Discipline: Combined Driving
Combined Driving takes us back to a time when the horse was our means of transportation. Throughout history, horses in harness have gone to war, plowed our fields, pulled our ferries, trolleys, and dressed up to pull the carriage on Sundays. The marathon vehicles are as state of the art as a racing bike- built to negotiate challenging cross country courses at speed, and stay in one piece. The sport of Combined Driving demands a horse to be obedient, brilliant, supple and fit. There are three phases; the Dressage test, Marathon, and the Cones course. In the Dressage phase, the horses complete a set pattern, showing their ability to perform brilliant movement, with balance, cadence, and expression, and correct and accurate transitions. Elegant turnout is essential, with horse, driver and carriage and harness gleaming with hard work and preparation. In the Marathon phase, the courage and agility, as well as accuracy and ability of the horse and driver are tested over a challenging course, at speed.
There are two types of Marathons- a three section and a five. The three section consists of a trot section, followed by a walk section, then the cross country. The five section Marathon adds an additional trot and walk section before the cross country. A stalwart navigator rides on the back of the Marathon vehicle with the driver, helping to balance the vehicle, and guide the driver, as they negotiate the course at speed, judged on the time they take to complete the course. The partnership between driver and horse is tested here, along with the strength of their vehicle and harness, making for an exciting competition. The final phase, the Cones Course, challenges the stamina, coordination, precision and timing of these teams. Each team must negotiate a course of cones with balls sitting on top, at specified distances (ten to twenty inches wider than the wheel track, depending on the division) and once again, against the clock. Time is added for each ball knocked down as the carriage passes too close to a cone, and the competitor with the lowest score, over the sections, is declared the winner. The American Saddlebred has the opportunity to truly shine here, with their wonderful movement, gameness, and flexibility.