And you thought making one horse do what you want it to do was tough. Jessica Bortner-Harris takes a look at the fascinating and challenging sport of Combined Driving.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
I love the above video, complete with bloopers.
Many people are fascinated with eventing, however, not all people are interested in sitting on a horse while going over huge obstacles or galloping at fast paces. For those that would like to try the sport but keep their feet on the ground (or on a carriage), combined driving might be for you! Personally, I feel much safer on top of a horse after an experience with a runaway team of Belgians attached to the huge wagon I was sitting on… However, I am in awe at the skill it takes to compete in this amazing sport. I love to watch it. Combined Driving is a lot like eventing in the way the sport is set up. The events are normally run over three days including: Driven Dressage, Endurance, and Cones. There are a few different horse combinations that can be used: single (horse or pony), pairs (2 horses/ponies side by side), tandem (2 horses/ponies, one in front of the other), and teams (4 horses/ponies, two next to each other, one team in front of the other).
Check out this video of the famous Chester Webber and his 4 in hand doing dressage this year. I have a hard enough time riding one horse in the dressage. This is just amazing. Check out the part where he drives them in a circle with ONE HAND! Just wow.
In a CDE (Combined Driving Event), the dressage is a lot like ours, except that the arena is a bit bigger than ours. The horse and driver combinations must perform a test and our judged very similarly to regular dressage. Submission, Impulsion, Freedom, and correct position are just a few of the things that the judges are looking for. A penalty score is given (lowest score being the best), and the combination will move on to the next phase.
Here is what the American Driving Society’s website says about the Endurance (or Marathon) phase:
This phase tests the fitness, stamina, and obedience of the horses and the judgment and capability of the driver. Advanced competitions can have 5 sections (A, B, C, D, E), which may include mandatory walks, trots, as well as a section which includes hazards. Other competitions may have 3 sections (A, B, E), all having a minimum/maximum time allowance. At the end of section B and D there are mandatory 10 minute halts with veterinary checks to ensure the horses are not unduly stressed and are fit enough to continue. Competitors can walk the course before the marathon phase and plan their route. They are given a map and course marker flags for guidance, but no horse is allowed on the course before the start. Drivers may choose any path through the obstacles, provided they drive through each gate in the correct alphabetical sequence, and with the red flag on the right and white on the left. The object is to complete each hazard in the shortest possible time with no penalties. Penalties include time, groom/driver dismounting, driver putting down whip, error of course, knocking down a collapsible element, and turning the vehicle over.
Chester Webber, again with his 4 in hand, manuvering the water complex in Aachen last year. Watch the grooms as they use their bodies to move the carriage!
After the Endurance phase, the combinations move onto the cones phase. In this phase, a course of cones with balls on top is set up a lot like a show jumping course, and the drivers must get through the course under the time allowed. The cones are placed just bigger than the width of the carriages. If a carriage hits one of the cones and a ball drops, there is a penalty given.
A super cute little pony rocking the Intermediate Cones:
As with Eventing, there is a lot of training that goes into this sport. The horse and driver combinations must be in tune and the horses must be very fit. I found it really cool that the grooms get to play a large role in the success of the combinations. In the dressage and cones, the grooms are permitted to ride along in the carriage. However, in the endurance phase, the grooms play a vital role. They are the counter balance on the back of the carriage to keep it from flipping! They also are used to navigate the course and hold any vital paperwork that might be needed. How many event grooms would like to ride along behind their riders as they gallop around a 4*??
Combined Driving is a very cool sport with a lot to offer those that aren’t interested in riding. There are many different levels for anyone that wants to get started.
Go, Combined Driving!