivers, have formulated a set of rules to make room for these remarkeable horses and ponies in outdoor driving trials.


Maximum height of equine - 44inches

Driver minimum age - 6yo (drivers under 12yo must have an adult on the carriage)

Equine minimum age - 5yo

Full rules are available to view here

VSE at Hopetoun

Picture credit Valfenton Photos

To enable these small equines to compete in all three phases including a marathon it is possible for the groom to be on foot, on a bike or another mode of transport which enables them to remain in close attendance but it is not essential for them to be on the carriage

VSE Single competing at Cardross


What's Involved?

The VSE class follows the same format as all other outdoor driving trials classes. The order of the phases depends a little on the level of the competition.

You may want to read our blog The Evolution of Combined Driving for a more in depth look


This is completed in an arena measuring 80x40m and uses the same test as the Novice Singles.

VSE Dressage Hopetoun

Picture credit Valfenton Photos


The VSEs complete only section B of the marathon and this must not be more than 4km and contain 4 obstacles. The speed laid down for this is 10 km/h, 6 mins per km

VSE Marathon

 VSE marathon carriage driving


For the VSE class the cones are set at 150cm and the carriage width must be 125cm. Speed is set at 200m/min. As with all other classes the aim is to pass between the cones without knocking any balls off and in the correct order and direction within the time allowed.


So Where do You Start?

If you have a small pony which is not yet driving then the first step is to find an appropriate trainer in your area to help you get going. Your Local Driving Clubs may be able to help you with finding available trainers.

There are various sets of harness for mini through to small pony to suit all budgets and preferences. All of these models are available in small sizes.

Click Here to View

In the meantime you can still be involved and learn about the sport, check out our blog How To Get Involved With Driving Trials When You Don't Have a Horse!


If you already have a pony ready to go, perhaps you have even been competing at indoor events, then all you need to do is read over the short page of rules on the British Carriage Driving website and look for events in your area holding VSE classes. If you don't find what you are looking for in the British Carriage Driving Events Page then try looking up the Local Driving Clubs and visit their websites.


So why would you want to do this?

The sport of horse driving trials is one of the most precious, sociable and welcoming sports in the equestrian World. We often have the opportunity to visit some of the most stunning and often exclusive country estates in the United Kingdom

Dalmeny Driving Event

It is a place where you can form lifelong friendships with like minded people who will support you and show you encouragement through thick and thin


Byewell Carriage Driving

 Perhaps enjoy some silly evening games over a glass of wine

Welly wanging at Cardross driving trials

 Or occassionally even more adventurous entertainment

Raehills Driving Trials Challenge

You may travel all over the country competing, if you choose to, on a new adventure

Travelling to Byewell

 Driving Trials

The World of horse driving trials is a "Family" one big happy family spread the length and breadth of the country. Just come along, get involved and you'll wonder how you have gone through life without this sport in your life


If you have any questions just Get In Touch



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1 comment

  • Alison Turnbull

    How about including Kerry Bog ponies in your ‘great to drive’ small ponies!

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