EN Today: The equipment of combined driving

Think you’ve got a lot of stuff to pack for horse shows? Maybe so, but it pales in comparison to the amount of stuff you need for combined driving. Dana Diemer explains.

Top photo: Montana Light, with Judy Canavan at the helm, husband Tim on the back step, attacking the Water Hazard at Garden State CDE.

From Dana:

Required Equipment

No, this is not a pony club rally and penalty points won’t be given if your extra bridle is missing or your triple antibiotic ointment is outdated.  This is What do I need to get into Combined Driving 101.

The Equine.  Options include numbers and sizes.  Horse or pony.  Single, pair, tandem or four in hand.  Breed isn’t that important. Brain is.  Horses with strong flight instincts are probably not the best choice for driving.  Commonly seen breeds at driving competitions include Welsh Ponies, Morgans, Dutch Harness Horses, and Haflingers.  Hackney horses have their fans, as do Norwegian Fjords, Gelderlanders and German Riding Ponies.  This is one horse sport where thoroughbreds are rare.  A noteworthy exception is 21 year old Montana Light, a son of Denny Emerson’s great Right of Light.  Monty started his competition career as an eventer with owner Marcie Quist.  When Marcie switched over to the dark side, Monty came along for the cookies.  Marcie and Monty went all the way to Advanced and in 2006 she turned the reins over to current dancing partner Judy Canavan. They are consistently at the top of the leaderboard in Intermediate competition.  All of this is made more remarkable by the fact that Monty is a stallion.

Driving Fun Fact:  VSE stands for Very Small Equine, any horse 39 inches or under.  VSEs get their own mini-sized driven dressage ring size (20 by 40 meters).

The Thing the Horse Pulls.  They are called carriages or vehicles.  There are two classifications for combined driving purposes.  The presentation carriage is used for dressage and cones.  There are any number of types of carriages you can use for dressage.  Two wheeled vehicles, such as gigs and Meadowbrooks, are light, relatively inexpensive, easy to transport, and easy to maneuver in the reinback.  Down side to two wheelers include the fact they are less stable, harder to get in and out of, and have less room for a groom.  They also tend to push the horse around, and can be difficult to balance to the horse. A well balanced two wheeler’s shafts should lightly rest in the portion of the harness that holds the shaft (called a tug) when the driver is in the carriage.  Shafts put pressure on the horse’s back and require the horse learn to push the shaft through their shoulder in turns.

Pony put to a spider phaeton

The four wheelers include phaetons (pronounced fay-ten) and sport breaks. Reliable sources tell me a phaeton has a toe board, that piece just below the dash board that functions as a foot rest. A toe board makes a carriage a phaeton. These carriages are more expensive and can provide challenges in transportation. They are more difficult to back up straight in that reinback that shows up in 99% of the dressage tests. They are more stable and place far less pressure on the horse’s back.  They are equipped with brakes, and the fifth wheel allows for great maneuverability. The more pricey models offer a delayed steering feature that the driver may use to control the distance that the fifth wheel allows the front wheels to travel through a turn.  Result: precision turning.  Many drivers start with a two wheel carriage and graduate to four wheels as they move up the levels.

Standard single marathon carriage. Note the brake pedal, wedge seat for better positioning, and padding in the back for the ‘gator. Shafts have been detached.

The marathon carriage is your basic off-road ATV.  Lightweight, low center of gravity for much greater stability, plenty of room for the navigator.  Brakes are standard, and the fifth wheel again allows for very great maneuverability.  The wheels are canted, wider at the base to allow the carriage to slide off posts and other solid objects in hazards. Carriages with pneumatic wheels (they resemble bicycle tires) are not permitted above training level.  A tire that removes itself from the wheel can lead to ugly situations.

Driving fun fact:   Standard measurement for marathon carriages is 125 centimeters from outside rear wheel to outside rear wheel. 

The Thing the Horse Wears. Harness is usually leather, but more and more drivers are succumbing to synthetic.  There are many high quality synthetic harnesses on the market.  The synthetics are less expensive, and fairly easy to maintain.  Cleaning can involved everything from a pressure washer to a dish washer.  Many upper level drivers prefer to use leather for dressage and cones, saving the synthetic for the heavy work of marathon.  You may see collars used for dressage and cones, collars can give a horse more freedom to use his shoulders.  Breastplates are also acceptable.  Harness may be black or russet.  Reins are traditionally brown.

The Things You Wear. Dressage and cones require an apron (like a big wrap around skirt) brown gloves and headgear of some sort.  Chapeaus allowed include helmets, top hats (one tradition holds that the color of the top hat indicates whether you are an owner or a hired gun), Sunday go to church hats, bowlers, and caps.  Marathon requires an ASTM-SEI helmet with chin strap, safety vest is required under FEI rules and strongly encouraged under ADS rules.  No aprons on marathon and no shorts either.

Great sources for further information include the American Driving Society website at www.americandrivingsociety.org  and Carriage Driving.net, home of the Carriage Driving List (CD-L) at www.carriagedriving.net.   For up to date results, it’s Driving News USA at www.drivingnews.us .

Next time:  Hazard How-To’s

Red on the right, white on the left and a different kind of insanity in the middle.

Go Combined Driving!

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