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If you are taking a private lesson or participating in a clinic, your mindset going into it will set the tone for what you will learn. Getting the most out of a lesson or clinic is all up to you.

What is a lesson as compared to a clinic?

  • Clinic:  a group meeting devoted to the analysis and solution of concrete problems or to the acquiring of specific skills or  knowledge. Examples: writing clinics, golf clinics, driving clinic.
  • Lesson: an activity that you do in order to learn something

As you can see both a lesson and a clinic are an activity that one participates in to learn something, in this case driving a horse.

 Lessons are generally given one on one.  I know there are some trainers that will do lessons for a group, but in my experience with giving driving lessons, it is very hard to concentrate on a group of drivers at one time. Drivers are generally at different levels of skill as are their horses. Private lessons also provide a quieter and distraction free experience. There is also the safety issue of a group of drivers in an arena at the same time, especially if the arena is not large enough.

 Clinics are generally given to one student at a time with spectators and other drivers watching. This way all of the drivers and spectators get the benefit of what each student is working on and the knowledge of the clinician.

 When you are paying good money to a driving instructor you expect to get good instruction.  You as the student, need to be able to take constructive instruction, whether it is how you are used to doing things or not.

 Instructors all have different ways of teaching and as in anything, there are different ways to do most things.  If you do it one way and the instructor shows you a different way, it does not mean that either one of you is wrong. 

When you have worked with horses for years, you soon realize that every horse learns in a different way, and processes the information given them in different ways. 

 Students should never argue with the instructor and the instructor should never yell or demean the student.  With horses there is never a clear right or wrong way of doing a movement, just many different ways to look at something.  Besides arguing and yelling will just upset the horse!

 You should always start your lesson by letting the instructor know what issues that you want to work on.  By doing this, the instructor will be looking at how you are currently driving your horse to be able to discern what you or the horse is doing wrong.

 When you have paid your money to attend a clinic as a driver or as an auditor, there are things you need to know.  As the driver, you need to come with a clean and well groomed horse.  Your cart or carriage should be reasonably clean and in good, safe working condition.  Your harness should be clean and in good condition.  Bailing twine holding your trace onto the carriage is not good condition!

Know ahead of time what you want to work on with the clinician.  The clinician will not know what issues you or your horses are having unless you let them know. 

Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival

Verde Valley Equine Festival in Cottonwood Arizona with Eileen doing a participation clinic with drivers

 After you have completed your time with the clinician, and after you have put your horse away, you should write down the comments that the clinician has given you while they are clear in your mind.  This way when you get home you won’t be going, “what did the clinician say about my trot”?  You can also get permission from the organizers to be able to record your lesson with the clinician.

 Now, it is time to go and watch the other participants with their horses.  It is amazing how many drivers will have the same issues.  You will probably also learn other lessons that will be of help.  It is always good to experience the “wow” moment when the clinician says something that you have been having an issue with.  You can always come away with one good tip and that tip makes the whole clinic worth it.  While you are watching the other students, be respectful and not talk loud to your friend that just showed up.  Pay attention and learn as much as you can from the clinic.  After all, you have paid good money for this experience so make the most of it.

 When you have a scheduled lesson with a trainer and you are using your horse, then you need to allow enough time at the lesson location to get your horse and carriage unloaded and hitched up before your lesson time. 

 If you are taking lessons on a trainers horse, you probably expect that the trainer will have the horse ready for you when you arrive.  If you are late, then the horse has to do more work than just your lesson.  Be respectful of the trainer and their well trained horses.

 When you have taken lessons from the same trainer for awhile, then they will know what items and issues that you have been working on

When you are driving your own horse and have worked with the same trainer for awhile, then the trainer will know if you have worked on your lessons at home.  Working on lessons at home will make your next lesson better and you will not be repeating the same thing over and over.  The trainer always likes to see their students advance in their driving abilities

Be on time, be ready and have an open mind and you will start “Getting The Most Out Of A Lesson”.

It was a sunny May fourth and I had an appointment for my dog to be groomed.  My husband and I dropped our dog “Kandi” off at the groomers and then decided to get breakfast out.

By the time that we had finished breakfast, we headed home to get some work done before picking up Kandi.  I got the call from the groomer about noon and I asked my husband if he wanted to go with to pick her up. We headed into town and got Kandi and then headed home with her.  As I was driving, I noticed that my husband kept stretching his left arm and then rubbing his left shoulder.  I asked him several times if he was alright and if he needed to go to the doctor. He kept saying that he was alright, so I proceeded to drive home.

When we arrived home he decided to sit and take a rest. I asked again if he was alright, and again he said he was.  I told him I was going out to drive my horse Sailor for about twenty minutes and I would be back in.

