Combined Driving or carriage driving is modeled after ridden three-day eventing. The challenge generated by the addition of a horse in harness hitched to a cart or carriage adds a thrill to the sport. Horses must exhibit the highest level of training and willingness to perform. Only voice command and reins along with just a touch of the whip are allowed.
The equestrian presents their horse drawn carriage in the dressage arena to demonstrate obedience and suppleness and the skill of the horse.
The marathon is the equivalent to the ridden cross-country phase.
Equestrians and their horse and carriage must complete a series of hazards negotiating up to six gates.
The cones course tests the ability of the equestrian to clear 20 gates at the required pace without incurring penalties.

Posts

So is there a difference between Driven Dressage and Ridden dressage?

The biggest difference is the fact that in driven dressage your horse has to do everything that a ridden dressage horse has to with a carriage attached to his body.  The extra weight that the driven horse has to pull while doing all of the elements of dressage can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Lately, there has been a lot of conversation about moving up through the levels and how long it takes one to be proficient at a level before moving up. Let me try to break it down for you!

In ridden dressage you work your way through levels:

  • Introductory – Walk, trot, canter, rein change
  • Training – move more freely, shallow loop canter, stretch circle trot, canter to trot diagonal
  • First Level – use of hind end, 10m circle trot, 15m circle canter, lengthen stride at trot and canter, leg yield, counter canter
  • Second  Level – more power in the hind end, collection, medium paces, Travers, simple changes, 10m canter circle, half turn on haunches
  • Third Level – horse has established uphill balance, transitions at collected medium and extended gaits, flying changes, half pass trot, Renvers, half pass canter
  • Fourth Level – suppleness, power, precision, collected canter, walk pirouettes, multiple flying changes, tempi changes, partial pirouette canter
  • Prix St-George, Intermediate I & II, Grand Prix – these are the USEF levels so when you get here you need to know it all.

In driven dressage which was based originally on ridden dressage, there are fewer levels to get through but it is just as hard to get there!

  • Training – working trot, working walk, walk stretching, 40m circle trot, 20m half circle
  • Preliminary – working trot, working walk, lengthen walk and trot, 30m circle trot, 3 loop serpentine, 20m half circle
  • Intermediate – working walk and trot, lengthened walk, collected and medium trot, 20m circle at a trot and collected trot, 10m deviation, 2 loop serpentine, 40m canter circle, 20m deviation, 30m circle collected
  • CAI1, CAI2, CAI3 – these are the USEF levels

Now that you have an idea of what your horse has to learn at each level, let’s consider what it will take you to get your horse there!

If you buy an already trained horse that has been trained to the intermediate level, that’s great!  But if you have never done any dressage you will need to learn before you can properly ask your horse to do what he knows.  If you don’t know how to ask the horse to do an extended trot then he won’t do it even if he knows how.

On the other side of the coin, if you are proficient in dressage and your horse is not trained in it, then when you ask your horse to do that extended trot he will not know what you are talking about.

Whether you are doing driven dressage or ridden, you both need to know what you are doing to be able to do that extended trot.

Most horses need to be at least five to be able to physically and mentally do any dressage above training level. For example, I drove my Friesian Sporthorse in his first ADT at the age of five.  At this point, he still lacked focus and patience to be able to do a complete dressage test. After returning home I decided that I would wait another year before I would try another event.  He needed the time for his mind to catch up with his body.

For those of you who have a good dressage background then you are ahead if you purchase an already trained driving horse that is driving at the upper level.  Those of you who have never done dressage before will need to have lessons to learn.  Blind leading the blind is not a good idea when you are driving a horse!

How long does it take to train an upper-level driven dressage horse?  This all depends on the horse and what his ability is.  Like in any horse modality some horses are more proficient than others.  A lot of a horse’s ability has to do with their body type and how they are put together. For example, Quarter horses make the best cow horses because that is what they are bred for.  The most sought-after combined driving horses are Dutch Harness Horse, Welsh Ponies, Morgans, Haflingers, Hackney, and German Riding Ponies.  These are all great breeds but remember each horse is an individual, so each needs to be assessed for their ability to do dressage.

