The typical picture in one’s mind when thinking of carriage driving is usually either one of a rag and bone man with his horse and cart or of a Victorian era horse drawn carriage. However, International Carriage Driving is sanctioned by the Federation Equestrian International (FEI) and as they state that ‘horses were driven long before they were ridden’ and Carriage Driving became an equestrian discipline in 1970, it is one of the oldest competitive equestrian sports that is still practised today.
It must be admitted that carriage driving is not one of the nation’s most popular sports and even if someone decides that they would like to participate in carriage driving, it can prove extremely difficult to know where to start and they are left asking several questions: Where do I go to learn? What equipment do I need? How much will it cost? Is this even the right sport for me?
In Carriage Driving, the traditional ‘rider’ is replaced with a ‘driver’ who is seated on the carriage behind a horse, a pair of horses, or a team of four horses.
In modern horse driving competitions, there are three parts: Dressage, Marathon and Obstacle Driving. Dressage is made up of a sequence of compulsory figures performed in an arena measuring 100x40m. Competitors are judged on the smoothness of the exercises, the obedience of the horse, positioning and impulsion. The Marathon phase is conducted across country and consists of an up to 18km route including natural obstructions and sharp turning points and the final phase. The Obstacle Driving (or ‘Cones’) phase is designed to test the fitness and suppleness of the horses by requiring the driver to negotiate a narrow track marked with cones with balls balancing on top against the clock, with penalties for knocking down the balls and time penalties.