Now, what happened next was Beyond The Expected!  As I was coming around the front of my property, I noticed a van sitting in my driveway at the gate.  My first thought was that the FedEx truck was delivering a package. Then about thirty seconds later, I heard sirens and they were getting close. Coming up my road was a fire paramedic truck pulling up to the driveway. By this time, I realized that the van was an ambulance and I knew that my husband was the one who called 911.

What was going through my mind at this time was how am I going to get Sailor unhitched without him being spooked by all of the forthcoming commotion.  I decided to drive him straight into the side of my round pen which would keep most of the activity of the paramedics out of his view. After taking a few deep breaths to calm myself, I started talking with Sailor in as calm a voice as I could mustard at the time.  For him, this was not his normal routine so keeping him calm was necessary because I didn’t need to get hurt.  I managed to get him unhitched and walked him to the barn and stripped his harness off as quickly as possible.  I could see the confusion in his eyes, but I also knew that he trusted me to keep him safe. By the time I was heading to the house, one of the paramedics was coming to find me.  As it happened, my husband was having a heart attack, so the quicker he got to the hospital, the better his chances would be to recover.  The paramedics did what they could for him at the house and then loaded him into the ambulance.  This whole time the paramedics were in contact with the heart center at the hospital.  By the time I got myself together and to the hospital, my husband was already in surgery having a stint put in. He made it through the whole ordeal, but he will need double bypass surgery to fix other arteries to his heart.

By now you are wondering why I am telling you this story. “Sailor” is a Friesian Sporthorse that I have been working with now for over eleven years.  We have become great partners and we have competed in many combined driving events across the country. During this experience, Sailor had no idea why I unhitched him in such a weird place and returned him to his stall in such a strange manner.  During the whole process, I could tell that he was concerned by watching his body language.

The bond that one develops over the years working with a horse is beyond words.

This bond showed itself about two weeks later when I hitched Sailor up to go for a drive on the course on my property.  My husband decided to ride along, and I only let him after making him promise that he would not try to move the carriage around and just be a passenger.

I headed out on the course at a walk as I usually do for a full round on the course.  Then, when I asked Sailor to trot he went about fifty feet and then went back to a walk.  We repeated this about four times at which time I realized that he knew there was a special person on the carriage and that he needed to be very careful on this particular day.

We drove at a walk for about thirty minutes and not once did Sailor take a wrong step or do anything that he was not asked to do.  You could see that he was stepping with such care, almost like walking over eggshells. I would not have even realized Sailors concern if I had not been working with him for those eleven years. I have learned all of his normal ways of going and this day was so different.

For all of you who only have your horse for a couple of years and then send them down the road, you are really missing out on the relationship that you could be having with your horse. This is not the first time that one of my horses have reacted in this almost human way, but most of my horses I have owned for many years and most until they have passed away.

“Beyond The Expected” is truly what this whole experience was about!

Now that spring has arrived, we look forward to longer day and the show season that is ahead of us.  Now is the time to think about tuning up your horse for driving dressage.  Do you want to go from a score in the sixties to a score in the forties or lower then here are a few tips to help you get there.  Driving dressage with purpose is the best way to accomplish this.

First, I will address the all important walk.  Does your horse know how to do an active walk?  So many times I see horses that have never been taught to walk properly.  I know that it is more fun to go fast than it is to go slow.

The US Equestrian rule book describes the walk like this:

“Walk is a regular four beat movement, with the horse remaining in   light contact, walks energetically, supple, with even and determined    strides with the hind foot touching the ground in front of the foot print of the fore feet and stretching forwards and downwards.”

For your horse to understand that there is a difference between just walking along down a trail, and walking in a dressage test, you have to practice this at home just like all of the other movements of a dressage test.  The easiest way to teach your horse the difference is to do transitions from a free walk, take up the reins, controlled four beat walk, then back to a free walk.  For the upper level test you can practice the controlled four beat walk, then extended walk and back to four beat walk.  This way your horse will learn the difference between the various walks.

Many of the lower level driving dressage tests end with you doing a working walk down the center line.  In this case it is the last thing the judge sees so why not make it spectacular!

Knowing your driving dressage arena is really a good idea.  When you get to a new venue, it is a good idea to walk the dressage arena at least once so that you know what is there.  The items that can be found around a dressage arena can be many:

  •           Pop up tents or small wooden house for the judges.
  •           Bleachers or lined up chairs along the side lines.
  •           Sides can be marked by white rails or white chain.
  •           Letter posts are usually white but they can also have pots of flowers   on them.
  •           Judges booths can include flower pots, tables, chairs, etc.