Now that you have the basics as to what’s involved in getting your horse trained in dressage I will talk about timetables in which to go from one level to the next.

“There is no set timetable!”

As with us humans, we do not all learn at the same pace and neither do the horses.  When I train a horse it is always at the pace of the horse I am working with.  Your horse will only learn as fast as he is capable. Some of the horses get the lesson faster than others so you need to train at the horses’ pace.

The same goes for the humans involved in this sport.  It is not a race to move from one level to the next. For those who are just getting into the sport, an event can be overwhelming, to say the least!  The five or six tests in each level are there to help walk you through the levels.  If you and your horse cannot do all of the tests at one level, getting an above-average score, then you are not ready to move up. When you are driving a proficient horse that does great in dressage but you are having problems in marathons and cones, then don’t let anyone tell you, you have to move up.  If they have a problem because you place first in dressage, then it is their problem.  

It means that they need to work harder!

There are three parts to combined driving, it is not just dressage so your horse and you need to learn all three parts to be successful in the sport.

I have seen too many drivers over-facing their horse, as well as the horse over-facing the driver. If you are just out to have fun and want to stay at a level that is comfortable for you then do that!

Three of my driving horses I have taken to the top of their driving careers. My current horse, Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy, took six years of training and competing up the levels to reach FEI (Federation Equestrian International) level. 

You need to have patience, time, and knowledge to get a talented horse to the top!

Preparing for the New Year needs to be fun for both us humans and our equine partners.  I know we all feel like we have aged ten years in just one year but we can only believe that 2021 will get us back to normal.

Here are a few of the things that you can do to start the process of preparing for the New year.

Get Equine Insurance

Now, I know you are thinking this will cost a lot of money, but wait!  Most mortality insurance covers unseen death, euthanasia, a stolen horse to name a few. Then, there is medical insurance and it can be pricey. The best insurance out there is with the supplement companies that will cover your horse for colic, as long as the horse is on their supplement.  Two of these companies are Platinum Performance Equine and Smart Pak Equine.  I have three of my horses on the first and they cover up to $7500 on colic issues.

Mark Your Calendar

Start scribbling on your new 2021 calendar and fill in all of those dates that you know things have to be done.  Shots both spring and fall, routine vet visits including teeth floating, your favorite equines birthday, so you don’t forget that special vegetable salad he gets.

You can also enter the dates of any known shows, ADT, etc., that you are looking at going to.

Cook For Your Equine

I know that my horses like it when I make one of their favorite mashes or some homemade horse cookies! Here is a recipe for each of them:

Bran Mash

2 quarts bran                          3 quarts sweet feed

1 cup oats                                4 carrots grated

1 apple grated                        8 round peppermint candies chopped

Mix all ingredients, then add warm water enough to make it sloppy.  Let stand for 15 minutes and serve warm.

Horse Cookies

15 cups sweet feed                  4 – 12 ounce jars molasses

1 cup water                              5 cups flour

Mix the first three ingredients, then mix in enough flour to hold together.  Coat muffin tines with vegetable spray and spoon dough into cups and press down to compact it.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until dark brown.  Let cool.  

Give Back

Giving back is a good way to help support many of the equine non-profits.  My personal favorite is Morris Animal Foundation.  Over the years, they have had research programs on all sorts of equine diseases and issues.

If your cleaning out your tack room and don’t know what to do with all that lightly used tack, donate it to one of the many local Equine Rescues. This will always make you feel better!

Photo Shoot

Take the time to get a professional picture of your horse.  You know you have always wanted to do it, but most of the time we wait too long.  So do it now, so you can remember your equine friend as they are now.  A good way to do it is when you are at a show. Generally, the show photographer can be a good contact.  You might even be able to arrange for it to be done at the showgrounds.

