“One metre away from my hands the wheeler reins split up and the split from the left wheeler rein is leading to the left side of the left horse and to the left side of the right horse.
“So if I pull on my left wheeler rein I pull both wheelers to the left – otherwise I would only be driving my left horse and the right horse would have no clue where to go.”
It is the same set up with the leader reins and it is the leaders who, as you might expect, control the direction the carriage goes.
“What we do is steer our ‘front wheels’ – the leaders – and the wheelers should follow the track they are making around the cone or the post. That is the key to being a team,” Chardon explained.
“We are not just pulling the wheeler and the leader reins at the same time, that would be like a truck without its back wheels steering”.
The relationship between the two pairs of horses is symbiotic. With the leaders steering, the wheelers do most of the hard graft in terms of pulling the carriage, particularly in the two technical disciplines.
“Your leaders should be “out of draft” – not pulling – in cones and dressage because otherwise they pull the carriage round too soon,” Chardon said. “If the leaders go round a tight corner and pull the carriage with them, then the wheelers have no chance. This is a tricky part of driving.”
Reins are not enough to do all of this on their own. Chardon and his peers need additional tools to encourage four supremely fit horses to work perfectly in sync.
“They are on voice command,” he explained. “So, if I see the post coming on the right side, I name the horse and he knows to step over – it’s individual voice command. But every now and then, an uphill or heavy water say, a voice command won’t be enough. Then we need the whip to tell them, the same as in riding, to go in the right position so we don’t get a big crash.
“We don’t have leg commands so we need our whip, just very little touches. It is our legs.”