If you know your horse well, you will have some idea of any strange items that he might not have ever seen.  Once the judge blows the whistle, then you have 90 seconds to get into the arena. Generally, this is enough time for you to drive around the outside of the arena, which I suggest that you do.  This gives your horse a chance to see all that is around the arena, and if he is going to spook, it is better before you enter the arena then spooking during the test.

I was at a CDE with my horse Sailor and it was the first time where the judges sat in the little wood houses.  Sailor felt he had to stop at each one as I went around and say hi to the judges.  I was thankful that I took that one drive around before entering the arena.

So, what is that centerline all about?  In every dressage test you will go down the center line two times.  This is how the test starts and also how it ends.  This is your first and last impressions on the judges.  You need to make the most of the two times that you will drive it.

Duck Club CDE-Example of a chain arena.

Duck Club Combined Driving Event in California. Eileen is driving Pinegrove's Sailor Boy in Dressage

When you come down the centerline you need to be businesslike the whole time.  Smile, look where you are going, and look like you are having fun!  Look at the judge so that they know that you mean business. When you horse is coming down the centerline the judge cannot tell if your horse is a great mover or just an average mover.  Make sure that your horse is aimed straight for the “C” and is balanced and obedient.  Always make sure that your horse halts and is immobile.  When at home you can mark the centerline with dots of paint or small colored rocks to learn to drive a straight line.  The horse will not make a straight line if you can’t drive a straight line.  Your focus when driving a straight line is a point beyond the judge and letter “C”.  Once you come around the corner to come down the centerline, and your horse is straight, keep your hand very still and you will find that your horse will do the rest.

The halt needs to be practiced at home the same as all the other movements.  Your horse needs to stand still at least ten seconds.  The best time to practice halts is at the end of a training session when your horse is a bit more tired.  You can use it as a reward, if he stops and stands still for those ten seconds, then call it good and end the lesson.  If he does not stand still, then take him around a couple more times and try it again.

 

I always use the word “stand” after my horse stops so that he knows the difference between “whoa” and standing still for a period of time.  If you say “whoa” and he stops and then he wiggles a little bit and you keep saying “whoa”, he will not get the idea of standing still.

Remember to use the whole arena.  Be sure to round the corners to the size of your horse and carriage (A 12 hand pony with a four wheel carriage will go deeper into the corner than a 16 hand Friesian and a four wheeled carriage). Corners are meant to be rounded and not squared. When doing a diagonal across the arena, you need to start your turn before the letter, so that when you get on the diagonal you will be straight.  You will aim just to the left of the letter across the arena before you turn back onto the long side, so that you are straight before having to turn the corner.

Now, to the circle that generally starts out as an egg and end with a flat side.

Circles are basic geometry, if you need a 40m circle that is half of the arena, and a 20m circle at the end of the arena is quarter line to quarter line and so forth. You always start your circle at the designated letter. If you break the circle into quarters, it will make it easier to drive.  Once you start your circle say at “C”, you will then look toward the first quarter point in your circle.  Once you get to that point, you will then look to the second quarter point and so on. If you are doing a circle to the left you look to the left at the quarter point, you will drop you left shoulder and the reins will adjust just enough to guide your horse around (again at this point keep your hands very still).  You cannot pull your horse around the circle with the reins. All circles start at the letter and end at the same letter.

All judges really want the drivers to do a good job.  Drive like you love what you are doing. You are there to show off your horse and driving ability to the judges and the spectators. Always have a “Watch This” attitude.  And always let your horse know that you appreciate all the effort that they put into your test.  After all, I’m sure they would rather be in the barn sleeping or eating!

A Mini Horse Club Gymkhana was hosted by the Saguaros State Miniature & Shetland Pony Club at the Davis Ranch on Sunday the 30th of April.  Twenty two members showed up, bringing with them about ten miniature horses and ponies.  It turned out to be a beautiful day with no wind, rain or snow to spoil the atmosphere!

The morning was taken up with in hand gymkhana games including an egg balancing race that all had fun doing.  I think that a  few of us older adults found running with our mini’s was harder than when we were younger.  There was a lot of huffing and puffing going on.  By 11:15 all were tired so we broke for lunch and our horses had earned a drink of water and a snack.

After lunch those who had horses that drove proceeded to get hitched up for the driving games.  Those that had proficient driving horses did some cantering which shows that these little horses can get there fast if need be!  Others with newer driving horses kept to a trot or walk and all went well without any mishaps.

When all was said and done this Mini Horse Club Gymkhana will go down in the history book as a success.  I think everyone received a prize and the horses got mint snacks!  A few of the drivers checked out the bridge  and water crossing as well as the hazards that are on the property.

 

How to drive a dressage test can be one of the hardest things for a lot of competitors to remember.  Beginners are particularly susceptible to confusion and getting lost during a dressage test.