Nothing beats a great photo of your equine partner that you can reflect on!

Repairs and Maintenance

Now is a great time to get your harness out and do a thorough cleaning of all pieces. That means that you need to take it all apart, unbuckle all buckles, take all thirty or more pieces apart, and clean and oil them.   If you don’t think you can remember what holes different pieces go into, then write it down on paper as you take the harness apart. Polish all the metal parts.

When you finish the harness, then move onto your vehicle. Be sure to first clean the whole vehicle with soap and water.  Touch up the paint where needed.  Tighten all nuts and bolts on both the carriage and the wheels.  Wooden wheels are always shrinking, so the screws will loosen during this process. If your vehicle has brakes, then check them and replace the brake oil if it has been several years, if not top off the oil reservoir. If the spokes are loose in the wheels, then you will need a wheelwright.

Check out your horse trailer while you are at it and make sure you haven’t taken any items out to use at home and replace them. I know, I am guilty of this infraction!

You will also want to go through all of your outfits that you wear and decide if they are still what you want to show in?  If not, think about hitting up the local women’s resale stores for new apparel.  For those outfits that you will be re-wearing this year, make sure they are clean and in good repair.  Don’t forget to spruce up on those pretty hats for dressage.

In Conclusion

Especially this year, preparing for the New Year seems more like a chore than the fun that it has been in the past.  We have all had to contend with almost everything horsey that has been canceled this year.  There might still be some cancelations of events early in 2021. 

I have to believe that all will get back to normal and that scheduling of shows, clinics, trail rides, and just fun events, will be there for us.  I am looking forward to CDE’s (Combined Driving Events)  coming back by mid-year in towns across the United States.

I know that my driving horse Sailor is wondering what’s going on?  This year is the first year in thirty-five years that I have not had at least one of my horses to a driving show or a CDE.

I am just thinking positive when preparing for the New Year, that all will return to normal and we can all get back to doing what we love most, driving and showing our equine partners!

Keeping your driving horse in shape during the winter can be a challenge.  But then factor in the current pandemic and the coming flu season it can be overwhelming, to say the least. 

Whether you are driving a hazard, pulling a sleigh through snow, driving down a parade route, or just going down the road your horse needs to be in his best condition possible. Keeping your driving horse in shape is no different than that of a typical sport horse that does dressage, jumping, reining, or! 

First, you need to be sure your horse is getting the basic care that all horses need. 

  1. Vaccinations as needed (normally spring and fall) 
  1. Deworming as need by fecal sample review 
  1. Dental exams at least once a year for most horses (a bit hitting a bad tooth is not appreciated by your horse) 
  1. Basic regular hoof care whether you go barefoot or require shoes 
  1. Chiropractic, massage, equine bodywork is great when needed 
  1. The best feed that you can afford for the level of work your horse is doing 

Some of the more common ailments that are seen in driving horses are hock and stifle injuries. Our driving horses and also develop arthritis just due to the wear and tear on their bodies.  Some of the breeds such as Morgans and Saddlebreds can be more prone to ringbone. Because we are asking our horses to pull us around in carriages their injuries are more likely to be in their hind-end and legs due to the weight being pulled. 

One of the more common injuries that I have seen has been in the horse’s back, due to the drivers asking their horse to pull a carriage that is too heavy for them or a carriage full of people that is way too heavy. 

This is when the conditioning at home comes into play to keep this from happening. 

When keeping your horse in shape you need to always be concerned about the footing where you are driving your horse.  Your horse can injure himself on loose footing in an obstacle. It can also be dirt that has been turned into sand after fifty drivers have gone through before you. You can be driving on a grass dressage arena first thing in the morning before the sun has dried up the dew!  One also must be aware that constant driving on blacktop is very concussive to the horse’s body. Conditioning your horse is your best preventative medicine for this! 

