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.

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Here, west of the Mississippi River, we are all getting ready for the Combined Driving season to start. I thought we all need a bit of a refresher on the three phases of combined driving, and the changes that have arrived since last year. 

The Original CDE

DAY ONE- DRIVEN DRESSAGE

The object of Competition A is to judge the freedom, regularity of paces, harmony, impulsion, suppleness, lightness, ease of movement and correct bending of the horse on the move.  The competitor will be judged on style, accuracy of the chosen test, and general control of their horses

DAY TWO – MARATHON

The object of Competition B is to test the fitness, stamina and training of the horse and the driving skill, judgment of pace and general horsemanship of the competitor.

DAY THREE – CONES

The object of Competition C is to test the fitness, obedience and suppleness of the horse after Competition B, and the skill and competence of the driver.

As many of you have seen over this past year or two, most events are only two days.  They consist of Dressage and Cones on day one, and the modified marathon on day two.  This is now called the “Two-Day Driving Event”. Basically, you are doing a three-day event all jammed into two days.  In my opinion this is a lot to ask of our horses!

Then, we have the “Driving Trial”.  In this you do dressage and cones in the usual format followed by the marathon.  Now, this can be done all on one day or over two days.  In this scenario the marathon is section “B” only. The course can be up to 10 km and have six to eight obstacles.

Arena Trial

We now move on to the “Arena Trial” which can be in an enclosed arena or outside. Dressage will be the normal 40 X 80 test, but if space is not available then the driving trial test will be used, and the dressage court will be adjusted. Cones will be the same unless space is limited, thereby the sets of cones will be adjusted. 

There will be four marathon obstacles, but only two will be constructed at a time.  When all competitors have driven the first two, then they will be reset and driven again for a total of four.

Next, we have the “Combined Test” which consists of two of the three phases (dressage, cones, marathon).  Normally, what you will see is dressage and cones as the most popular pairing.  This can be an event all its own or can be combined with any other previously talked about event.

Just to keep us guessing, ADS has now included what is called “Combined a-la-carte Event” where you get to choose from several dressage tests, cones courses, and even marathon.  Competitors can choose one class from each section, such as (Dressage Training, Cones Preliminary, Marathon Intermediate) or any combination they so choose.

Oh, and by the way there is still the illusive original “Three Day Event” that we barely see anymore!

So, count them, we have six types of events to try and figure out!

A couple of the other changes that have come around this past year is the debate on making safety vests mandatory for everyone during the marathon. The new rule book confirms the Protective Vest must be worn and securely fastened during marathon. If your thinking about getting one of the air protection vests, think again, the ADS says, “when a body/back protector is required, air protector can be used combined with a real back or body protector but never without”.

One the brighter side, women are no longer required to wear a jacket during dressage!

Those who want to go advanced and you are in CAI 2 level, your horse must now be six years old or over. The ADS has set the age for any ADS recognized event at four years of age. When you fill out those entry forms, make sure your horse is the right age for the type of event it is (ADS, USE, FEI).

For advanced drivers the ADS has made this a bit harder “Entries in classes offering Advanced Dressage tests and Cones specifications, competitors must follow all vehicle requirements under FEI CAI 2* rules”.  Basically, this means that your vehicle must be the correct weight and wheel width, so be sure to check this out and measure and weigh the vehicle you will be using.

For those who attend any sanctioned ADS event that is also a USE/FEI event, make sure you check the rule book for these types of events.  At many of these events you will need to be a member of FEI and you will be required to have taken the Equestrian Federation’s Safe Sport Training.  This is training on how to recognize sexual misconduct, emotional misconduct, physical misconduct, bullying and hazing.

Up To Minute Developments!