A typical dressage court is 40 m x 80 m in size. The majority of training, preliminary and intermediate tests are driven in this size court.

Training               4 Tests        4 in 40 m x 80 m             0 in 40 m x 100 m

Preliminary          5 Tests        5 in 40 m x 80 m             0 in 40 m x 100 m

Intermediate        9 Tests        4 in 40 m x 80 m             5 in 40 m x 100 m

When you get to Advanced Level (FEI) all test are driven in the 40 m x 100 m dressage court.  For this article I will concentrate only on the 40 m x 100 m, being this is where everyone needs to begin.

The first thing you have to remember is that you always enter and leave at letter “A” in all tests, at all levels.  Second is that the head judge is always seated at the letter “C” usually under the tent that we drivers hope is securely anchored to the ground. Third the letter “X” is always in the very center of the court.

As for the rest of the letters “H, E, K, M, B, F, G, D” are used to mark the two long sides and the center points between “K & F” and “H & M”.

I have found in my thirty years of driving dressage tests that letters  “A, C, X ” are really the only ones that you need to memorize.  The rest are just location points that help you get from one movement to the next.  You don’t need to memorize them, you just need to know that they are marking for visually making your circles, diagonals and turns.  The only time knowing these letters, is if you have a caller reading the test for you, but callers are only allowed in non sanctioned events.

The first thing you need to do is to memorize your dressage test.  Take for example training test one starts as all tests do with a working trot down center line to a halt at “X” and salute.  This is your first impression on the judge, so you need to drive your horse straight and look like your enjoying yourself.  You should halt with your horses nose over “X” and him standing square and then salute.  Do not try to rush through these steps.  Once you are in the arena you have all the time you need to do the test.  Rushing to a halt, without really stopping, saluting in a hurried manor and rushing off is not a good impression.

The next step in the test is a working trot to the end of the arena and a right turn all the way up the side of the arena with another right turn to letter “A”.  At letter “A” you do a 40 m circle.  A 40 m circle goes from side to side across the arena and from end to center.  Your horse needs to be on a slight inside bend and you need to drive over the “X” on your way around the circle. When you return to “A” you continue straight and make a right turn at the corner.

When your horses nose gets to the first letter on your left (K) you will make a slight right and do a long diagonal aiming at the farthest letter on your right (M). When your horses nose gets to that point you will make a slight left and then make a left turn tracking to letter “C”. On reaching “C” you will again make a 40 m circle tracking to the left and again going over the center “X” and arriving back at letter “C”.

Note: most of the tests do everything on the left side and then a mirror image on the right side of the arena.

Once at “C” you will do a working walk to the corner, turn left and at the first letter on your right (H) you will make a slight left and do a short free walk on the diagonal, aiming at the center letter on the left. Once the horses nose is at that letter (B) you will make a right turn at a working walk and then go into a working trot. When you reach the corner you will turn right to the center line maker “A” and make a right turn down the center line.

What you do on that last trip down the center line, which is in all test, will be the last impression you can make on the judge.  Drive your horse straight and you look straight down the center at the judges stand and when you are about ten feet away from letter “X” indicate to your horse that you are going to be asking him to stop.  I always use the work “AND” before a command to my horses, that way they know I am going to ask something different of them.

Make sure you stop square and stay halted 3 to 5 seconds before you salute the judge.  Believe me, the judge is counting the seconds and if you can keep your horse still for the 5 seconds and the salute your score will be higher.

Now that your test is over, it is not the time to pat your horse and to relax your driving of your horse.  You need to make a controlled and well mannered exit from the arena.  You should do a working trot straight ahead and about half way to the judges stand make a left turn and proceed to the rail where you will go straight for a few meters and then make a diagonal to the center line and turn right and continue down the center line until you are completely out of the arena. Remember that as long as you are in the arena, the judge could be still judging you so you want to leave in a timely and courteous manner.

Like I stated in the beginning, the only letters you need to know are “A, C, X” to be able to do a dressage test.  The rest of the letters are just points of reference for where your next movement begins or ends.

Now, I’ve been doing this a long time and have driven all of the tests at one time or another.  But even I need to refresh my memory, so one way I do this is to use one of my throw carpets as my arena.  I pick an end and I walk the test just as I would drive it.  There are no letters so you just visualize the arena as you would drive it, but on the carpet.