Make sure that you use a farrier that has experience with trimming and shoeing driving horses.  Many driving horses will overreach when they are put too. It takes a good farrier to adjust the feet and shoes ever so slightly to solve this problem. Your horses constantly striking his front heel with his back shoe, is somewhat like us walking with a pebble in our shoe! 

Annoying and it hurts! 

Studs are a common way to give your horse more traction in bad footing, but beware!  If you are going to use studs make sure you practice ahead of time so that your horse gets used to the feel of them.  The studs might help the traction but if the horse is not used to them, they can come up sore! 

There are several types of studs: mud, grass, road, bullet, and spike to name a few. Explain to your farrier what your horse is going to be doing and get his opinion of the type. 

Boots are commonly used to help protect the legs of the horse but be sure to read the rules for the type of event you are going to (ADS, FEI, USET) to be sure what parts of the event you can use leg wraps or boots.   

You don’t want to be eliminated if your horse is not in shape! 

Remember to keep your horse mentally conditioned!  This means to change up what you are doing with them in their training.  If your driving horse is also rideable then ride him at least once a week.  If you have a pony or miniature horse that one cannot ride due to their size then lounging can be a good alternative activity. 

Lounging them up and down the length of an arena is a great exercise for both you and your horse no matter the size. I use the Paseo Training System when lounging my horse and I find it keeps my horse focused on what he is doing. 

Driving horses can stay active for many more years than riding horses.  But you need to keep them conditioned and in good health.  You can consult your veterinarian, farrier, body works person and I am also available to consult with you on these issues. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for every horse.  As with people, they are all different. Different sizes, mindsets, breeds, shapes, and sizes.  You have to come up with a plan that fits your horse and the type of driving that you are doing. 

Keeping your driving horse in shape is a full-time job so treat it as one, and just have fun doing it. 

Get out there and drive! 

Is your horse stressed while driving?  You might not think that your horse is stressed at home but he really might be, especially if you are stressed while driving with him.

Some of the outward signs that your horse is stressed is kicking, biting, bucking, and bolting.  None of these are things we want to see our horse do while they are being hitched or while being driven.  Ignoring the signs of a stressed-out horse is not only unsafe for your horse but also you.

I know that right now there are a lot of people that are stressed due to the current Covid-19 situation in their lives.  The first thing you have to do is to get your stress level under control. 

The worst combination is a stressed-out human dealing with a stressed-out horse! 

There are lots of exercises that we can do to destress ourselves, from yoga to breathing exercises to putting the essence of lavender on your wrists.

So how can we help our horses when they become stressed while driving?

That lavender that I mentioned above can also work on your horse, just add some to a small bottle of water and spray on like you would fly spray.

Many horses get stressed out just getting in the horse trailer to get to a driving event.  Try just taking your horse for a trailer ride to some pleasant place such a trailhead or park and just take him out for fifteen minutes and then load him up and take him back home. Do this weekly, if he realizes that every time he gets in the trailer he’s not going to be worked he will be

calmer.

A 2010 study by (Schmidt et al.) showed that a horse needs up to ten practice trips to get acclimated to being transported in a trailer.

If your horse is so connected to another horse where he is boarded then move him to a stall as far away as possible.  He will be upset at first so give him some hay to keep him busy.  Soon he will realize that he can be without that other horse.  Do not take a buddy with your horse you will be showing as this will just increase your horse’s anxiety when you take him away from the trailer.  This is also very disturbing to all the other horses at the event.

When you get to a driving venue don’t make the first thing you do, “hitching up your horse”. 

Get him settled in his stall if at a three-day event. If just a one-day event then tie him to his trailer, give him food and water and let him be for a good thirty to forty-five minutes.  If he is anticipating being driven the moment you arrive then he will be stressed.  When you are planning the day make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the event and to be able to let your horse chill out.