As I am writing this article, I received a notice from the USE on their latest updates from the Driving Sport committee. Those new competitions for Advanced, Intermediate and Preliminary championships that were based on events you went to through the year, no matter where you live has been changed:

  1. Athletes must be U.S. Citizens
  2. Athletes must be active competing members in good standing with USEF during the event.
  3. Athletes must be of eligible age as defined in Subchapter DC-4 of the USEF Combined Driving rules.
  4. Horses/Ponies must have an annual or life recording with USEF during the event.
  5. Horses/Ponies must be of eligible age as defined in Subchapter DC-6 of the USEF Combined Driving rules.
  6. Athletes/horse combinations must have completed at least one event within 24 months (without elimination, retirement or disqualification) at the same division level as the Championship.
  7. Athlete/horse combinations may only participate in one National Championship division level within the same year.
  8. All Athletes and Horses/Ponies are subject to USEF rules and policies as published on usef.org.

Confused?

If your confused about what Combined Driving is, join the club!  Personally, I think that the ADS has made something that was easy to do into something so hard to figure out that they might just scare newcomers away, and we all know that without new drivers this sport will just die and fade away.  Then the ADS wonders’ why a lot of the state driving clubs are not doing ADS sanctioned events!

I am a proponent of going out and having fun with your horse and when the rules don’t make it fun to do any more, then we adjust and do it differently.

Our state club is doing that along with many other states here in the West and I commend them for that.  Don’t get discouraged and keep getting out there and driving your horse, no matter if it is showing, combined driving or just going down the road.

Remember keep having fun-fun-fun!!!!

Teaching your horse manners is a must!  A person’s (or in this case a horse’s) outward bearing or way of behaving toward others.  Synonyms: demeanor, air, aspect, attitude, bearing, cast, behavior, conduct.

When you are working with your horse manners area must.  They are even more important than a person’s manners because youare working with a thousand-pound animal.

Manners should be the first thing a foal starts to learn when they are born. Manners are learned by repetition, like most things that we teach our horses.  The most important lesson that your horse must learn from the time he is born, is your space my space. Especially if you expect your horse to be sixteen hands and thirteen hundred pounds when fully grown.

Teaching foals manners is mandatory!

I have always made the first thing I do with my foals is teaching them how to walk with me on a lead. Once they get that down pat then I will put whoa and back into my routine.  I will lead them for about seventy-five feet and then I will say whoa with a slight backwards pull on the lead. 

Generally, within about a dozen times of asking for the whoa they have it.  I will then walk them seventy-five feet, ask for a whoa, and then say back, at the same time I will lightly pull backwards on the lead along with a finger to the chest at about the point that a future breast strap would be.  If they give me one step back I will say whoa again and then they get lots of praise. If you make this a part of your foal training it will soon become a way of life for the foal.

Remember this is all about manners: your space my space, whoa on command, back on command when needed, and standing still when told to. Never rush these steps and go at your foals’ pace not on your time clock.  Praise your foal at every step even if it is only fifteen seconds that he stands still. 

  Your foal does not have a time table!

If you have already taught your horse during ground work to stand still when you tell them “stand” then the harnessing and hitching stand will be easier. When I am working with a green driving horse I watch his body language so that I can catch him the moment he starts to move. I will touch him on the part of the body, usually the butt, that he starts to move and as I touch him I reinforce the word “stand”.  Your horse will not learn this overnight, so be ready to correct him for a good length of time.  

It is all about repetition!

When you are ready to hitch your horse that is green or that you are having trouble with standing, here are some helpful way to do it safely.

If you are fortunate enough to have a helper, you can stand your horse with his head facing your helper.  The helper is just a road block, so you don’t want them touching or handling the horse. The driver should have the reins over their shoulder, so each time your horse moves in any direction you need to tap on the reins and say “stand”.  Green horses can be squirmy the first few times you hitch them.  Again, this is not learned overnight!

If it is just you by yourself hitching there are two ways to stand your horse to hitch.  If your horse knows how to ground tie with a lead rope, then do that.  The second way is to have your horse at a hitching rail with the lead just wrapped around the rail a couple of times, “not tied”. While hitching by yourself you need to always have the reins over your shoulder as this and your voice are your only means of control. 