Some of the things that also help is basic geometry.  If the arena is 40 m x 80 m:

  • then a 40m circle is half of the arena, and that half can be from the middle.
  • 30m circle is 3/4 across the arena and 3/4 of 1/2 the distance of the arena
  • 30m circle at the center is 15m each side of the center line
  • 20m circle is 1/4 the length of the arena and 1/2 the distance across
  • 10m circle is 1/8 the length of the arena and 1/4 the distance across
  • 20m half circle is just 1/2 of a full 20m circle that generally goes back to the long side of the arena at a diagonal
  • short diagonal is across 1/2 of the arena
  • long diagonal is across the whole arena
  • rein back should be done from a complete stop, for the number of steps or meters specified
  • three loop serpentine goes across the arena making three equal loops
  • three loop shallow serpentine goes to the quarter line
  • five loop serpentine same as three but done in the 100m arena
  • four loop serpentine two to 1/4 line 2 full width all 20m in width
  • four loop serpentine each full width of arena all 20m in width
  • figure eight is done off the center “X” for the meter size specified and making each side the same size
  • 10m deviation is done from the long side from one point to a second point down the same side

So, one needs some basic math skills and a good eye to be able to drive a dressage test.  Once you have driven a few of the tests you will get better at it.  As with anything new, the more you do it the easier that it becomes. So get out there and have fun learning your dressage test.

 

I’m sure you have all seen the movie with Ben Stiller, “Night at the Museum”.  Do you remember that scene where the bad guy was driving the runaway horse and carriage and Ben tells him to stop and the driver replies that he can’t without the special word.  At which point Ben hollers out “Dakota” and the horses immediately come to a screeching halt.

Anyone who has experienced a runaway horse and carriage, I am sure wishes that they could have just hollered out “Dakota” and their horse would have stopped.

Anyone who has ridden a horse for any length of time has most likely experienced a runaway horse and carriage to some degree. There are several ways of stopping a horse when you are astride that work fairly well if done correctly.  But for the most part these aids do not relate to the driven horse.  One good example is the one rein circle that works well astride, but if you try that with a carriage horse you will most likely flip your carriage. With the one rein circle, you basically shorten one rein to the point that the horse is turning tightly one direction, thereby, slowing and halting forward motion, this cannot been done within shafts.

First, one must understand the thought process of the horse to be able to stop him when he runs away.  The horse is a flight animal, so when he perceives danger, his thought process tells him to run until he feels that he is out of danger.

A scared runaway horse cannot be stopped by you pulling as hard as you can in a backwards direction on the reins while in a carriage.  This only makes the horse think he has to runner faster and harder, and if he throws his head, he can pull you out over the dash of your carriage.

The most common reactions of a driver when their horse runs away is to:

1) pull on reins

2) scream and yell

3) tense up their muscles throughout their body

4) jump out of carriage

5) jump onto the back of the horse

6) become panicked

7) stand up in carriage in an attempt to get more leverage

And then, there are the want to be helpers that may or may not know anything about carriage horses (DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM):

1) they chase after the horse and carriage

2) they scream and yell

3) they grab at the reins close to the horses head

4) they grab onto the back of the carriage in an attempt to become a brake

5) they run in front of your horse and carriage

6) they stand in front of you and wave their arms

7) then there are the other stupid drivers

The very first thing one should do when they find themselves with a runaway horse and carriage while driving is to continue to drive their horse.  So many drivers are too concerned about stopping their horse, and they forget to drive them.  Even if your horse is frightened, you are still able to guide him if you stay focused and just drive. You as the driver, need to stay calm and not allow panic thoughts to interfere with the job at hand.

Next you need to be sure that you are in the proper position on your carriage seat.  Your back should be against the seat back and your legs should be out in front of you pressed against the slant of the floorboard or the foot rail so that if your horse jerks his head, he will not pull you out over the dash. Keep your shoulders back and stay relaxed so you can keep your balance on the seat.

Now, start squeezing the reins ever so lightly and then release and repeat.  This starts a conversation between you and your horse.  You are telling him that you will not let the big boogie man get him and that everything will be all right. While you are squeezing the reins you need to take deep breaths and let them out as this will help keep you relaxed.

While you are driving your horse through this situation, you need to be aware of where you are going with your horse.  Guide him into any large open area, preferably where there are no other horses or people, do not make any sharp turns or tight circles, for this will tip your carriage.  Stay off of pavement and cement if  possible,  as the horse could slip and fall.

I know this sounds like a lot to process in the moment of a runaway, but if you run all the possible scenarios in your head before you even have a runaway, it will just come automatic.  It is the same as going over what you would do when you are driving your car and another car cuts you off.  It becomes a learned response!

The other major way to both prevent and stop a runaway is proper training of the horse from the ground up.  I train all of my carriage horses to immediately stop when I say whoa.  The whoa that one uses on an everyday basis is just a whoa.  But the whoa that is taught for an emergency is a mandatory, immediate and absolute whoa.  If taught properly, your horse will know the difference between the two.  One must practice the emergency whoa so that your horse knows the difference.  There is no better way to help your horse in a runaway than with proper training from the beginning.

