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Driving

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DRIVING, a word used in a restricted sense for the art of controlling and directing draught animals from a coach or other conveyance or movable machine to which they are harnessed for the purpose of traction (from "to drive"; i.e. generally to pro pel, force along or in, a word common in various forms to the Teutonic languages). This has been an occupation practised since domesticated animals were first put to this use. In various parts of the world a number of different animals have been, and still are, so employed ; of these the horse, ox, mule and ass are the most common, though their place is taken by the reindeer in northern latitudes, and by the Eskimo dog in arctic and antarctic regions. The driving of each of these requires special skill, only to be acquired by practice combined with knowledge of the characteristics peculiar to the several animals employed.

Under all these different conditions driving is a work of utility, of economic value to civilized society. But from very early times driving, especially of horses, has also been regarded as a sport or pastime. This probably arose in the first instance from its association with battle. In the earliest historical records, such as the Old Testament and the Homeric poems, the driver of the chariot fills a place of importance in the economy of war; and on his skill and efficiency the fate of kings, and even of kingdoms, must often have depended. The statement in the Book of kings that Jehu the son of Nimshi was recognized from a distance by his style of driving appears to indicate that the warrior himself on occasion took the place of the professional charioteer; and al though it would be unsafe to infer from the story that the pleas ure derived from the occupation was his motive for doing so, the name of this king of Israel has become the eponym of drivers. Among the Greeks at an equally early period driving was a recog nized form of sport, to the popularity of which Horace after wards made allusion. Racing between teams of horses harnessed to war-chariots took the place occupied by saddle-horse racing and American trotting races (see HORSE-RACING) in the sport of mod ern times. The element of danger doubtless gave pleasurable excitement to chariot racing and kept alive its association with incidents familiar in war; just as at a later period, when the in stitution of chivalry had given the armed knight on horseback a conspicuous place in mediaeval warfare, the tournament be came the most popular sport of the aristocracy throughout Europe.

Driving as it is practised to-day for pleasure without profit, and without the excitement of racing, is of quite modern develop ment. Oliver Cromwell, indeed, met with a mishap in Hyde Park while driving a team of four horses presented to him by the count of Oldenburg, which was the subject of more than one satirical allusion by contemporary royalist writers ; but two things were needed before much enjoyment could be found in driving, apart from utility. These were the invention of carriages on springs, and the construction of roads with smooth and solid surface. The former did not come into general use till near the end of the 18th century, and it was about the same period that the engineering skill of Thomas Telford and the invention of John London Mac adam combined to provide the latter. The influence on driving of these two developments was soon apparent. Throughout the 18th century stage-coaches, ponderous unwieldy vehicles without springs, had toiled slowly over rough and deeply rutted tracks as a means of communication between different parts of Great Britain; but those who made use of them did so as a matter of necessity and not for enjoyment. But by the beginning of the 19th century the improvement in carriage-building and road-con struction alike had greatly diminished the discomfort of travel; and interest in driving for its own sake grew so rapidly that in 1807 the first association of amateur coachmen was formed. The two principal driving clubs in recent times have been the Four-in-Hand and Coaching Clubs. The former was founded in 18J4 by the then duke of Beaufort, and such was its popularity that the club could not entertain a quarter of the applications for membership. In 1870 therefore the Coaching Club was formed with the duke of Beaufort as president. The meets of these two clubs in Hyde Park were in pre-war days a great feature of the London season, and on two or three occasions the Coaching Club mustered more than 3o coaches. The Four-in-Hand Club after an existence of over 7o years was dissolved in 1926, but the Junior Club in 1927 continued to be well supported, and in this year some 1 0 to I 2 members drove their drags to the three meets which were held. The club at this time numbered 41 members.

Road-coaching has for long been a popular pastime amongst horsemen in the British Isles. Following the supersession of the stage-coaches by railways an important revival of coaching was initiated in 1866, and up to the time of the World War there were numerous well-appointed stage-coaches running daily in and out of London, notably on the Brighton and Portsmouth roads. On July 13, 1888, J. Selby, the well-known professional coach man, performed his celebrated feat of driving the "Old Times" coach from London to Brighton and back in 7hrs. and 5omins. This drive worked out at an average pace of 13.79m. per hour, horses being changed so smartly that with 8 teams and 14 changes the latter took altogether only 6mins. I2secs. Since the war, owing to economic conditions and the great increase in motor traffic most of these coaches have been compelled to come off the road, but in 1927 the "Old Berkeley" and "Venture" coaches, running respectively to Boxhill and Hampton Court had success ful seasons (see COACHING) .

