To start off our driving adventure, we are stepping into Bravour 54's world - he is our 2023 Celebration Horse and a Gold Medalist in Combined Driving!
Modeled after Eventing, this driving discipline tests horses and drivers over three different phases – Dressage, Marathon, and Timed Obstacle. Combined Driving is split into divisions that accommodate ponies and horses in singles, pairs, or teams (four-in-hand). Drivers can participate with any breed of horse from Saddlebreds to Warmbloods to Haflingers to Friesians - as long as the horses or ponies can do the movements. There are different divisions within Combined Driving to accommodate different skill levels: Training Level, Preliminary, Intermediate, and FEI/Advanced.
© Shannon Brinkman
The first phase, Dressage, is scored like a ridden dressage test. Each movement performed receives a score, and the object is to get the lowest score possible. Drivers dress in traditional clothing for this phase. You will see men in jackets and ties and women dressed in nice jackets, scarfs, hats, and lap robes.
The second phase, Marathon, is like the cross-country phase of Eventing - without the jumps, of course. Drivers must navigate their horse(s) through natural obstacles within a certain time. The Marathon phase tests courage, stamina, and ability. Dress code for this phase is more relaxed as drivers are allowed to wear helmets and vests for safety.
The third phase, Timed Obstacles or Cones, tests the horse(s) on the final day to see how supple and responsive they are after the Marathon phase. A winding, twisting course of cones, with balls resting on top, is set up for drivers to complete in a tight timeframe. The cones are set within a few centimeters of the wheels of the carriage to really test the driver's agility. The more advanced the level, the tighter the cones become. The object is to get around the course in the fastest time and avoid knocking the balls off.
Along with the driver, a groom or two will be present on the carriage. They have a very traditional role, which goes back to the days of coaching, where the groom would get off the carriage when it stopped to hold the horses. In the Dressage and Cones phases, the grooms are not allowed to talk or assist the driver in any way. However, in the Marathon phase they act as a navigator who is allowed to help the driver keep track of time and give directions. They also will be there for balance and weight distribution as the carriage speeds around tight turns.
Keep an eye on the BreyerFest Blog as we dive into the world of driving and explore the many disciplines this dynamic sport has to offer!
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