"Driving has given me a reason for living," says Scottie about her carriage driving lessons at the Florida Carriage Museum and Resort. For the last three years she has acquired the skills to maneuver a horse and carriage through sets of traffic cones with ease. This week, Scottie, who is quadriplegic, is using her new Bennington carriage for the first time. She tells that it is built specifically with a low profile making it easy for her in her electric wheelchair to go up the rear ramps into position for driving. Its light weight makes it easy for Shadow, a Morgan Friesian Crossbred, to pull Scottie, Kacy, her able-bodied teacher; and Michelle, her groom.
As a quadriplegic, Scottie has looped reins that go around her wrists. Velcro secures the loops which also acts as a quick-release in the event of problems. Scottie has just enough mobility to use half halts (little tugs) with the wrist and elbow to signal the horse to go to the left or right. Curly, her favorite horse, and Shadow, her second favorite, are not afraid of her wheelchair and the noises of the lock-down which secures her wheelchair in place. Scottie explains, "They listen to my voice and don't take advantage of me." Scottie says, "When you have a well-trained carriage horse who responds to your voice, you don't need a lot of fingers and hands!"
Scottie got her inspiration for driving when watching the movie Ben Hur and said to herself, "I think I could drive a horse if I could find a special carriage like those chariots." Her first carriage was a Thornlea Carriage with a hydraulic lift made in Indiana. Her new carriage is made in England and is specifically designed for use by a driver in a wheelchair. Scottie had the pneumatic wheels made for driving in the Florida sand and on the roadways at the Florida Carriage Museum and Resort.