In modern driving, one, two or four horses are usually em ployed. When a greater number than four is put in harness, as in the case of the state equipages of royal personages on occa sions of ceremony, the horses are not driven but are controlled by "postillions" mounted on the near-side horse of each pair. When two horses are used they may either be placed side by side, in "double harness," which is the commoner mode of driv ing a pair of horses, or one following the other, in a "tandem." Four horses, or "four-in-hand," are harnessed in two pairs, one following the other, and called respectively the "leaders" and the "wheelers." Though it is a less difficult accomplishment to drive a single horse than a tandem or four-in-hand, or even a pair, it neverthe less requires both knowledge and the skill that practice alone con fers. The driver should have some knowledge of equine character, and complete familiarity with every part of the harness he uses, and with the purpose which each buckle or strap is intended to serve. The indefinable quality known in horsemanship as "good hands" is, partly at least, the result of learning the correct po sition for the arm and hand that holds the reins. The reins are held in the left hand, which should be kept at about the level of the lowest button of the driver's waistcoat, and near the body though not pressed against it. The driving hand should never be reached forward more than a few inches, nor raised as high as the breast. The upper arm should lie loosely against the side, the forearm horizontal across the front of the body, form ing a right angle or 'thereabouts at the elbow-joint, the wrist bent inwards, and the back of the hand and knuckles facing out wards towards the horses. In this position the three joints of the arm form a kind of automatic spring that secures the "give" to the movement of the horse's mouth which, in conjunction with firmness, is a large part of what is meant by "good hands." But this result is only obtained if the reins be also held with the proper degree of bearing on the bit. What the proper degree may be depends greatly on the character of the horses and the sever ity of the bit. Pulling horses must be restrained by a strong draw on their bits, such as would bring other animals to a standstill. But under no circumstances, no matter how sluggish the horses are, should the reins be allowed to lie slack. The driver should therefore always just "feel his horse's mouth" as lightly as pos sible ; he then has the animal well under control in readiness for every emergency, while avoiding such a pull on the mouth as would cause a high-spirited horse to chafe and fret.

These principles are common to all branches of the art of driv ing, whether of one, two or four horses. When they are observed no great difficulty confronts the coachman who is content with single or double harness, provided he has acquired the eye for pace and distance, and the instinctive realization of the length of the carriage behind him, without which he may suffer colli sion with other vehicles, or allow insufficient room in turning a corner or entering a gateway. For before he can have had the practice by which alone. this knowledge is to be gained, the begin ner will have learnt such elementary facts as that his horses must be held well in hand going down hill and given their heads on an ascent, and to be sparing in the use of the hand-brake, with which most modern carriages are provided. This apparatus is most useful in case of emergency, or for taking weight off the carriage on a really steep descent ; but the habit which too many coachmen fall into of using the brake on every trifling decline should be avoided. Its effect is that the horses are continually do ing collar-work, and are thus deprived of the relief which ought to be given them by occasional light pole or shaft work instead.

Tandem and Four-in-hand.

When the ambition of the amateur coachman leads him to attempt a tandem or four-in hand he enters on a much more complex department of the art of driving. In the first place he has now four reins instead of two to manipulate, and the increase of weight on his hand, espe cially when four horses are being driven, requires considerable strength of wrist to support it without tiring. It is of the first importance, moreover, that he should know instinctively the posi tion in his hand of each of the reins, and be able automatically and instantaneously to lay a finger on any one of them. The driver who has to look at his reins to find the off-side leader's rein, or who touches the near-side wheeler's in mistake for it, is in peril of a catastrophe. It is therefore essential that the reins should be correctly disposed between the fingers of the left hand, and that the driver should as quickly as possible accustom him self to handle them automatically. The coachman should take the reins in his hand before mounting the box-seat, as otherwise his team may make a start without his having the means to control them. It is customary to hitch the reins, ready for him to take them on or through the off-side terret (the ring on the pad through which the rein runs) of the wheeler—the off-side wheeler in four-in-hand. Standing on the ground beside the off side wheel of his carriage, ready to mount to the box-seat, the coachman, after drawing up his reins till he almost feels the horses' mouths, must then let out about a foot of slack in his off-side reins, in order that when on his seat he may find all the reins as nearly as possible equal in length in his hand. The reins should then be transferred to the right hand disposed as they will be in the left when ready to start, but one finger lower down; the first finger will then be free to hold on to the footboard in mounting the box. When replaced in the left hand after mount ing, the leaders' reins should be separated by the forefinger, and the wheelers' by the middle finger. The near-leader's rein will then be uppermost of the four, between the forefinger and thumb; then between the forefinger and middle finger are two reins to gether—the off-leader's and the near-wheeler's in the order named; while at the bottom, between the middle and third fingers, is the off-wheeler's rein. It will be found that held thus the reins spread immediately in front of the hand in such a way that each sev eral rein, and each pair of reins—two near-side, two off-side, two wheelers', or two leaders'—can be conveniently manipulated; and the proficient driver can instinctively and instantaneously grasp any of them he chooses with his right hand without hav ;ng to turn his eyes from the road before him to the reins in his hand. Having seated himself on the box and transferred the reins, thus disposed, from the right to the left hand, the coach man should shorten them till he just feels his wheelers' mouths and hold back his leaders sufficiently to prevent them quite tight ening their traces. Then, when he has taken the whip from its socket in his right hand, he is ready to start. This is an oper ation requiring careful management, to secure that leaders and wheelers start simultaneously ; for if the leaders start first they will be drawn up sharp by their bits. The moment it is desired to start, the team should be given their heads and the "office" to start by the coachman at once easing his left hand. When once started a further adjustment of the reins is usually necessary. The driver should see that his team is going straight. If the leaders and wheelers are not exactly on the same line, this or that rein must be shortened or lengthened as the case may require; and it is to be noticed that as the near-wheeler's and off-leader's reins lie together between the same fingers, a simultaneous short ening or lengthening of these two reins will usually produce the desired result. With rare exceptions, reins should be shortened or lengthened by pushing them back or drawing them forward with the right hand in front of the driving hand, and not from behind it. As soon as the team is in motion the leaders may be let out till they draw their traces taut ; but draught should be taken off them on falling ground or while rounding a corner. In rounding a corner a loop of the leaders' rein, on the side to which the turn is to be made, is taken up by the right hand and placed under the left thumb. This "points the leaders," who accordingly make the required turn, while at the same time the right hand bears lightly on the reins of the opposite side, to prevent them making the turn too sharply for safety to the coach behind them. When the turn is made the driver's left thumb releases the loop and the team returns to the straight formation. A circumstance useful to bear in mind is that the swingle-bars are wider than the maximum width of the coach ; consequently the driver knows that provided the team and coach are going straight, wherever the bars can pass through with safety—and as they are before his eyes the calculation is easy—the coach will safely follow.