Eileen harnessing Daniel Dawson with him quietly standing at the hitching rail.
Eileen harnessing Daniel Dawson with him quietly standing at the hitching rail.

During this period of teaching your horse to stand for harnessing and hitching you need to have plenty of patience and time. If you are rushed on a certain day than do something simple like just part of the harness and then just ground drive your horse.  Believe me your horse will sense your lack of time and patience!


Learning proper manners is all about repetition!

Then when you are driving and need your horse to stand still in a lineup those manners come in handy again.   

There are some bad manners that are totally not acceptable with a horse! Biting, rearing, kicking, not walking beside you but ahead of you, diving for grass and rushing through gates.  When you think about a driving horse doing these things while hitched, it can be downright dangerous.

Diving for grass while driving a horse can cause all kinds of trouble.  Your horse is very likely to fall if he does this while you are driving him down the road. It is very easy for the shaft of your carriage to get caught under the shoulder strap. If you are driving with other carriages in a line in or out of a show ring you very likely can be run into by the horse behind you.

Bottom line is that proper manners will make you and your horses experience when driving a whole lot nicer!  So, teach them the manners they need to be good citizens, so that you both can go out and have a safe and fun drive!

The Combined Driving Demonstration held at Davis Ranch was a great success.  About forty members of the Granite Mountain Riders showed up for the monthly meeting at the ranch. The members did a lot of catching up with other members while waiting for all to arrive.
By 5:30pm members made their way to the bleachers by the dressage arena to watch the beginning of the nights program.
All were welcomed to the ranch after which I explained what Combined Driving is.   I also explained what a Combined Driving Event consisted of.


Introducing Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy


I introduced my Friesian Sporthorse “Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy” who is a fifteen year old gelding.  I told them that I have been working with him for thirteen years.  Also, that he has competed through FEI level.
Sailor and I drove through a few cones showing the precision needed  to drive them without knocking any down.
We then escorted the ladies to an area on my cross country course to watch us run two of the obstacles on the property. 


Obstacles oh what fun!


In Sailor’s normal way he showed that he was very happy to canter through both of the obstacles.  The water obstacle is always great to watch, for Sailor due to his size,  creates a big splash.
After returning to the carriage barn to unhitch Sailor, I answered many questions and he hunted for treats as is usual after he has done a good job.  After returning him to his stall and getting his dinner we all  enjoyed a very tasty potluck dinner.
The night was finished off with a club meeting and everyone left to go home before the night got to cold to be outside.
There were many great questions answered and many great thanks for a great program.

Pessoa Training System with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy is the best tool to use to help your horse find his own natural frame.

The Pessoa Training System was designed by Nelson Pessoa. With this tool you are able to start your green horse long and low. As your horse learns self carriage you can adjust to achieve the most advanced collected frame.

I have been using the Pessoa system with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy for about ten years and it has been a great training tool. The best thing about it is that the horse is basically learning on his own. Sure I hold the lounge line, and I have a lounge whip to keep him moving in the direction that I want him to go. I never pull on his head, mouth or face.

Once you have watched the video you will see how quiet Sailor is.  This is the way you want your horse to be during this training process.  When introducing your horse to the Pessoa training system you will start at a walk.  Your session only needs to be about fifteen minutes.  Remember the horse is learning how to carry himself in a frame and it will tire him out. Work several sessions at the walk until your horse relaxes into what he is being asked to do.  Once he is comfortable with the walk then move onto the trot and then the canter.  Only a well conditioned horse will be able to do the three gaits for any length of time.

Remember you are teaching your horse to carry himself in a dressage frame. He needs tp stay round and on the bit during the whole session.

So, you have brakes, now what and how are you supposed to use them? Unlike a car, brakes on a carriage, and yes, some carts, are not used to stop your horse.

To stop a car, the brakes must suppress the kinetic energy. They do so, by using the force of friction to convert that kinetic energy into heat. When you press your foot down on the brake pedal, a connected lever pushes a piston into the master cylinder, which is filled with hydraulic fluid.

