also known as Horse Driving Trials
is an equestrian sport involving carriage driving
. The sport has three phases, and is most similar to the mounted equestrian sport of eventing
. It is one of the international equestrian sport horse
disciplines recognized by the FEI
Phase A1: Presentation
The judge grades on the cleanliness of the horses, tack, and vehicle, the matching of the horses or ponies, and the dress of the driver and groom(s). The judging is done at the halt.
- Driver, Grooms and Passengers: All persons should be clean and smartly dressed. The livery of the grooms should fit and match if there is more than one groom. The whip should be the correct length, based on the number of horses used. The driver should wear brown gloves, as well as a driving hat and apron.
- Horse(s): The horses should be clean and well-conditioned. If there are several horses, they should be of similar size and type (build), although the wheelers may be larger than the leaders. Matching color is secondary to matching type and size. Manes may or may not be braided, but should be level. Tails should not be braided.
- Harness: Should be "sound, clean, and fit correctly". Harness, if more than one horse is used, should match, although different bits may be used. The overall harness should also match. Martingales are not permitted. Harness straps should not be buckled on the last hole, so that adjustment may be made should a piece of harness break.
- Vehicle: carriage should be the correct size for the horse, as should the height and length of the poles for pairs and fours. Lamps are required at the advanced level, but only required at the training, preliminary, and intermediate levels if the carriage has lamp brackets.
- General Impression: judged on dress and position of driver and grooms, and suitability of horses and harness to the carriage.
Phase A2: Dressage
The dressage test is somewhat similar to dressage under saddle. The test is performed in a 40- by 100- meter arena with letter markers, where transitions in speed and gait are to take place. The judge scores each movement on a scale of 0-10, with a 10 being the highest mark possible. The difficulty of the test increases with each subsequent level of competition. At the lower levels, only one judge will normally be positioned at C (the centre of the short side of the arena) and the Test may have 16 movements. At higher levels, 3 judges may be used and at International competitions and World Championships there may be up to 5 judges, with the Championship Test having 25 movements. The judges' marks are averaged (added together and divided by the number of judges).
Dressage movements may include walk, working trot, collected trot, extended trot, canter, a halt, and a rein back. Multiple horses are judged on ability to move in harmony and ideally will have similar conformation, action, and movement. Horses are to remain on the bit throughout the test, maintaining impulsion, elasticity, rhythm, and forward movement. The goal is to make the test look effortless, and an obedient and responsive horse is essential for a good dressage test.
Unlike a ridden dressage test, a driven test allows the use of the voice as an aid. At international level, dressage tests are prepared by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (F.E.I.) which is the governing body of competitive carriage driving.
Phase B: Marathon
The marathon is similar to the second phase of eventing
, the speed and endurance. It tests the fitness and stamina of the horses, as well as the driver's knowledge of pace, over a 10-22 km course, divided into 3 or 5 sections. The marathon is the most thrilling phase to watch, and often draws the largest crowds.
Section "E" of the marathon is similar to the cross-country phase of eventing. It has obstacles or "hazards" throughout the course to test the speed and agility of the horses, and the driving ability of the whip. Obstacles may include water, tight twists through trees or man-made obstacles, steep hills, or fences and pens. Drivers are scored on how quickly they can negotiate the obstacle, and must find the fastest route through each. Penalty points are given if too much time is spent in an obstacle, or if the team comes in off the optimum time for the whole course.
The marathon phase is divided into either 3 or 5 sections, based on the level of competition. At the lower levels, only sections A,D, and E are required, while the higher levels may also include sections C and D. Each section has an optimum time, and if a carriage finishes over or under the optimum time, they receive penalty points. A team may also receive penalty points for not driving a section at the required gait.
A veterinary check follows section D to ensure that the horses are fit to continue, as well as section B (if included). Section C and D add another walk and trot section, and another veterinary check. Section E must be driven at the trot at the Training and Preliminary levels, but higher levels may drive section E at any gait. However, they must walk or trot the final 500m (or after the final hazard if a shorter distance to the end.
- A - Up to 10 kilometres at any pace
- B - 1 kilometre at walk
- C - 4 kilometres at trot
- D - 1 kilometre at walk
- E - 10 kilometres at trot, obstacles at any speed
Optimum times are calculated for each section according to the length of the section, the average speed of the carriage and whether it is pulled by horses or ponies. Speeds are 14 to 15 kilometres per hour in section A, 17-19 km/h in section C and 13-14 km/h in E. The walk sections are at 6-7 km/h.
Phase C: Cones
The cones phase is a test of accuracy, similar to the show jumping phase of eventing. A driver negotiates a course of up to 20 sets of gates, denoted by pairs of cones with a ball balanced on top. The cones are a set number of centimetres in distance wider than the wheels of the carriage (from 50 cm at the lower levels, to only 20 cm at the advanced level). If a ball is knocked off, penalty points are awarded. There are also obstacles made of raised rails in a U or right angle, and a wooden bridge. The cones section is timed. Circling before an obstacle and refusals are also awarded penalty points.
The Levels and Divisions of Combined Driving
The levels of combined driving in the United States are similar to that of eventing:
Each level is further divided into divisions:
- Horse or pony
- Number and arrangement of horses: singles, pairs, and multiples, which is made up of tandems, fours, and unicorns.
For the presentation and dressage phase, carriages
are often leather, built along traditional lines, and designed for attractive appearance. The Spider phaeton
is one of the more commonly used types of carriage for dressage. Competitors may use either 2-wheeled or 4-wheeled vehicles, but 4-wheelers are most often used in modern competition. Many competitors have a second carriage for the marathon phase. Most marathon vehicles
are of a modern design, tailor made for competition. They are manufactured from steel, aluminium or other alloys and may have hydraulic disc brakes on front and rear wheels, low centre of gravity and very small turning circle. A tougher harness is also used in the marathon phase, often made from synthetic materials rather than the traditional leather.
- The Driver or Whip: The person who controls the horses and carriage
- The Groom: Grooms are used in the dressage and obstacle cone driving phases. They are not allowed to speak or signal to the competitor in any way. They are seated beside or behind the driver. One groom is used for singles and pairs and two grooms for four-in-hand.
- The Navigator: The navigator is often a groom, if one was used, from the earlier phases. He or she helps the competitor on the marathon phase to stabilize the carriage around fast and tight turns by leaning inward. He also helps the driver with timing and direction. A navigator is required on the marathon phase. He or she does not, however, have to be an active competitor. The navigator is sometimes referred to as the "gator" or "backstepper" because he stands on a specially designed platform on the back of the carriage.
The horse or pony may be of any breed
, although warmbloods
are often seen at the highest levels of competition. Morgans
are also popular. The horse must be responsive, have a good mind, and be reliable. If multiple horses are used, they should be of similar height, build, and movement, and preferably similar color. When using multiple horses, it is important to choose the most suitable horse as a "wheeler" or "leader". Leaders are often flashier and have greater presence than wheelers.