Well readers, that beautiful beefy cart that everyone loved so much was sold, and not to me. I was not fast enough to get my hands on it... bummer.
BUT, I decided to jump on the package deal set that was for sale. It's hard to turn down a cart, a nice harness, two harness pads, two bits, AND a whip, all together. The shafts on this cart can be removed and replaced with curved ones if I so desire, and tires can be replaced with either big motorcycle tires (like the ones on the beefy cart), or with solid rubber. So I can beef up the cart as much as I like instead of buying a pre-beefed one!
I made the trip down south to pick up all the gear today. It was about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there, and I made the very wise decision to be a total dork and go to the library to pick up a book on tape. Our library is small and puny, and the only one there that remotely interested me was The Lost World (read it and loved it as a kid), so I snagged it. I had a super pleasant drive listening to ideas on chaos theory and Tyrannosaurs eating people. Not a bad way to spend a few hours.
And it was hard to complain about the weather today... low 90's and beautiful cloud cover:
I arrived at the place, inspected the cart and harness, and found them both to be agreeable. The cart is at least 15 years old (maybe older) but in PERFECT shape - it wasn't used much, and was kept in a garage the rest of the time. It's excellent. The shafts are 80", which is still just a hair too long for her, but overall it's not a terrible fit at all. She would do better with a 78", I think, in the future.
The harness is very beautiful. It's a little old, and a little worn out in spots, but it's a genuine Smuckers and the leather is still very good. It could use a layer of polish - with that it will look fantastic. There is patent leather on the blinders and saddle, which is just gorgeous. I love shiny, shiny leather. I'm just not into the dull look of synthetic tack. I want my leather soft and shining!
Pre-drive... I made some fitting adjustments before I actually drove off. I also did not actually drive her with the blinders. I've been driving her in an open bridle, and she goes quite well in that, but this is the first time she has had the blinders on while actually hooked. I led her around for a little while when she was wearing them, and she was actually a bit fearful. She is SUCH a visual horse that I think it genuinely concerns her when she can't see everything.This is a slight problem because she is also very whip-shy - seeing the movement of the whip behind her will probably scare her to death, and for that reason I haven't driven her with one yet. I don't think she'll object to the feel of the whip when used in gentle sweeps across her shoulder (I will probably never need it for more than just straightening or mobilizing her from side-to-side, definitely will NOT need it for more go), but I think that she will have a heartattack if she sees it moving around. She'll need to get used to the blinders more, because she definitely will need some whip aids to help with her straightness and bend. (By whip aids I mean gentle brushes with the lash, not anything more!)
The harness is beautiful and it FITS. It still needs some fiddling to get everything right where it needs to go, but it fits! Now we can REALLY get down to business!