Horse drawn carriages can have either disc or drum brakes:

Drum brakes:

When the brake pedal is applied, two curved brake shoes, which have a friction material lining, are forced by hydraulic wheel cylinders against the inner surface of a rotating brake drum. The result of this contact produces friction which enables the vehicle to slow down or stop.

Disc brakes:

In a disc brake, the brake pads squeeze the rotor, and the force is transmitted hydraulically.  Friction between the pads and the disc slows the disc down.

I am sure you are wondering why you can’t stop a horse by using the brakes? First, the brakes are not connected to the horse.  The horse does not know you want him to stop when you press the brakes.  The only way he knows this is by your voice and reins.  We all have a que that we use to slow our horses down and to stop them all together.

You have brakes, but what exactly is the sequence when you go to stop your horse.

When stopping your car, the first thing you do is take your foot off the gas and then apply your foot to the brake.

When you want to stop you horse the first thing you need to do is ask through your hands and voice for your horse to slow down. Once he starts to slow, you will see his back breeching start to tighten around his butt.  It is at this point that you start to apply pressure to the brake in your carriage.  This slows down the carriage only, and you will see the breeching loosen. As your horse slows even more, you will apply more brake, this will keep the weight of the carriage from pushing your horse.  If you are asking your horse to slow and stop, but the carriage is still pushing him forward, it is a mixed message to him. Continue doing this until you are stopped.

Yes, brakes are good for other things when you are driving your horse!

Brakes are a great help when you are going downhill.  When you have a hill that is slight and short in length, a tap of the brake to keep the carriage from pushing on your horses’ butt as you go down is helpful. This just slows the carriage down, not the horse.

Now, if your trotting down a long steep hill that is when the brakes can really help.  By applying the brakes equally, if you have front and back brakes, you can hold the cart off your horses’ butt, which keeps the carriage from pushing your horse faster down the hill. If you only have back brakes then you will need to apply and release, apply and release, that way you will slow the carriage down but not cause the front to slide sideways.

Front and back brakes?

Since I just mentioned front and back brakes, I should explain that most carriages that have brakes on all four wheels, they will have two pedals.  One for the front brakes and one for the back brakes. This way, you can use them together or independently. Never apply the front brakes first!  Doing that can cause the carriage to tip or slide sideways.  Yes, it is ok to use two feet to apply the brakes, left foot on the front pedal and right foot on the back pedal.

Applying the back brake only, if the horse is in a hard stop, the weight of the carriage and the passengers can be thrown forward bringing the back wheels off the ground, making the brakes useless.  This is also why if you only have back brakes, you need to remember to press and release the pedal to slow or stop in an emergency.

Drum Brake for the back of a carriage

Another good way to use your brakes is during dressage.  Say, you are coming to a halt at “X”, and you want to slow the carriage down at the same time you are asking your horse with a half halt, apply your brake each time you half halt.  This will help stop the carriage at the same time the horse stops.  You are more likely to land at “X”!

Using Your Brakes

In dressage, when you are making that last corner turning into the long diagonal, where you are going to ask for that extended trot, is another spot to apply some brake, as you ask for that half halt of your horse. This makes your corner look better and tells your horse that there is a different movement coming. Slowing your horse and carriage down before doing the extended trot sets up the movement.

Disc Brake on a Kuhnle that has brakes on all four wheels

When doing dressage, be sure that your brakes are clean, and your brake fluid is full.  The last thing you want is for the judge to hear a squeal every time that you apply your brakes. Use your brakes only when they are needed!

During a marathon course there will be times when brakes come in real handy. Those tight turns in obstacles where you want to slide the back of your carriage to get around the post quicker.

During cones, when you want to canter the long distances between cones, and then slow down again to get through the center of the next set of cones.  Just another example of when to use your brakes!

Learning how to properly use your brakes in conjunction with your commands to your horse through voice and reins is a learning experience.  Start at a walk in the learning process, then when you have it down go to a trot.  Have fun and be safe, because it will take awhile to get it down smooth!