All of the increased activity that goes on at an event can be unnerving to some horses.  I usually find a parking place as far away from all the other participants so that my horse has a quiet place to hang, in-between driving classes or parts of a combined driving event.

Sure you might have to walk a bit farther to get to check-in or walk courses but your horses no stress level is worth the walk.

Keep your horse happy at an event by having food in front of them as much as possible.  It gives them something to do while in the stall and hanging at the trailer. I generally feed my horse about four times a day to keep him occupied.  My Friesian-Sporthorse is 16.1 hands and 1300 pounds so when he is in an eight or ten by ten stall he does not have much room so food is a good deterrent.

Keeping your horse drinking water at an event is even more important for his stress level.  Bring along the water from home for that familiar taste. If hauling water is not your thing then get your horse used to chlorine.  You can do this by putting the one-inch chlorine tabs to your horses’ thirty-gallon or larger water tank at home.  Then when you go to a show you can use the water at the venue and just put a chlorine tab into it when you get there. 

He will not know the difference!

When you sign up for a driving event you want to practice at home one level above that which you are competing at.  So if my horse is entered in intermediate then I will be practicing at the advanced level at home.  By doing this, when at the event, your horse will think it is really easy so there is nothing for him to stress over.

Make sure you practice at home in the cart and harness that you will be using at the driving event.  I know that this creates more of a beforehand cleaning job but it is worth having an unstressed horse at the event!

In the end, if you get to the driving event and your horse is still showing signs of stress then just use the event as a training tool for him.  If all he can handle is just dressage then that is all you do.  Don’t ever push your horse into a stress overload because that will be what he remembers for the next time. 

There will always be another event that you can take him to!

Keeping your sanity with the help of your horses is probably the best use of your time right now.  I know there are a lot of people that are not working right now and it feels as though the world will never be right again.

Our country “America” has been through a lot of trials and tribulations:

  • 1906 Yellow Fever
  • 1916 Polio
  • 1917 Spanish Flu
  • 1949 Polio
  • 1957 Asian Flu
  • 2007 HIV
  • 2009 Swine Flu

We have also survived:

  • WW I
  • WWII
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • Gulf War
  • Afghanistan War

History tells us that with each of these we have learned from the past the things we need to do to survive the ones in the future.  We are now even better prepared to survive this latest trial.

We who own horses probably understand the quartine aspect of a disease outbreak better than most.  I know in my lifetime, there have been many outbreaks of equine infections that I have gone through.

Horse Quartine!

We need to treat this latest pandemic the same way we would if it were an outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses.  All of the quarantine procedures that we have used with our horses need to be applied to all of us humans.

So most of us are staying home on our properties and when we do go out we are all staying six feet away from each other.  We did this same thing during an equine quarantine. We kept our horses apart so they could not touch noses or snort on each other. If they snorted on us, we did not enter another horse stall without wiping ourselves down or changing shirts (hand sanitizer).  We did not let our horses eat or drink out of the same buckets.

During dryland distemper, we never walked from one pen to another without first stepping in a pan of bleach. So, disinfecting out hands and what we touch is no different.

So what can we do with ourselves to keep us active with our four-legged friends?

First of all, it is shedding time for our horses, so we can get a lot of upper body conditioning while we help our horses shed. When your done brushing, you can move onto the mane and tails, which after all the rain and mud can use a good shampoo, conditioning and comb out. Think how soft your hands will be after working the conditioner in!

Now, for some lower body work out, you can pick the caked-in mud out of your horses’ hooves. With my five horses, that means twenty hooves which add up to a lot of back and leg stretching!

Relaxation

When your equine friend is all clean you can take him for a ride or walk around your property. For me, that is five times around my property, which is probably a total of one and three-quarter miles since I am on five acres!

By the time you have done all that, think how relaxed you will be!  With all of the tension in the world around us, being relaxed is a good way to keep from becoming one of the statistical numbers.

