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.


January 26th found us rising earlier than normal to make a trip down to Apache Junction for our first Arena Driving Trial of the year. Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy is going advance for the first time in about eight years. During training I found that he was getting very bored with the Intermediate tests as was I, so I decided to move back up to advance.

It was a sunny and warm day, at least in my opinion, as we woke up to 22 degrees. Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy finished his breakfast, while I walked the cones course and checked out the dressage arena. Then after a hot cup of coffee and a Danish Allan, my husband and navigator, and I walked the obstacles. There were four obstacles in an Arena Driving Trial, and they were very well laid out.

Eileen driving Pinegrove's Sailor Boy warming up for the obstacles.
Eileen driving Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy warming up for the obstacles.

When our go time finally came around Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was ready, as was I. We had a good go of it in dressage and I was appreciative of the judges comments. Afterwards we headed for the cones course where Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was a bit too excited and we knocked down two cones and we accrued some time penalties.

An hour later we hitched up for our turn at the obstacles. Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was happy to be able to canter through the obstacles and we had the best overall time in our division.

For our first Arena Driving Trial for the year I was happy with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy performance!

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.

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!

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!

In my last two articles, I have covered how to drive a dressage test and a cones course.  This last article will cover driving a hazard. Most hazards will be found in the marathon section of a Combined Driving Event.  What is not readily known is that pleasure shows can have a Pleasure Driving Marathon class.  So learning to properly drive a hazard is important to both Show Ring drivers, as well as those doing Combined Driving.

So you are heading out on the marathon course to, what we call, walk the hazards, and when you get there all the other drivers are walking and sometimes jogging through the hazard.  To a first timer this can be a bit confusing, as everyone has a different route that they are taking.  Here are a few basics things to remember when you get to the hazard:

             1) Do not ask for help unless it is from your coach.

            2) There will be drivers from all four levels in the hazard.

            3) There will be drivers of minis, ponies and horses in the hazard.

            4) There will be drivers of singles, pairs and four-in-hand in the hazard.

            5) There will be drivers of inexperienced horses.

            6) There will be drivers that are inexperience.

            7) The map you are given looks great but what is actually in the hazard is what you use. 

                Maps can be wrong!

When you get to the first hazard (I like to walk my hazards in the order that I will be driving them 1, 2, 3, etc.)  stop at the entrance gate and find all of the gates that pertain to you and your level.

          Training level gates A, B, C

          Preliminary level gates A, B, C, D

          Intermediate level gates A, B, C, D, E

          Advanced or FEI level gates A, B, C, D, E, F

If you are in training then you just need to locate gates A, B, & C, all of the other gates are like they don’t exist.  The same for preliminary and intermediate.

Map of an obstacle that would be used in a Combined Driving event during the marathon course

Once you know where the gates are at, then from the in gate, choose the shortest and the safest way for you and your horse to get to gate A.  Stop in the center of gate A, and now find the shortest and safest route to gate B.  Stop in the center of gate B, and now find the shortest and safest route to gate C. Stop in the center of gate C, and find the shortest and safest way to the out gate.  Remember in Training level you can only walk or trot your horse in the hazard.  In the other levels, you can canter inside the hazard if you feel safe with doing that.

You can see that I emphasize the shortest and safest way a lot. Training level is where new drivers and green horses learn how to safely maneuver a hazard in a slower and more methodical way than those in the other three levels. In training level, your penalty points for time spent in a hazard are not added to your overall time in the marathon like they are in the other three levels. Training level is just that, it is the level where new drivers and green horses can learn the techniques needed to maneuver a hazard without the pressure of having to go fast.

When you walk your hazards you will find that there are several ways you can go to get to each individual gate.  One route may be a bit shorter but have tighter turns.  One route might be all right turns, but if your horse is not as agile turning to the right, this might not be the route for you. One route might make the turns very narrow which might not be good if you are driving a big horse.  My Friesian Sporthorse is a good example of this. The real close together and tight turns are hard for him because the length of his body combined with the length of his carriage is such that he cannot make a tight U-turn.

The above routes show why when you walk the hazards you have to tune out everyone around you and what they are doing, so that you pick the best route for you and your horse.

Looking at the hazard example, a training level driver is able to go through A make a right turn and make a big circle to B and then go back through A and make a left turn to circle through C.  You will notice that when you add D and E, the route becomes more complicated and a lot of tighter turns will need to be made to get through the hazard. Then, when you add cantering to the equations, it is even harder to maneuver. When you canter your horse in a hazard everything comes at you faster, so you as the driver must concentrate on what you are doing so that you safely make all the turns you need to make.  The time it takes for your signal to get to your horses brain is about three seconds.  You don’t want to be late on the command or you might find yourself straddling a pole, or worse.

