Driving A Unicorn

by Jane Moody

There is not much written about driving a unicorn.  The Art of Driving by Max Pape has one whole paragraph dedicated to the subject.  The best way to think of a unicorn is to envision a four-in-hand, with two wheelers, but only one leader.  If you have a carriage and harness for a four-in-hand, then the only additional equipment you will need is a set of tandem leader reins, and a set of tandem terrets.

Why would anyone want to drive a unicorn?  I’m not sure.  It takes most of the equipment required to drive a four-in-hand, and the challenges of a tandem.  I suffer from a condition known as Multiple Madness.  Driving multiples is an addiction I became afflicted with when I first saw Jay Hubert drive his tandem.  Since then I have never passed up an opportunity to drive any multiple when offered in all its many variations.   Since Hardy Zantke has written excellent articles on driving a four-in-hand, and the mechanics and rein handling are very similar to the unicorn, I strongly recommend reading Hardy’s articles on four-in-hand before attempting a unicorn.  This is especially important if you do not have tandem or four-in-hand experience.  


Okay, hitching and equipment:

This is not something you want to attempt with a 2 wheel vehicle.  Driving a unicorn requires a four wheel carriage with a pole and a swan, just like a four-in-hand, but instead of leader bars, you leave off the leader’s evener part and just use one of the leader's single trees.  You attach it to the pole end the same way you would the leader bars.  Put it on the carriage before you put to.

Attach roger rings to the inside of the wheelers bridles, and replace the wheelers inside saddle terret with tandem terrets.  You need one set of tandem leader reins and a set of pair reins.

The leader is harnessed just like a tandem leader.  There is no need for breeching, but I do use trace carriers.  Personally, if I am doing marathon, I use half a pair harness on my leader.  The buckled in breast collar keeps everything a bit quieter at speed.  Just my preference.





To put to:

Put the wheelers to the carriage the s

ame way you would for a pair.  If you have a new crew, it is advisable to have some extra hands for this.  I like to have a header for each animal.  Although with a nice set of minis, you could probably reach both wheelers with one.  Once the whip is seated and comfy with the pair put to, have another person bring the leader over.  Put the leader to, the same way you would a tandem (reins through the leaders saddle terrets, the wheelers roger rings, then thru the wheelers tandem saddle terrets, to the whip).  Always control before power!  Then hook the traces to the single tree on the pole.  NEVER hook the leader directly to the wheelers.  



Here's where it can get a bit interesting.  You drive them the same way you would drive a tandem.  What I have found is that the leader gets jerked around a good bit more in a unicorn.  In a tandem, when the wheeler tosses his/her head, it usually pulls on both sides of the leaders head somewhat evenly.  With a unicorn, if one wheeler tosses the head, it jerks the leader to that side.  Just be prepared for that. And I like to have the leaders header walk off with the leader the first few steps, just to get the whole group up and going, and to give me a chance to adjust my reins if necessary.


Basic tenets of tandem/unicorn driving:

1. Forward is your friend!

2. A trot is a much easier gait to drive than a walk.  It is easier to get them all going the same speed at a trot and they seem to get down to business with less foolishness at the trot.

3. ALWAYS HAVE SOMEONE WITH YOU CAPABLE OF RENDERING ASSISTANCE.  There is a reason a problem with a tandem is called a tandem moment instead of an event, it is truly all the time you have to fix things before everything becomes spaghetti!

4. Use quick release shackles to attach the leader traces.  You would be amazed at how quickly a leg can get over a trace.


Well, that is just about it.  Welcome to the world of Multiple Madness.  I would recommend having someone familiar with tandems, fours, and or unicorns around the first few goes.  


Enjoy!  And keep the dusty side down.


Jane Moody