Sailor having fun at the ADT in Prescott this last weekend.  It was the first event that my Husband, Allan, has gatored for me since his by-pass surgery last year.  This was my trail event to make sure that all was good before we plan a trip later in the year to Colorado and possibly Texas for CDE’s.

The day started off calm and quiet with the weather but by noon the breezes started to come.  Our go time for dressage was 12:26 and yes we were the last to go.  By this time the ground in both the dressage arena and the cones was more like powder than dirt.

We did okay in dressage and Sailor was having fun just trying to make out the letters on the concrete bricks.  After dressage we headed for the cones course, by now the breeze was a lot stronger, so the cones and numbers were hard to see.

We went through the starting gate and then through the first set of cones and as I turned left towards the second set of cones the letters were so full of dirt there were no numbers, and then with the cloud of dust I had to make a second circle just to be able to see the numbers.  The rest of the course was like the blind leading the blind.  We managed not to knock any of the balls down for a clean round.

After lunch Sailor was hoping to have more fun but, by now the dirt was in constant clouds floating across the grounds.  We ran the four obstacles in good time and we were very glad to be done!

Overall Sailor having fun, and Allan being able to be there with me as my gator was worth eating dirt and being sand pitted!

The importance of warming up your horse, especially when you are at a driving show or a Combined Driving Event is probably the most important part of showing and competing.  But it does have to be done correctly.

Learning how to warm up your horse starts at home as part of your normal routine.

All horses, whether you compete with them or just drive them for fun on the trail where you live, need to have a warm up period in which to get, not only their bodies ready for work but also their minds.

We will address the mind first, for without it being present you won’t even need the body.  A well-trained horse who has a particular job, in this case, driving, needs to have his mind on the job at hand.

Most of the time when you go to drive your well-trained horse he is there with you, but there are those few times when you are all hitched up and ready to drive out and within the first five minutes you get the feeling that your horse woke up on the wrong side of the bed!

Large warm-up area away from other horses. Eileen is driving Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy.

Getting ready for dressage with Sailor in North Carolina at a Combined Driving Event

When this happens the best thing to do is ask him to do just one small thing, say like halting and backing up two steps.  Then you take him back to where you hitched him up, unhitch him, take off the harness and put him in his stall.  You will be thankful later, because he will remember that kind gesture when you least expect it.  Even horses can have a bad day, for whatever reason, and it is just not worth the fight!

I have had this happen with my horses, and when I have come back the next day, all is well and good.  Just like you and me we sometimes have a bad day for whatever reason.

I will use my Friesian Sporthorse as an example here for the warm-up that I do at home: 

Once he is harnessed and hitched I start by walking him quietly, on a loose rein for about five minutes.  I then will move him up to a slow trot to give him time to get all the normal coughing and light snorting to clear his airway and lungs out.  Continue to trot him working up to a working trot for about twelve minutes and going approximately 1.8 km. I do this whole warm up on my property by going around the flat part of my course four times. Then I walk him for about five minutes, or until his pulse and respiration comes down to normal.

This is my warm-up that I do every time I go to drive Sailor.  You need to note that Sailor is 16.1 hands and about 1250 pounds, so it takes this amount of time to get all his muscles and tendons warmed up to be able to work on dressage, cones or the endurance that is needed for a marathon course.

This type of warm-up will keep your horse sound, so if you don’t have a lot of time one day to drive more than about 15-20 minutes, then just use your warm-up as your drive time.  Warm-up time is still driving your horse and having fun.

So, you are at a driving show or are getting ready to do one of the three parts of a Combined Driving Event and you need to warm-up.  You want to do the same warm-up that you do at home.  First, doing what your horse is used to in a warm-up will keep him thinking there is nothing different about what he will be doing.

If you don’t lounge him at home don’t do it at a show.

