EN Today: From combined training to combined driving

Event rider Carrie Wehle tackles her first Combined Driving Event and concludes, “It will give you a new perspective on what defines ‘crazy’ horse people!”

Top photo: Irish driver Edwin Bryson competing at the British championships. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.

Yesterday, Jessica Bortner-Harris wrote a lovely introduction to the sport of Combined Driving.  We received a great email from Carrie Wehle who offered her fantastic perspective on the sport, and it sounds like so much fun!  Thanks to Carrie for writing, and thank you for reading. –Visionaire

From Carrie:

I do pretty well in dressage. I scored a 16.5 in a recognized horse trials this year. Just when I think I am getting good… someone puts a horse out in front of me and gives me two one-inch thick pieces of leather, no seat, no legs and sends me into a dressage arena. Good luck with that!

If you appear to be able to put in a decent dressage test with one horse in front of you, then you get sent out with two. If you are good with two, then four horses out in front of you. The next event rider who complains that their horse was naughty in dressage needs to think about this… they only had ONE horse that was able to be naughty. What do you do when FOUR of them are cranky?!?

Oh and the outfits… I am not exactly a fashion-ista. Packing for dressage at an event is easy–breeches, stock tie, shirt, tall boots, black helmet. No problem, no decisions need to be made except if it might rain. Then I might consider bringing some “other” breeches that I don’t mind being trashed/stained by the dye in my gloves or my saddle.

Packing for a CDE–WAY too much work. I have to have an “outfit” for dressage and for cones. You have to wear long sleeves. Your hat needs to match your coat/blouse, your hat, coat/blouse have to match your lap robe or “apron.” Your hat, coat/blouse, apron all have to match your carriage… seriously? I didn’t put even half this much thought into my wedding dress!

Cross country vs. Marathon

We head out to walk cross country. There is a pretty specific course layout you need to follow. You jump the jump and continue on your way in one direction along the set route. There may be an option or two you can choose to take, but usually things are pretty straightforward.

The good news is that you now have a “gator” better known as a navigator who helps you when you have no clue where you are going.

The bad news is you now have a “gator” that is a back seat driver telling you where to go.  In my case it was my husband… perhaps this wasn’t the best idea I have ever had…. I don’t take direction very well… from anyone…

“Gator” at an event is what the TD drives around in. This type of gator can also give you direction. My horse is usually bolting in the direction opposite the oncoming gator…

Head out to walk the hazards. You have to go through A, B, C, D at each hazard. There is no set route. You can go a thousand different ways as long as you go through each gate in the correct alphabetical sequence as fast as you possibly can. You cannot through a gate backward until you have gone through it forward – clear as mud, right?!?

In eventing, one fall and you are eliminated. You head home demonstrating the “walk of shame” off of the cross country course ALL the way back to the stabling. You are (hopefully) OK to come back and ride another day.

At our first CDE we watched a marathon vehicle flip over in the water complex tossing out the driver and navigator. You would think it was time to throw in the towel and go home. Nooooo, not these people. The driver and navigator flipped the carriage back over, hopped back in and off they went!!  Really?!! These people were wet and covered in mud. The horse just stood there like it happens all of the time (maybe it does…), waited for them to right the carriage and seemed perfectly content to continue on.

Show Jumping vs. Cones

You head out to the show jumping field to walk your course. Find the judges box, start flags and head for the first fence. Fence #1 – green and white stripes. Fence #2 – stone wall with white rails. Fence #3 – in and out, rainbow rails two strides to red and white striped rails… so on and so forth.

You head out to the cones field. find the judges box, start flags and head for the first set of cones. Cone #1 – yellow. Cone #2 – yellow. Cone #3 – yellow. Cone #4ABCD – yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow… are you kidding me?  How am I supposed to learn this course? It’s a freakin sea of at least 20 sets of yellow cones! I walk the course an average of ten times and hope for the best.

In conclusion…

These people are NUTS! My husband Justin and I completed our first two CDE’s this fall. We have a really cool 15.3 hand Dutch Harness horse stallion named “Toverijk.” He had never done a CDE and neither had we – it was truly a match made in heaven.

I will say it was pretty fun to have Justin with me out there on course. Obviously, when I head out on XC I leave him at the start box and he meets me at the finish (or at the ambulance… which ever comes first). It was great to have him involved and nice to have a second opinion (most of the time).

If any eventers out there have any concerns that our sport is too dangerous – try Combined Driving – it will give you a new perspective on what defines “crazy” horse people!

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