So you have arrived, with your driving horse, at the driving venue with all of his paraphernalia, now what do you do?

If it is your first driving event, whether it is show ring driving, Combined Driving Event or a sanction breed show with driving, the enormousness of it can be scary to say the least.

If you do things in the proper order than this process will be less stressful for both you and your horse.  Usually, there will be people or signs that will lead you to a temporary parking area or your assigned barn.  You now need to hunt for the check-in booth or tent to pick up you packet.

Things you will find in your packet:

Diagram to your barn stall

Your driving horses number

Papers that you need to fill out and sign

Your order of go

Information and maps of the grounds layout

Maps and timing information of the obstacles and course.

Information booklet about the event that is given to all spectator and competitors.

Some shows give you coupons and souvenirs of the show (pen, horse cookies, sun screen etc.)

Now that you have your packet, it is time to park your trailer and find your driving horses stall. I know that everyone likes to be close as they can to the meeting tent, bathroom and the manure dumping area.  But being totally honest, this is the area that becomes the most congested thereby making it an accident waiting to happen.  If you have a choice and are able to park a bit farther away, it really is quieter and nicer.  Lets face it, we all bring with us another source of transportation (bicycle, moped, golf cart etc.) so being parked at the front door of your driving horses stall is really not that important.

Your driving horses will get along just fine in the barn with all the other horses. If you don’t spend all day in the barn with your driving horse at home, then why do it at a competition?  Your driving horse just might think that you don’t trust him!

First of all, do get your horse out of the trailer, after all he has been standing all the way from home to the event site.  If he stands being tied to the trailer, then leave him there while you get his stall ready.

You will need to take his water and feed bucket, your poop cart and rake, and a pen to fill out the information required on his stall card.  Inspecting the stall to be sure it is safe and there are no faulty latches, sharp edges or boulder, that you horse can hurt himself on, is the first thing you should do.  You normally will find a sack of shavings sitting in the middle of the stall if you have ordered it.  Open and spread shavings around the middle of the stall and place water and feed buckets in corners. The corners work best as they keep the buckets out of the movement zone of the horse.  These stalls can be as small as an 8 x 8, so space is at a premium.  Now your horse is ready for his hotel room for the weekend.

Pinegrove's Sailor Boy and Eileen at their trailer at the Lets Have Fun In Texas Driving Trial

Never depend on the supplied latch or clip to keep your horse in.  I always buckle my driving horses halter around the bars for extra security.

Now it is time to set up your camp area, which is also your tacking and hitching area.  Be sure you give yourself enough room between your neighbor for you both to be able to work at the same time.  Parking/camping areas can become very crowded at many venues as space is at a minimum.

Once you are settled in and are having a bite to eat, it is a good time to go through the items in your packet. Remember also to check the official competitors board at least twice a day for any changes or update on information.  Times can change if some competitors do not show up or when the weather decides to change.  Marathon courses can change after the TD and Judges do their official run of the course.  Remember what you see on the course is always right, as people are only human and some maps might show obstacles differently.

Now that you and your driving horse are settled in and you have checked out the grounds and courses, there is one more thing you need to do.  Go to the competitors briefing that is generally scheduled around five o’clock on the day that everyone is arriving.  You will generally be introduced to your hosts, as well as the judges and technical delegate.  They will let you know of any changes thus far and you will have a chance to ask questions.  Be sure you listen and pay attention, because you never know if an answer to an asked question will be of help to you.

The following are a few of the crazy things I have come across as I have competed across the United States.

  • Competitors that cross tie their horses in the small isles of the barns whereby blocking other competitors from getting their horses out.
  • Competitors that use the isle of the barn to harness their horses.
  • Competitors that park their carriages at the entrance of the barn and proceed to hitch up there.
  • The competitor that warms up their horse in the warm-up arena with no consideration for anyone else in the arena. Remember that not all horses are at the same level of training. There are also horses for which this is their first time at an event.  “Courtesy” is the best policy.
  • Courtesy when driving ATV’s and golf carts should be the norm. The horse and carriage always has the right of way.
  • When warming up on marathon day, remember that the horse and carriage on the course has the right of way. Many events, due to space limitations, you will find that the marathon track will cross the warm-up areas of the road to the start of the marathon.
  • When it is not your time of go for dressage, do not block the entrance to the dressage arena. You do not want to be the person that causes another competitor to be eliminated, because they could not get into the arena.
  • After the marathon when you take your horse to the wash area be sure that all horses have been cooled, before you decide to wash your carriage. The horses health is more important then your carriage being clean.
  • Never depend on the organizers to have a first aid kit, for either people or horses. You should have a well stocked one of your own.

Go to driving shows and combined driving events and have fun, but remember to be courteous and aware of everything around you.  If we all follow this, then we will all stay safe and have fun!