Distance Driving is another one of those driving venues that was started in England. The aim of the Long Distance Drive is for drivers to complete a course which tests the fitness of the animal as well as the ability of the driver to navigate the distance safely and competently. This type of event is open to singles, pairs, tandem and teams of horses and ponies.
Some of the generals rules that are required are as follows:
Horses must be four years or over.
All singles must carry a groom that is at least 14 years of age.
All teams must carry at least two grooms of the proper age.
Grooms cannot be changed at any point along the course.
Harness must be in good usable shape and must have full breeching.
One is also required to carry a spares kit on their vehicle. It must include the following, a spare trace, spare breeching strap, a spare rein or rein splice and a hame strap if applicable for a single turnout. For pairs, tandems and teams you must include spare trace, pole strap or chain, spare rein or rein splice, hame strap, main bar, and lead bar. Other items that could be of great help would be a good knife, hoof pick and a halter with lead rope. It would also be a good idea to take along a first aid kit for both horse and humans.
Your vehicle must be of a proper fit, weight and size for the horse you are driving and appropriate for this type of event. Pneumatic tires or bicycle wheels are not allowed. If the drive will take you onto public roads you are required to have a caution slow moving vehicle sign on the back of your vehicle.
When your time comes for start and inspections you must be on time or you could incur time penalties. The gaits that are allowed are walk and trot with an occasional canter when the terrain justifies it such as going up a hill. Galloping is not allowed at any time and it will incur elimination.
You are allowed to stop but for no longer than two minutes, which is considered long enough to adjust harness or water your horse. Longer halts would unfairly affect the validity of the test of athletic fitness of your horse.
Discourteous, unfair or dangerous driving is reason for receiving penalties or being eliminated all together. When needing to pass another whip it is proper to ask the other whip to pass so as to keeping the drive safe for all drivers.
You will start out your Distance Drive with an inspection before you harness up. This is basically a soundness check at which the horses pulse will be noted. There will be another inspection at the half way point at which the horse will be unharnessed and then the pulse is taken and noted along with the pinch test for dehydration. You will be at this rest point for approximately 50 minutes. At the end you will have your final inspection out of cart and again the pulse and dehydration test will be noted.
Penalty points will be incurred as follows:
Pulse Under 56 No Penalty
56-59 1 penalty
60-61 2 penalties
62-64 3 penalties
Over 64 Elimination
Dehydration pinch test with failure of skin to flatten after 10 seconds equals elimination.
Wounds caused while driving the event: 0 – 4 penalties or elimination.
Overall poor condition: 0 – 4 penalties or elimination.
There is also a Farrier that will check to see that your horses shoes are in good shape to do the drive. They will be checked at the beginning and the half way point. If they are worn or otherwise defective you can receive 0 – 4 penalties or elimination.
So you see this is truly a test of your horses fitness.
Now that I have explained the basic rules lets talk about the course. These are generally a cross country course that will take you on roads, dirt roads and other tracks that will fit the vehicles and it should not exceed 20 kilometers. The course will be divided in half where there is space for the half way halt. Many courses go 10 kilometers out and then the same 10 kilometers back where by returning to the trailer area.
The timeline of a Distance Drive goes as follows. You begin with 400 points.
Before the drive you will present your horse to the veterinarian for inspection. They check the horse’s pulse, respiration, gut sounds, and look for any problem areas. You will be asked to walk your horse in a straight line and then trot him out in a large circle. Any signs of lameness and your horse will be disqualified. Horses are expected to have good manners and points are deducted for unruly behavior. All information is noted on your score sheet.
You will listen to a brief orientation about the trail you will drive. It will be a 10-20 mile loop. You will be given your assigned start time and you will strive to finish within your ten minute window.
Pre-Drive Safety Check
After you have harnessed up you will proceed to the safety check. You must have your helmet, gloves, whip and spares kit. All turnouts must have a groom and a turnout with three or more horses must have two grooms. Your vehicle, harness and spares kit will be inspected for completeness and repair.
Drivers should be at the start at least 5 minutes ahead of their start time. Drivers are spaced at 5 minute intervals. The trail is marked with bright ribbons and arrow signs when needed. Remember this is not a race and you should be able to meet your time window while moving at a steady trot with a few periods of walking.
Mid-Point Vet Check
This is a 30-50 minute vet and rest stop. You unhook your horse and give him water and start cooling him off. Within ten minutes of arriving you must present your horse to the vet for inspection. All of your horses vitals are checked again and recorded on your horses score sheet. At the end of your rest period you will be started out again for the second half of the drive at 5 minute intervals.
End of Drive
When you have made it to the end of the drive, which is usually the start point, you will have 10 minutes to cool your horse down and present him to the vet for your final check of his vitals. You will also have to trot him out for the vet to check soundness. Once he passes this last check, you can relax as you have made it!
There are several club for Distance Driving here in the states. There have been NATRC rides that have allowed drivers to compete with them also. NATRC runs their rides in much the same manner as the Distance Drive.