Most runaway horse and carriage situations last only seconds, but I know that in your mind at the time it seems like hours.  I have had several runaways in my career, so I know how it feels.  Staying calm and quiet and talking to your horse through the reins and your voice are the two most important things to remember, and Drive Your Horse!

Driving drill teams have been around for quite some time. I know you have all seen teams of horses being ridden by young women flying across the arena, as half time entertainment during a rodeo.  You have probably also watched an occasional drill team in a parade doing precise movements while going down the parade route.  Many of them have been with miniature horses, but they are even more amazing when full size horses and carts are used.

I was a member and choreographer of the Mini Sensations Driving Drill Teams for about seven years.  At any one time, the group consisted of anywhere from six to ten miniature horses and drivers.

One of the hardest things to accomplish is pairing the horses up so that the pairs have matching paces.  If one of a pair trots faster then the other horse, than that horse will have to canter to keep up which ruins the look of the whole design.  If possible, it is also good to match up horses of matching colors in a pair as long as their pace is also equal. All horses in a drill team need to be well socialized with other horses and not mind being occasionally bumped by another horse.  Drivers need to be well accomplished drivers of their horse for maximum control when needed.

A team of miniature horse and carriages can fit into a smaller arena than large horses.  Minimum size is approximately 100 x 300 feet.  Now for practice, one can use any flat open area that is at least the 100 x 300.  One can mark off the corners with cones and measure the area with a Single Measuring Wheel,  with at least a ten inch wheel.

It is important that the members of the group,  work their horse during the week so that they stay fit for when you practice with the team.  A one hour practice will pretty much exhaust both the horse and the driver.  All drivers need to watch and listen to the chosen drill team leader so that everyone is always on the same page when practicing.  Inattention can result to accidents which is not why we do this, it is all about having fun with our horses and team members.

Being that you will be driving with people you may or not know, it is important to be considerate to them all.  Do not critique other members if they have done something that you think is wrong.  The leader of the team should be the one to comment.  You need to keep your ears and minds open while going through a maneuver.  You should never let horses go nose to nose, this not only can pass illness but also be hazardous, if the two horses decide they do not like each other.  Remember, your horse has a cart on it’s butt.  You will need to accustom your horse to music, flags, and large groups of people, and spectators.

Some of the basic moves that you will often see a drill team do are:

Single File (one horse following another in a straight line)

Pairs (groups of two horses and carts aligned side by side)

Quads (group of  four horses and carts aligned side by side)

Company Front or Column ( all horses and carts aligned side by side)

Outside horse and cart (the horse and cart closest to the outside of  arena)

Inside horse and cart (the horse and cart nearest the center of the arena)

Oblique (when your horses head is at your neighbors cart wheel forming a diagonal line)

Left circle

Right circle

Wedding rings (two circle being made at the same time one going  through the other)

Figure eight (you actually drive a figure eight and at the center you will criss-cross each other)

Do-Si-Do ( two horse and carts approach each other then both turn to left (or right) around each other and back to where they started)

Serpentine (a winding motion)

These are just a few of the movements that are put together to form a complete drill pattern.

Once you have a routine figured out with all the movements put together and you know how long it takes to run the whole routine, then you need to find music that will go with it and enhance the whole thing. This will all depend on the speed that your particular team moves at.  Miniature driving drill teams can go good with a bit faster paced song, while large horses do better with a slower but more commanding piece of music.  The best thing to do is find four of five pieces of music that you like and try each one to the routine and pick out the one that best suits what you are doing.

When putting your driving drill teams together, remember it is all about having fun with other horse lovers and your horses.  Any mistakes that you make or your horse makes is always the drivers fault, so never take it out on the horse.

Once you have your routine down pat, then invite family and friend over and do it for them.  Once you have done that several times, it will get around that your team is good and fun to watch and people will begin asking for you to do it at a party they are having or a fund raiser or!  When you get to this point, then you can think about uniforms, and that can be as simple as, everyone in black pants and white shirts with a bandana around your neck.

The Mini Sensation Driving Drill Team was together for about seven years.  We had members come and go but there were about six of us that were always around.  It was lots of fun and it gave us something different to do with our driving horses.  So get you there and have fun and stay safe.

Distance Driving is another one of those driving venues that was started in England.  The aim of the Long Distance Drive is for drivers to complete a course which tests the fitness of the animal as well as the ability of the driver to navigate the distance safely and competently.  This type of event is open to singles, pairs, tandem and teams of horses and ponies.

Some of the generals rules that are required are as follows:

Horses must be four years or over.

All singles must carry a groom that is at least 14 years of age.

All teams must carry at least two grooms of the proper age.

Grooms cannot be changed at any point along the course.