The Use of the Whip.

A necessary part of driving four horses or tandem is the proper use of the whip. The novice, be fore beginning to drive, should acquire the knack—which can only be learnt by practical instruction and experiment—of catching up the thong of the whip on to the stick by a flick of the wrist. Practice and considerable dexterity are requited in using the whip on the leaders without at the same time touching, or at all events, alarming or fretting, the wheelers. The thong of the whip should reach the leaders from beneath the swingle-bar. This demands skill and accuracy, especially when striking the near leader, but no coachman is competent to drive four horses until he is able to touch with the whip any particular horse that may require it, and no other.

Essential as is proficiency in the use of the whip when driving four horses, it is even more imperative for the driver of tandem. For in four-in-hand the leaders act in some measure as a restraint upon each other's freedom of action, whereas the leader in tandem is entirely independent and therefore more difficult to control.

In the usual method of harnessing a tandem the lead traces draw direct from the wheeler's trace buckles. They should never be attached to the shafts, as this is a dangerous practice. The above method entails a considerable length of trace, and a trace bearing-strap passing over the leader's loins is a necessity. Another method consists in having two swingle-bars similar to those used in four-in-hand, by means of which the leader's traces can be reduced to the same length as those of the wheeler.

A tandem, owing to the greater freedom of the leader from control, requires in a sense more delicate handling than a four in-hand, but the latter supplies the coachman with problems of greater difficulty, and so of greater interest, if only for the rea son that he has to deal with the various temperaments of four horses instead of only two, while the weight on the hand is obviously more severe, and a heavy coach load entails extra precautions for safety, especially in driving down hill. In Great Britain the coach-and-four is the more popular.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

See Fuller, Essay on Wheel Carriages (1828) ;Bibliography.—See Fuller, Essay on Wheel Carriages (1828) ; Donald Walker, British Manly Exercises: in which Riding, Driving,' Racing are now first described (1834) ; William Bridges Adams, Eng lish Pleasure Carriages: their Origin, History, Materials, Construction (183 7) ; The Equestrian: A Handbook of Horsemanship, containing Plain Rules for Riding, Driving and the Management of the Horse (1854) ; J. H. Walsh ("Stonehenge"), Riding and Driving (1863) ; A Cavalry Officer, The Handy Horse Book • or Practical Instruction in Driving, and the Management of the Horse ; H. J. Helm, American Roadsters and Trotting Horses (1878) ; E. M. Strat ton, The World on Wheels (1878) ; F. H. Huth, Works on Horses and Equitation: A Bibliographical Record of Hippology (1887) ; The Duke of Beaufort, Driving (The Badminton Library, 1889), containing a bibliography ; Capt. C. Morley Knight, Hints on Driving (1894); James A. Garland, The Private Stable (2nd ed., 1902).

(X.; G. W.)

horses, reins, hand, leaders, wheelers, tandem and driver