If you don’t canter him around for ten minutes at home don’t do it at the show.  I think you get the idea.  You want to make the warm-up seem as normal as possible.  The last thing you want to do is get your horse hyped up or so exhausted he will not be able to show at his best.  When I am warming-up at a competition I try to find a quiet area in which to do this.  When at home my horses are generally driven by themselves so trying to warm-up in a place where there are ten other carriages being driven around can become distracting to your horse.

At a show or competition is not the time to try and teach your horse anything new.  If he does not know it by the time you leave your ranch, he will not miraculously learn it during warm-up.  If you think after the warm-up that your horse is not really wanting to do this competition, there is no shame in pulling out of a class or portion of a CDE.

We all know that our horses become very aware of where they are at especially when you have trailered to a show.  There are so many new things for them to see and smell.  This is all normal so if you keep everything you can the same at the show as at home it will help them enormously:

Take his normal water and feed buckets with.

Use his regular halter and lead rope

Use his regular harness that you show in for several weeks before at home.  (My show harness is the same type as           my regular work harness.)

Use the carriage that you will be showing in at home for several weeks. (My horses presentation carriage I do not           use on a regular basis until I am getting ready for a competition.)

Just remember going to a show or competition is supposed to be a fun experience for both you and your horse!

My motto has always been:  “If you’re not having fun than don’t do it!”

Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy competes at the Arizona Driving and Carriage Society’s first ADT of 2018.  I got an early start on the day, heading from my ranch in Prescott to the event at Apache Junction two and a half hours away.

Arriving at the event center about 8:30, there were already a lot of competitors there.  I picked up my entry number and settled into the routine of getting Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy out of the trailer and comfortable.  Next in line was to get the carriage and other equipment out also.  Then it was all about waiting for our time to go 10: 26.

I had Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy tacked up and harnessed by ten and we headed for the safety inspection, and then it was on to dressage.  Dressage not being Pinegrove’s Sailor Boys favorite thing we just headed into the dressage court in a very relaxed mode.  The whole test went terrific and I was very happy with a score of 54 at the Intermediate level.

  • Dressage

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona in Dressage
  • Dressage

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona in Dressage
  • Safety Inspection

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona at safety check
  • Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona heading to Dressage
  • Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona heading to Dressage
  • Harnessing

    Pinegrove's Sailor Boy at the Arena Driving Trial in Apache Junction Arizona harnessing up

I then headed over to the cones course which was large and sweeping and Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy decided that an extended trot for the whole 800m would be the way to go. We went clean with no balls down and I think we made time but as of this news release the final scores are not posted.

Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy and I made about a two hour break during which I walked the four obstacles that we would be driving at 2:45.  Our time came and Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was eager to get going and we cantered about 95% of the four obstacles.  No whistle was blown so we had no course penalties.

All in all it was a nicely run event in a great location.  All of the organizers and the helpers did a great job keeping it running on time.

I will post out final score when I get it, and everyone out there keep driving!

I was asked to do a Participation Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival on Sunday April 23, 2017.  The day started out sunny with a temperatures in the mid eighties.  I arrived at the venue in Cottonwood Arizona at 8:30 to find people and horses already milling around the fair grounds.  The driving participation clinic started at 9:30 with two drivers signed up to participate.

The first driver had a well seasoned draft mare she was driving and the second driver had a Morgan mare that has been driving about two years with a new driver.  Both horses were well behaved and the drivers were proficient equal with their level of driving.

Many of the spectators that arrived were there to watch and learn about driving and how much fun that it can be.  It was really good to see the interest in the sport of driving as we need to bring more people into this sport so that it will live on for many years.

This Participation Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival was proof that people can get excited about this very old form of transportation and how it has transformed into a fun way to use ones horse.

Harnessing Clinic

After a brief break I then did a talk on harness and harnessing.  Even though the wind decided to show it’s ugly head there was a good turnout of people wanting to learn!  I brought along my miniature horse “Snoopy” as a demonstration horse to show how to fit and put on the harness an hitch to a cart.