Harness must be in good usable shape and must have full breeching.

One is also required to carry a spares kit on their vehicle.  It must include the following, a spare trace, spare breeching strap, a spare rein or rein splice and a hame strap if applicable for a single turnout.  For pairs, tandems and teams you must include spare trace, pole strap or chain, spare rein or rein splice, hame strap, main bar, and lead bar. Other items that could be of great help would be a good knife, hoof pick and a halter with lead rope. It would also be a good idea to take along a first aid kit for both horse and humans.

Your vehicle must be of a proper fit, weight and size for the horse you are driving and appropriate for this type of event. Pneumatic tires or bicycle wheels are not allowed.  If the drive will take you onto public roads you are required to have a caution slow moving vehicle sign on the back of your vehicle.

When your time comes for start and inspections you must be on time or you could incur time penalties. The gaits that are allowed are walk and trot with an occasional canter when the terrain justifies it such as going up a hill. Galloping is not allowed at any time and it will incur elimination.

You are allowed to stop but for no longer than two minutes, which is considered long enough to adjust harness or water your horse. Longer halts would unfairly affect the validity of the test of athletic fitness of your horse.

Discourteous, unfair or dangerous driving is reason for receiving penalties or being eliminated all together. When needing to pass another whip it is proper to ask the other whip  to pass  so as to keeping the drive safe for all drivers.

You will start out your Distance Drive with an inspection before you harness up. This is basically a soundness check at which the horses pulse will be noted.  There will be another inspection at the half way point at which the horse will be unharnessed and then the pulse is taken and noted along with the pinch test for dehydration.  You will be at this rest point for approximately 50 minutes.  At the end you will have your final inspection out of cart and again the pulse and dehydration test will be noted.

Penalty points will be incurred as follows:

Pulse Under 56              No Penalty

56-59                    1 penalty

60-61                    2 penalties

62-64                    3 penalties

Over 64                Elimination

Dehydration pinch test with failure of skin to flatten after 10 seconds equals elimination.

Wounds caused while driving the event: 0 – 4 penalties or elimination.

Overall poor condition: 0 – 4 penalties or elimination.

Lameness: elimination.

There is also a Farrier that will check to see that your horses shoes are in good shape to do the drive. They will be checked at the beginning and the half way point. If they are  worn or otherwise defective you can receive  0 – 4 penalties or elimination.

So you see this is truly a test of your horses fitness.

Now that I have explained the basic rules lets talk about the course. These are generally a cross country course that will take you on roads, dirt roads and other tracks that will fit the vehicles and it should not exceed 20 kilometers.  The course will be divided in half where there is space for the half way halt. Many courses go 10 kilometers out and then the same 10 kilometers back where by returning to the trailer area.

The timeline of a Distance Drive goes as follows.  You begin with 400 points.

Pre-Vet Check

Before the drive you will present your horse to the veterinarian for inspection. They check the horse’s pulse, respiration, gut sounds, and look for any problem areas. You will be asked to walk your horse in a straight line and then trot him out in a large circle. Any signs of lameness and your horse will be disqualified. Horses are expected to have good manners and points are deducted for unruly behavior. All information is noted on your score sheet.

Pre-Drive Briefing

You will listen to a brief orientation about the trail you will drive. It will be a 10-20 mile loop. You will be given your assigned start time and you will strive to finish within your ten minute window.

Pre-Drive Safety Check

After you have harnessed up you will proceed to the safety check. You must have your helmet, gloves, whip and spares kit. All turnouts must have a groom and a turnout with three or more horses must have two grooms. Your vehicle, harness and spares kit will be inspected for completeness and repair.

Drive Starts

Drivers should be at the start at least 5 minutes ahead of their start time. Drivers are spaced at 5 minute intervals. The trail is marked with bright ribbons and arrow signs when needed. Remember this is not a race and you should be able to meet your time window while moving at a steady trot with a few periods of walking.

Mid-Point Vet Check

This is a 30-50 minute vet and rest stop. You unhook your horse and give him water and start cooling him off. Within ten minutes of arriving you must present your horse to the vet for inspection. All of your horses vitals are checked again and recorded on your horses score sheet. At the end of your rest period you will be started out again for the second half of the drive at 5 minute intervals.

End of Drive

When you have made it to the end of the drive, which is usually the start point, you will have 10 minutes to cool your horse down and present him to the vet for your final check of his vitals. You will also have to trot him out for the vet to check soundness. Once he passes this last check, you can relax as you have made it!

There are several club for Distance Driving here in the states.  There have been NATRC rides that have allowed drivers to compete with them also.  NATRC runs their rides in much the same manner as the Distance Drive.

