Combined Driving: Gator 101
At a Combined Driving Event, the role of a navigator (or “gator” if you’re cool like that) is to help navigate during the marathon phase and balance the carriage throughout. Lisi Edwards presents a list of gator “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”
If you are ever presented with the opportunity to navigate at a CDE (Combined Driving Event), you should jump at the chance. Navigating is as much fun as you can possibly have with a horse without your butt touching a saddle. I have had the joy of both driving and navigating over the past five years and I highly recommend giving it a try. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts that you will need to heed to be a “gator”:
DO arrive early (or even the day before) to learn the course, and more specifically, to learn how each obstacle will be driven. Depending on the level that your friend will be competing at, refresh your memory on the first 3-6 letters of the alphabet. HINT: A B C D E F (in that order!!)
DON’T make fun of the hats you see being worn in the dressage ring. These hats are very expensive and the people wearing them are carrying very long whips.
DO bring and wear your helmet!
DO bring an entire set of extra clothes, all the way down to undergarments. (If the water obstacle doesn’t soak you, the rain will.)*
DO wear the colors of your driver, even if it is lime green with turquoise trim. (NOTE: You are not there to make a fashion statement, you are there to help your friend. Besides, the officials will know which cart you belong with if you happen to fall off.)
DO wear high-grip shoes (see previous note).
DO wear a shirt made of cotton. You might need to perform the incredible feat of taking off the rain/mud-spattered prescription glasses from the driver, wiping them clean on your shirt, and placing them back on the driver. (Unfortunately, no extra points will be earned for this maneuver.)*
DO eat a good breakfast. (Let’s face it: While you are there to navigate and help your friend, you are also basically ballast. So go ahead and order the Grand Slam™.)
DON’T put your time card in an insecure area on the cart. Tuck it behind the number in the number holder so it won’t get lost on course and cause the time keepers to engage in a frantic debate on the radio system.*
DO call out your competitor number before you enter an obstacle. The judges might not see your number as you zoom by.
DON’T complain when you get spattered with mud. Remember, you are having fun!*
DON’T panic if the cart gets stuck in an obstacle. Grab the handlebar and start jumping. It’s kinda fun making the cart skootch sideways.
DON’T utter the words “ummm,” “uhhhh” or “I forgot where to go!” If you are lost, just stay quiet and hope the driver was paying attention when you were walking that particular part of the course.*
DO thank every volunteer you see. They have sacrificed their day so you could have fun.
*These examples were committed (or experienced) by yours truly…
Photo: Hickory Knoll CDE 2009. Used with permission from photographer Tracy Porter.
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