If you are boarding your horse, then you will need to try and walk your horses away from any other humans that are also trying to do the same thing.

Take A Walk!

If you can walk your horse down a road outside of the boarding facility, you will probably meet fewer people. If you pass another human walking their horse, then put your horse between you and them, that will make up most of the six-foot safe zone.

If you get stressed about the whole situation, then just take a seat in your horses’ stall.  The saying by Winston Churchill, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse” is something to consider right now.

So, sit there and say nothing, sit there and have a good cry (no one is judging) sit there and just talk to your horse or just hug him!

I know from experience that during hard times in one’s life, having a horse as a friend has helped me many times. My miniature horse Snoopy, has helped many kids and elderly feel better about life in general.

If you get ambitious, take your whole family out to the barn and make it a family affair, you will all feel better!

As we all know there have been tremendous fires in all of California.  Do you know how to safely get your horse loaded during the chaos of a fire?

Wildfires have always been of great concern for me, for two reasons:

 First, my son is a Wildland Firefighter with the United States Forest    Service.  Being a mother of a firefighter, I am always concerned with all the fires that we have had over the years and for my sons’ safety.

The second concern is for all of the horses and those people who volunteer to risk their own lives to have not only their horses but those of complete strangers.

The Doce Fire which started at Doce Pit a recreation area out Iron Springs Road had just barely started when I received a call from my son who at the time was based in Northern California.  He told us to be ready to evacuate ourselves and our horses (5) if we see the fire come over the southern end of Granite Mountain.

This call was well before the official evacuation notices were put out.  Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a friend who lives in Mint Creek area that she had to evacuate themselves and her horses. 

I recently watched a couple of videos on YouTube of people trying to get their horses in trailers. What stood out was the number of people running around trying to do something with the horses.  There was a horse being led with the lead rope attached to the top of what looked like a lunging caveson.  Then, there were a couple of people who were trying to use a butt rope but had no success because they did not know how to use one properly.

Here are ways to make Trailer Loading during a fire safer and easier, but first, make sure your horse has your cell phone number painted on his butt:

  1. Practice loading your horse in a trailer at least once a month.  If you have a trailer that can stand by itself without hooking it to your truck, that is great.  I know most people will need to hook up to their trailer to practice.  Believe me, it is worth the effort.  You can even get together with friends and make an afternoon of it.
  2. When you are loading your horse during a fire always, do it the same way as you have practiced.  If you normally walk into your trailer with your horse, then do that.  If you normally send your horse in first, then do that. If you normally don’t use shipping boots, then don’t use them now!  If you normally load your horse by yourself, then ask all-around to stand back and let you do it.
  3. For all of you who do not have a trailer, then you are at the mercy of whoever shows up with their trailer to help. Remember, that you are the horse owner and you should be the one handling your horse.This is when the horse will be challenged and will need all of the calm and patience that you, the owner, can mustard up!
  4. Make sure that any trailer that shows up is big enough for your horse.  I know that in an emergency it can become hard to be patient, but in the long run, it will save time.  My Friesian Sporthorse can be really picky about his trailers.  My two-horse slant is seven feet tall and wide enough, but he will not get into it with the middle bar that the doors close onto there.  He will just stand there and stare at the trailer with this look on his face like “are you going to move that bar”?

The moment that the bar is gone he walks right in.  To him, the half-space makes it too narrow.  “Who am I to say he is not right”.

“In an emergency, removing the bar saves tons of time!”

5. With a strange trailer open all of the windows and doors.  Make the space look inviting to your horse.  Walk-in with your horse into this strange trailer.  Your horse is taking his cues from you.  If you won’t walk in why should he?

6.When all else fail and you need the butt rope to help get your horse in, then learn how to use it properly. Having two people holding the ends of the rope might work for a pony or horse under fourteen hands, but for those big boys and girls, this will not work.