I will usually walk all of the hazards about six times to get my chosen route etched into my brain.  You need to be able to close your eyes and run the hazard in your head just the way you will be driving them.  If you can’t see it in your minds eye, then walk it again until you can.  When your sitting at night in your trailer or hotel room, you need to be able to remember them all, in order, in your mind.

We all know that the marathon course with the hazards is the fun part of a Combined Driving Event.  Here are a few more pointers that will help you stay safe and have fun:

1) Never let anyone try to pressure you to move up a level if you are not comfortable with the level you are    currently in.

2) Always wear a helmet.

3) Always wear a safety vest.

4) Always wear an emergency medical card on your arm or leg.

5) Always have a halter and lead rope on your carriage.

6) Always carry a spare whip (they can get caught on trees).

7) Always carry a sharp knife (the cost to replace a cut harness is so much less than the cost to replace your horse).

8) Always have a gator that has worked with you and your horse.

9) Always put your safety and your horses safety first before a colored ribbon, there will always be another event.

10) Remember to have fun because that is what this is all about!


This past Saturday and Sunday November 12 & 13, Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy Does Back To Back ADT’s in Litchfield Park, at the Dale Creek Equestrian Center.  The hosts opened up their facility to forty one horses and their carriage drivers for the weekend.  The event was put on by the Arizona Carriage & Driving Society which is the carriage driving club of Arizona.  The event organizers did a great job and both events went on time and in a very orderly fashion.  One of the clubs members Kevin Fetherston took pictures of cones for the ADT on Saturday and then pictures of hazard two at the Sunday ADT.  Some of the pictures you will see are ones that Kevin took so credit goes to him, thanks so much Kevin!

I headed out Friday morning with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy at about nine in the morning.  As usual Sailor was ready and walked right into the trailer for his next adventure.  I arrived at the facility about eleven thirty and found a stall for Sailor and a nice parking place for our rig for the weekend.

I had time later in the afternoon to walk the cones course several times and also the hazards.  Both were pretty straight forward and easy to see and navigate.  My day ended by having dinner with friends that we had not seen in quite awhile.  We had a great dinner and lots of good conversation and many laughs.

Saturday morning was cool and sunny as I got ready for dressage followed by cones.  I was the fifth competitor to go out at 8:32 am.  Dressage went quite well and it felt good from the beginning.  Cones started out good but Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy wasn’t sure of the cones setters that were leaning over the fence, but with lots of soft word of reassurance he made it through all twenty sets of cones.  The only mistake was mine so I had one ball down.

Hazards would not start until 1:00 pm so Sailor had a chance to eat and rest before running them.  Allan and I helped man one of the hazards while the miniature horses and ponies went through before hitching of Sailor for our go around.  Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy did a great job and our average time through the hazards was about sixty seconds.  Fun was had by both horse and humans and we took first place for Intermediate Single Horse.

I got Sailor settled in for the night and I followed as the morning would come around fast and I will be going earlier than I did today.

Sunday morning was a bit cooler and there some high clouds so my jacket would be staying on for dressage and cones.  I was second to go and I was hoping that Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy would ignore all of the things he was concerned about on Saturday.  That is just what he did!   Dressage went even smoother than Saturday so I was really pleased when we headed to cones.  Cones today was no issue and we flew through all twenty sets with a clear run.

I proceeded to get Sailor settled in his stall and went to get coffee and a breakfast burrito from the vendor that was brought in for the weekend.  As I was walking back to the trailer, I went by the secretaries table and picked up my dressage test and I was more than pleased with our score for the day.  My test showed 48.6 which is the best score Sailor and I have gotten to date.  There were lots of positive feedback in the judges comments and I thought to myself, I would be happy to just go home at this point, having worked so hard to get this type of score.  What a way to end the last competition of the year.

The afternoon went pretty much the same as Saturday with faster times in the hazards. I closed the day out with another first place in Intermediate Single Horse.  Being proud of Sailor and how far he has come is hard to put into words.  When my horses get into their teens, they turn into just great competitors!!




I had fun with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy at the ADT (Arena Driving Trail) this past Saturday in Prescott Arizona.

I was packed and ready to leave the ranch at 7:15 am and as usual Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy stepped right into the trailer.  I arrived at the host ranch by eight and proceeded to get checked in for the days activities. Our time of go for dressage and cones was not until 12:30 so I spent the first hour checking out the dressage court and then walking the cones course and memorizing it.

