How and Why To Balance A Two Wheeled Cart

It seems the blog is going through an informational phase while we are waiting for Driving Season to begin.  This was a post written to the Recreational Equine Driving Group that I want to share with you.  I think Ron has done an excellent job in describing how to balance your two wheel cart.  So read on my friends…

Balancing a two-wheeled vehicle is rather simple. First though, you must know your ‘balance point.’ This is easily determined with a very trustworthy assistant. What you need to do to find the ‘B.P.’ (balance point) is to have your assistant hold the shafts (securely) about the height they normally would rest in the tugs of your horse’s harness. Then you climb into the cart and situate yourself in a normal driving position. Your assistant raises the shafts till there is a negative (overbalance) weight. The best thing is for them to hold the shafts there whilst you climb out and measure the location. Or if you have a second assistant take that measurement. The shafts should be just below this point so that they have very little weight on them. You don’t want much of any weight on the horse’s back, nor do you want the vehicle overbalancing and consequently putting a lot of stress on your horse’s bellyband. It must just balance there and ‘float’.

When you are moving, the B. P. is when the shafts are just floating in the tugs (best done with English or open tugs and fairly loose wrap-straps). You will notice this as the jigging from the horse’s movement will cease. The ride will smooth out very noticeably. You can adjust the balance point (in a properly adjusted harness and cart) by leaning forward and backward in your seat (this is where the seatback can become a useful tool in balancing a cart).

Now, all that said and done, some carts are hopelessly shaft heavy. You can tell this when your Balance Point produces a seat that is sloped towards the rear of the vehicle. Ideally, when the vehicle is balanced, the seat should be level. This is the best situation anyway and not often achieved. I have often found that adjusting the balance on a shaft heavy cart is as simple as putting a cinderblock (well wrapped in a heavy cloth) under the seat, behind the axle. My Harewood Gig was that way. A Meadowbrook has a flat floor that goes conveniently behind the axle, which would be a perfect place for a counter-balance if it were actually needed.

The opposite of shaft heavy is shaft light, which is not so common. That is to say, the seat would be tilted forward and the shafts pointing somewhat downward at Balance Point. Well, then you just hang the counterweight off the crossbar or put it where you can rest your feet on it. ie: forward of the axle. Again, the idea is to produce a level seat for you, the driver.

Once you find those ‘floating shafts’ the effect will be very satisfactory, I promise you. In fact, many two-wheeled vehicles can be much more comfortable than their counterparts who have a wheel in each corner.

Ron Smith

Fawn Lodge, California

 *Note* Ron’s suggestions will work for all two wheeled carts even the light weight easy entry carts.

Thank you Ron, for allowing your message to be reprinted on the Teamdonk blog. 

 To determine why this is so important you need to try this easy experiment.  Use a bale of hay for your weight and a wheel barrow for your vehicle. 

Experiment #1 Hang the end of the hay bale over the front of a wheelbarrow and push.

Experiment #2 Move the bale to the rear of wheelbarrow and let it hang out over the handles.  Now push. 

By doing this you can determine why it is so important for a driving horse to PULL (PUSH) without CARRYING.  That is why it is so important to balance your two wheeled cart for your animal’s ability and comfort.  The benefit you receive is in a smoother ride. Adjusting your weight back and forth for the hills to balance shaft weight makes you a more active driver.  Barb Lee offered this suggestion on the same message forum.

The Pacific Carriage Gig and Show Cart that I drive are equipped with a winding mechanism that moves the seat forward and aft to aid in the balancing.  My method is to manually move the seat to where I receive most balanced ride.  Of course you need to remember when adding a passenger your weight/balance will change and the seat will need adjusted again.  Our process for balancing the Pacific Gig is to use the winding mechanism until there are only a couple of ounces of weight at the end of the shafts.  This can be accomplished for one or two people in the gig with another person at the end of the shafts who tests the weight and makes the seat adjustments with the winding mechanism. 

Teamdonk plans are for Merlin to drive as a single on the Pacific Gig this spring in preparation for Tandem driving later this summer.  Stay tuned for Teamdonk’s multiple hitches in 2012!

Here is a photo from 2007 of RMS Lippyluver Luc and the Border Days Grand Marshall in the rodeo arena.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.


About Teamdonk

Teamdonk is all about Kristi's three driving and riding donkeys. Join us as we share our adventures. Meet the boys Luc, Galahad and Merlin. Don't forget to visit the older blogs at, 2010, 2011, 2012 13 & 14 add the year like this
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