JACKSON — It wasn’t too long ago that Silver Purse Farm’s Carousel was standing out in a field. The 10-year-old miniature horse mare was trained to drive, and eventually given to Martha MacDonald.

The driver/horse combination took part in the Aiken Driving Club’s Valentine’s Day Drive Sunday morning, at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary.

“I’ve been blessed with having a gift horse,” said MacDonald.

Carousel, or Cara as she’s known around the barn, was involved with a 4-H program for about six years before she transitioned to driving. The mare, who stands 38 inches high at the shoulder, now competes in combined driving events. The 350-pound horse pulled a metal cart Sunday against the idyllic backdrop provided by the 3,154-acre tract of land.

“I had the pleasure of being here last November,” said MacDonald. “It’s such a beautiful place, and the volunteers mark it so well, that it’s real easy, even if you don’t know the trails. You just follow the arrows and go around.”

Miniature horses are incredibly strong, and are capable of pulling their own weight, said MacDonald.

“She can actually take two adults if the footing is good,” said MacDonald. “Everyone who drives a miniature horse is always smiling. There’s just something wonderful about these little ones.”

Cara enjoyed the opportunity to bash around in the soft sand, and seemed to be right at home at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary. But, make no mistake, the diminutive athlete has an entirely different demeanor when competing in CDEs. The mare continues to evolve as a CDE pony, and is currently going at training level. Combined driving events consist of three phases, dressage, marathon and cones.

“She has some issues with dressage,” said MacDonald. “She goes around with her mouth open looking like a shark. She bends the wrong way on circles. We’re going to stay at training level until we solve those issues.”

The marathon phase and going through the obstacles provides the same type of adrenaline rush for MacDonald and Cara as it would for an eventer going cross country at a three day event horse trials.