After a brief rest and a cup of coffee I went to walk the obstacles and decide what track I would take in them.  Once I memorized the four obstacles there was plenty of time to watch some of the lower level drivers  as they drove dressage and cones.  Of the 30 competitors the majority were Miniature horses and ponies. There were only about six full size horses that were competing.

About 11:45 I started getting Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy  harnessed up and hitched so I would have enough warm up time with him before doing dressage. Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy was calm and listening as I drove into the dressage court.  The test was going really well until out of the blue the judge blew her whistle,which meant I was off course.  Now I quickly run the course through my head as I head over to the judges stand, and I just did not know what I did wrong.  As it turned out I did nothing wrong, I just wasn’t as far along in the test as the judge thought I was.  So after this brief hiccup I continued on with the test.   Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy took all this in stride and did a beautiful test.

As I was the last competitor to go they were all waiting for me over at the cones course with bated breath.  I saluted the judge and away we drove.  I did most of the course in a very fast trot with an occasional canter thrown in for good measure. I ended up with two ball down and a couple of time penalties.

After a rest for Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy and a quick lunch I hitched up again to do the four obstacles.  The first obstacle had all sorts of large metal animals in it for the horses to spook at.  Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy took them all in stride and only gave the very tall horse a wink.  I have seen in the past these metal animals come alive to some horses.  Then on to the second hazard which consisted of six foot tall poles placed in rows with large flags on the tops.  Now Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy normally does not have an issue with flags as he has seen many, but these flags with the wind blowing them straight out were smacking him in the face and he took exception to that. He basically said this is more than even I can deal with.  For all the other horses this was not an issue as they were all a lot shorter than him and most could not see them unless they looked up. I eliminated out on this obstacle because it was the right thing to do and not force Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy through them.

The third obstacle was made up of these huge boulders placed within the obstacle. Just a note, as we went through the in gate there were flags on top of higher poles and Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy went right through. We flew in and out in record time and did not move one boulder.  The final obstacle was the water one.  When we got to it there were several competitors waiting to drive it.  Now as we all know training a horse to voluntarily run through water is not an easy task, thus the backup.  Now when  Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy saw the water he was more than eager to fly through at a gallop, and that he did.  We crossed the water pond three times to be able to make the fastest time we could.  Of course my gator, Allan, got quite wet during this romp through the water obstacle.  The three obstacles we completed we did in sixty seconds or less so it was a good go for us.

Spragues Orion Royal Herbie or “Snoopy” as we call him, took a first place at the SSC Arizona Driving Trial.  It was a beautiful day when we arrived at the hosting facility.  We found miniature horses and their people milling around,  getting their trailers unpacked.

First order of business was to check in and then I went to check out the dressage arena.   The cones course comes right after dressage so I needed to walk it several times so memorize it.  There were several blind turns in it which could be a problem if you are not ready for them.

By now it was about 10:00 so I had plenty of time to watch some of the drivers do dressage as well as cones.  It looked like everyone was having a good time with their miniature horses.

Finally it was time for me to get Spragues Orion Royal Herbie ready to drive.  After a good brush out I harnessed him up and we took a leisurely stroll down to the dressage arena.  There were still two competitors waiting to go, who were in front of me.  This made for a short wait until it was my time to go.

Spragues Orion Royal Herbie was ready to go, so we took our one lap around the  arena and proceeded up the center line.  Stopped and saluted the judge.  The last time I competed with Spragues Orion Royal Herbie, was in 2004 at the Old Pueblo CDE (Combined Driving Event) in Tucson Arizone.  I was not surprised that Snoopy just went to work like it was just yesterday.  He did a fantastic job in dressage and I couldn’t have been more proud of him.

We then proceeded to the cones course where they were still setting the cones width for us. The judge blew her whistle when ready and away we drove. We did a good part of the course at the canter so that we could make our time.  It was a great plan as we were only two seconds over in time and we had no balls down. Spragues Orion Royal Herbie really enjoyed doing the cones, as always.

All competitors took a break for lunch for both them and their horses.  After which we all hitched up our horses for the obstacles, of which there were four.  Spragues Orion Royal Herbie had a great go through all four of the obstacles.  We had to race through four gates in each of the obstacles in the fastest time possible, while still being safe.

By the end of the day Spragues Orion Royal Herbie had the top dressage score of all the competitors and the top combined score overall.  We placed first in the preliminary single horse division.  Not to bad for a 21 year old who hadn’t competed in a CDE  since 2004.