When we think Carriage Driving, we think horse drawn cart, which in its simplest form means exactly this. Carriage Driving can of course apply to horses, ponies, donkeys or even mules that are attached to an item which is to be drawn such as a wagon, cart, carriage or even a sleigh. This is often referred to as ‘in harness’. Driving can include a broad range of activities from harness racing for pleasure purposes, to farm work and participating in shows.
International Carriage Driving is sanctioned by the Federation Equestrian International which is the international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines. According to the FEI, “horses were driven long before they were ridden. As vehicles have eliminated the need for horses as a primary form of transportation, Driving has turned into a fast-growing sports discipline”.
In 1970, Carriage Driving became an equestrian discipline and today is one of the oldest competitive equestrian sports. Carriage Driving occurs without a rider. The ‘rider’ – or Driver – is seated on the vehicle being drawn by the horse or horses, which can make up teams of two or four.
In Driving competitions today, there are three parts or phases to the competition:
Firstly, dressage which consists of a sequence of compulsory figures performed within a 100x40m arena. A few very important factors influencing the judges assessment and decision are smoothness of the exercises, the obedience of the horse, impulsion and positioning.
Marathon is the second phase and is a striking and impressive trial. The marathon course runs up to 18 km and includes natural constructed obstacles as well as sharp turning points, water and steep inclines.
Finally, the Obstacle Driving or Cones, as it is also known by, is a test of fitness and suppleness of the horses following the marathon. To conquer negotiating the cones course, the Driver must intertwine cleanly through a narrow track outlined by cones with balls balanced on top of each cone.