For the full-size horse over a thousand pounds, it is better to tie the rope to one side of the trailer back and then have your helper bring the rope around the butt of the horse to apply pressure. Warning, do not get the rope up under the tail, or below the hock, it needs to be in that curve right below the thigh. The object is that you are trying to encourage the horse to move forward.  There is no way you can lift the horse into the trailer.

Here is some overall advice to help you stay calm during the loading process:

  1. Remember to breathe! Take in those deep breaths, and let them out slowly.
  2. If you stay calm, speak in a quiet voice, and reassure your horse that this is just another day in the park, then all will go well.
  3. If someone comes to help you, ask them if they know about horses before you allow them to help.  Things can get really bad if the helpers don’t know horses. Remember to thank them for coming and helping.
  4. Do not take advice from non-horse people!  We all know they are just trying to help.  You are still the owner of the horse and are ultimately responsible for what happens to your horse and the people helping you.
  5. Be patient!  This is as stressful on your horse as it is for you. All of the smoke, sirens, emergency vehicles and their lights, shouting people, trailers, and strange people can make the whole process seem daunting. Everything that happens to your horse will be remembered, and you need to keep this as positive as possible.

“STAY CALM AND DON’T PANIC”!

Now that your horse is loaded and is safe with your cell phone number on his butt, it is time for you to get to safety.  Remember to take your folder that has your horse’s information in it with you. You should have a copy of his registration, vet records, feeding information, any medicines he is on and your contact information. This needs to be taken to the stable, fairgrounds, friends ranch or wherever the horse is going to. Practicing loading and having a plan ahead of time will save time and stress for both you and your horse.

Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important. It starts with knowing what to expect before you go. Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important. Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important.

I have participated in many driving and riding clinics over the years. Most of these were many years ago when I was learning the craft of driving.  I have been driving for over thirty-four years. In the past twenty-five years, I have been the clinician for many clinics both here in the United States, as well as internationally.

As a participant in a clinic, there are many things that will make your experience the best that it can be. After all, you are paying good money for the driving clinic, so you want to get as much out of it as you can.

Here is a list of some basic things you need to have at a driving clinic:

  1.  Come with an open mind.
  2.  Have your driving horse in the best condition you can.
  3.  Be sure your harness is properly fitted to your horse.
  4.  Be sure your vehicle is in good working order.
  5.  Bring a helper with you. Helpers can assist you with getting ready to drive, as well as being a second set of eyes and ears during your lesson.
  6.  Have a camera or cell phone that your helper can use to take video or pictures of your lesson.
  7.  Always wear a helmet.
  8.  Bring plenty of clothes for layering, if needed.
  9.  Be kind and respectful to the clinician and other drivers.
  10.  Be on time for your lesson.

From the clinicians’ point of view, they are getting paid to help you with any specific problem or driving movement that you might want to work on. 

Eileen giving a lesson to a pair at the HCCDC clinic in Calgary, Canada
Eileen giving a lesson to a pair at the HCCDC clinic in Calgary, Canada

Not all clinicians teach the same!

The first thing you need to realize that not all clinicians, work the same way when giving a lesson.  You can go to one trainer and they will approach an issue one way and then if you go to a second trainer, they may approach the same issue in a different way.  This does not mean that one way is wrong, or one way is better than another.  People in general do not always learn the same.  There are three different ways that people learn:

  1. Visual – They learn through seeing, they think in pictures.
  2. Auditory – They learn through listening, they think in words.
  3. Kinesthetic – They learn through moving, doing and touching.

Clinicians develop their way of training which in many ways are based on how they learned and on their life experience with driving horses.   

Once you arrive at the driving clinic grounds, make sure you find out where you need to park and where the arenas are that you will be having your lesson in.  If the clinic is more than one day, then you will need to find your camping space and a place to house your horse.

Check out the facility

When you are all settled in, then take a bit of time to check out the facility and say hello to your hosts. Generally, there will be a schedule board with the times for the lessons.

