So, what has happened to the marathon over the past twenty years? There are a lot of drivers scratching their heads and wondering if the American Driving Society (ADS) has lost their minds!
As with any sport rules and ways of doing things and playing the game has changed for many reasons:
- Football – to help save the players brains for the future.
- Gymnastics – so that the young gymnasts have a safe environment.
- Baseball – so that fowl balls do not hit the spectators.
I am sure there are many other examples that you can think of.
In the driving world we have seen helmets and safety vests arrive and the walk section of the marathon disappear. We have seen a drop in the number of drivers go down but has risen again by the inclusion of miniature horses. The American Driving Society, and many other horse groups, have given up a lot of their control, and United States Equestrian has gobbled us all up.
Due to fewer drivers and fewer volunteers, we have seen the three-day Combined Driving Event be sent to the background and the one- and two-day events take over the calendar. In doing so, we have watched most three and five phase marathons be replaced by the two-section marathon.
This new two-phase marathon has a lot of advantages:
- You need less property.
- You need fewer volunteers.
- Less signage along the course.
- Fewer timers.
- We all get to go home sooner.
For those of us who are west of the Mississippi river, where there are fewer events, it is hard to justify driving 500-1500 miles for just a one- or two-day event. For me personally, the closest ADS events are a hard-two-day drive, at minimum, for me and my horse. Some can be three days of driving. That is just one direction! I must drive that same amount of days to get back home.
When you are living in a densely populated area, say on the east coast, you can be to an event in less than a day’s drive. The west is so much more spread out that we don’t have that advantage. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live, and I wouldn’t move for all the tea in China.
Now, as for the marathon and where it has evolved over the years. There is no longer a “walk” section, the “Transfer” has replaced it. The time to do the transfer is set by the technical delegate. The transfer has no set pace so you can walk, trot or canter at will, if you make your time. This is just for the three-section marathon. Transfer section is now 800-1500 meters.
The two-section marathon (A & B), now is done at a slower speed so the competitor can choose when to walk, trot or canter. There is no transfer section. You can also just stop and stand still if you want. On a 6km section A, you could trot the first 5km and then just walk the last 1km. That way your horse will supposedly come in more relaxed. The compulsory vet box is still ten minutes.
Basically, they are saying that on the two-section marathon, it is up to the driver to decide if they want to walk their horse before they get to the vet box. The speeds for section-A have been lowered, so competitors don’t feel as rushed to get there.
Section-B has stayed pretty much the same. The entire section can be done at whatever pace you want (walk, trot, canter) except for training, they can only walk or trot.
ADS verses FEI
If you happen to be at an event that is ADS and Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), then you need to know which rules are being used for the event. There might be lower levels using ADS rules, and advanced level using FEI rules, or everyone will be using FEI rules. The last option seems to be what is normally happening when there are advanced competitors.
If you are attending a Driving Trail that is ADS, then only section-B is used, but beware, this section can now be up to 10km. In the two or three section marathons, the maximum length of section-B is:
- 4 km for training going 13 kph
- 5 km for preliminary going 14 kph
- 7 km for intermediate going 14 kph
So, having a 10 km section-B you better be sure that your horse is conditioned to do that length without any rest. Remember this is the section where the obstacles are, and we all know that we want to do them as fast as possible.
My suggestion is that if you are going to any ADS or FEI events, you need to read the ADS rule book on combined driving (which is the yellow section) or the FEI rulebook. Whichever one of the two that is going to b used at your chosen event.
The last thing we ever want to happen is to be eliminated, because we were unsure of the rulebook being used for the specific event.
Now if you are only going for the fun of the event then just go HC (hors concours) and relax and enjoy yourself. HC means that you are not competing for a placing or prize.
Remember, most of us just want to go and have fun!