While I was answering questions I had any of the attendees who wanted to try and put together a harness to do so.  I supplied a horse size harness with 29 parts that were disassembled for them to put together.  When it was assembled I gave them one of my “Harnessing & Saddling A Step By Step Guide” as a prize.  There is nothing better than hands on experience to teach a student how to do something!

Now we all know that driving with your cell phone to talk to someone or to text someone is not the wisest thing to be doing.  There are 14 states that prohibit all drivers from using cell phones and you can get a ticket for doing it.  Thirty eight states prohibit use of cell phones by novice drivers and twenty states prohibit use by school bus drivers.  Forty six states ban text messaging for all drivers.

What is distracted driving (using cell phones)?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off of your primary task of driving safely, potentially endangering the driver, passenger, and bystander safety.  Some forms of distracted driving include:   texting, using a cell phones or smartphones, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

With that said, if you are driving your horse and carriage on any public road, paved or gravel, you are required to follow all of the driving rules that you would normally follow if you are driving a motor vehicle.  When driving your horse and carriage you always drive on the right side of the road. Horse drawn carriages are considered “slow-moving vehicles” and are required in some states to have a slow-moving vehicle warning sign on the back of your carriage.  We all want to be safe so please have one on your carriage!

I know we all have busy and full lives and we try to multi-task in an attempt to get more accomplished in the hours of the day that we are awake. Having a cell phone glued to our ear when we are driving our horse is just as dangerous as when you are driving your automobile. Twenty two of the states ban talking on your phone, while forty six states ban all texting while driving, so if your driving you horse and carriage on public roads you are not allowed to text and drive.  For the four states that allow texting, you would need to be very proficient in driving with reins in one hand and texting with your thumb!

Now that I have gone over the laws that exist, lets think about the ramifications of talking or texting while you are trying to drive your horse.

  • 1) The vast majority of carriage drivers are only proficient at driving with two hands.
  • 2) The engine of your horse does not go to idle the second you take the gas off, the message takes a couple of seconds to get from your mind, to the command, then to your horse.
  • 3) Being that we use our voices more when we drive our horses, than when we ride them, you the driver must stay focused on driving the horse not on a conversation on your phone.
  • 4) According to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University found that 37 percent of your brain activity devoted to the task of driving is lost while texting at the same time.
  • 5) If you are texting while driving your horse, which text message is he getting?  Your horse deserves your total attention whenever your are driving him.
  • 6) When you are concentrating on your drive, weather is it a  lesson, clinic, preparing for competition or just driving for fun, and you are interrupted by your phone, you have just lost the communication with your horse. 

When I drive my horses I have always given them my full attention at all times.  Horses are just animals and good can go to bad really quick.  It is better to keep those bad times at a minimum, or never, and concentrate on just driving.

I know you are all wondering, have I ever texted or talked on my phone while driving, and the answer is no!  I do carry my phone on me especially when I am out by myself just in case there is a problem. 

There have been two occasions when I have come upon another driver that was using their phone.  The first was actually during a competition on the marathon course.  It was in an area where there was two way traffic and we were heading towards each other, and the other driver was in the middle of the track. I finally had to yell at the driver to get her attention, so that we would not be run of the track.

The second was also at a competition in the warm up arena for dressage.  Here again, there were several competitors in the arena including a four up.  Can you imagine my surprise when the driver was talking on his phone while driving the four up.  For the sake of safety, I decided to exit the area until the four up was finished.  The driver had no idea that his attention was not on his horses.

As an instructor, I do not allow cell phones in the arena for any of my students.  I will never answer my cell phone when I am giving a lesson, it will always be in airplane mode.  As the instructor, I need to stay focused on the student and their horse.  After all, they are paying me for my time and experience and not for phone time.  There is a lot of concentration that one has to have to be able to help a student with their horses driving issues.  I want my students to get as much as they can during the lessons, so that they feel like they can go home and practice what they have learn

So, lets all leave the phones in the tack room while we are driving our horses so that we can have a fantastic and safe time driving our horses!