There is a schedule to be kept, so make sure you are at the arena at least five minutes before your time slot.  Lessons at a clinic are generally forty-five to fifty minutes with a ten-minute break in between.  These ten minutes is when the clinician has a chance to sit down, have a drink and take a walk to those little green, blue or white boxes.  Be patient, and if the clinician is a couple minutes behind, it is not the end of the world.

Once you have finished your lesson, be polite and thank the clinician, they really do appreciate it.  Exit the arena as the next student is waiting to come in.

I have just returned from a clinic in Calgary, Canada sponsored on by the High Country Carriage Driving Club. I was one of two clinicians invited to this yearly event that the club has.

The event was well received by drivers in Canada, and the club did a great job in keeping the event running like a well-oiled machine. This was amazing, as at the last minute, they had a acquire another facility as the weather decided to rain the week before and for two days of the event.

Rain was on the schedule!

This being a four-day event, the days were long for the clinicians with eight lessons each day.  You can see that well mannered horses, as well as knowledgeable drivers, made our jobs easier.  The organizers kept us well feed and dry, which was a chore within itself!

By the last day of the clinic, both the students and I were able to see the progress that many of the horses had made over the four days.  Many of the students that I taught, took a lesson from me all four days which made it easier to work on specific things that the students were having trouble with.

As a clinician, there are many things that I look at when helping the students:

  • Look at the vehicle that they are using for safety.
  • Check the harness for proper fit.
  • Ask about the horse and its history.
  • Find out if the student is a new driver or a seasoned driver.
  • Then find out what they want to work on and accomplish.

There is a lot of work that the clinician does while teaching a student.  When they ask you to remind them what they were working on the prior day, don’t think they have a bad memory.  They have seen eight students, that they have just met on the prior day, and remembering exactly what they worked on with you can sometimes be difficult.  Speak up and refresh their memory, it only takes a sentence to jog the clinicians mind.

Remember to get the most out of the clinic, keep an open mind, and be able to adjust if schedules get backed up.  After all, you have come to learn and getting upset does not help you or your horse. If you get one good tip that helps you with your horse, then the clinic was worth participating in!  You have paid good money for the opportunity, so learn and most of all have fun!

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.

Eileen driving SBF Shrimp Scampi at Ram Tap CDE, CA and she was going HC
Eileen driving SBF Shrimp Scampi at Ram Tap CDE, CA and she was going HC

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!

        

      

It was a pleasure to be invited by the High Country Carriage Driving Club to be one of their two clinicians at their 4th Annual Driving Bonanza in Calgary Canada. The event was held June 24 to 27, 2019 at the Fish Creek Ranch in Bragg Creek, Alberta. Due to inclement weather it was moved to a nearby fairgrounds. The lovely facility with a new covered inside arena had plenty of room for two clinicians to work students at the same time.

Enclosed arena at the Fairgrounds

The hosts of the event Susan and Doug did a great job keeping everything running, even with the change of venue. Monday and Thursday were wet days but the students took it with a grain of salt. They all showed up on time at the arena for their scheduled lesson.

There wide range of horses that here presented included singles, and pairs of all sizes. The breeds that were being driven included:

  • Andalusian
  • Fjord Mix
  • Miniature
  • Standardbred
  • Shire
  • Mule
  • Welsh Cob
  • Haflinger

and I’m sure I have probably missed one or two breeds.

Eileen Teaching at the HCCDC Driving Bonanza in Alberta Canada
Eileen Teaching at the HCCDC Driving Bonanza in Alberta Canada

Eight lessons were taught each day with different drivers and sometimes the same drivers with different horses. Some students had a lesson with me each day. It was nice to see the progress that they had made by the last day.

The 4th Annual Driving Bonanza ran smoothly despite the rain and cold. The two sunny days I taught most of the students outside. They were able to practice cones as well as drive in an area that was flat enough to do a dressage test.