October 26, 2015

Sailor gets a couple days off before we start getting ready for the next event in two weeks.  I can use a little down time too before learning the dressage test for the Katydid CDE, our last event.

 October 27, 2015

Woke up this morning to showers, cold weather and a phone message from the barn where Sailor is being boarded at.  Now we all know, that is the last call we want to get first thing in the morning from our barn.  On returning the call I was told that Sailor broke out of his outside run and that she found him out grazing in the grass.  But upon checking Sailor out I found a small wound on his lower left leg and then a larger one on his right stifle. Upon investigation I found about a four inch cut and a round puncture wound that I am concerned about.  I am now waiting for a call from a local vet to look and assess the situation.

Finally met the vet at the ranch at about 4:00 pm to check out Sailors cuts.  The one I was concerned about was the one that looked like a puncture but after the vet checking it out, he felt that it would heal just fine without stitches.  So for the next few days I will be cleaning and applying antibiotic cream to the wounds, also he will be on butte for a couple of days for any discomfort.

We still have no idea what happened but we are relieved that he will be fine and that it should all be healed before the next competition.

October 28 – 29, 2015

The rain finally stopped after two days and I was able to take Sailor out for a drive in the arena of the ranch.  He was quite back to his normal self and the leg didn’t bother him at all.  Now if I can just get him to do, at the next show, in dressage what he did for me today here at the ranch, life would be great.

October 30 – October 31, 2015

Since the rain finally stopped yesterday I let the ground dry up before driving today.  It is another beautiful day here in North Carolina.  I was able to get to the stable by 10:00 am this morning to work with Sailor.  GladysAnn’s trainer came over to watch again while I drove him.  It is amazing that when one does not have a knowledgeable ground person, to occasionally watch how you are driving, the bad habits that one can get into without really realizing it.

At home with GladysAnn and Tim in NC with the dogs!

We worked today on a working trot, 40 meter circle on a long rein, for the next dressage we will have to do at Katydid CDE (Combined Driving Event).   Instead of checking Sailor in when his attention goes to something around the arena, I am now using it as a way of focusing the energy to help bring him round and on the bit, and it does work.  Sailor caught on quickly in that if he misbehaved he would have to work harder.  Amazing how that works?  So today’s workout turned into a great teaching lesson for Sailor and for me.

November 1 – November 3, 2015

After rain all day Sunday and Monday I was finally able to do a little with Sailor at the ranch. Was not able to drive him as the ground was so saturated with water so I turned him out in the arena to just noodle around.  He was having none of that so he proceeded to run around, buck, kick up his heels and then rolled in the sand.  I’d say he was getting a little stir crazy.  When he was all done with that I took the chance to brush and comb him out in an attempt to get him a bit ready for the coming CDE.

I am hoping that we will be able to connect the trailer to the truck for a morning departure on Thursday.  It will be about a four hour drive to Aiken South Carolina.

November 4, 2015

Well it’s Wednesday morning and it rained again last night, which means the ground is even more saturated.  We are heading over to the stable at noon to hook up and try to get the trailer onto solid ground.  Will let you all know???

We started with my friends’ trailer as it was parked in her back pasture area since the last competition. It was a slippery and very soggy project but with lots of tenacity and determination we got it hooked up and were able to get it pulled through the saturated ground onto the driveway.  Hurrah one down!

Next came the trailer she uses to haul her mule and carriage on.  Now this was not as hard because the hitch part of the trailer was over the cement so we did not have to get the vehicle onto the soaked ground. Hurrah two down!

Now we headed over to the ranch where Sailor is boarded to hitch up our Dodge one ton dully to our trailer. Now our trailer is larger than both of my friends put together and the ground at the stable was just as soaked.  My plan was to back the trailer along the arena fence which is a bit higher than where we were parked. Then I took a slow and easy first gear in the truck and eased my way to the left of the muddy driveway up onto the hard ground just in front of the barn. Hurrah three down!!!

We have finally arrived at our final destination and are developing a routine with Sailor at his temporary home White Dogwood Farm and Allan and I staying with our good friends GladysAnn and Tim.  After some much needed sleep I made it to the stable to work with Sailor both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was just a short session to get both Sailor and the other horses at the property used to the carriage.

Sunday my friend GladysAnn and her dressage trainer Amanda came and helped me with some tips on getting Sailor to pay more attention when at a new place.  Then the three of us took a ride on the trail that goes around the perimeter of the farm.  It was a good outing for Sailor and he listened well even when the farthest out horses came running towards us in their turnout.

I also spent some time with GladysAnn and her horse Mary at her stable to see how she was doing.  They will be competing at the same events that I am taking Sailor too.  GladysAnn and Mary have come a long ways since I last saw them in November of last year.  I have worked with GladysAnn for quite a number of years with her Mini and with Mary.