In early October, some of the best teams from around the country loaded up their trailers and descended on Lexington for a four-day challenge that would test their talent, stamina, and accuracy. Though in North America, combined driving is less well known than astride events such as dressage, eventing, or show jumping, the FEI’s fourth sport actually combines the skill and technicality of all three. Here’s how it works.
Dressage: Teams are judged on a variety of criteria while executing a pre-described driving pattern in the arena. This includes the regularity of gaits, the correctness and accuracy of a team’s movements, harmony, suppleness, and their “general impression” (appropriate dress on the drivers and grooms, condition and cleanliness of the harness and vehicle, etc).
Marathon: Like cross-country day in eventing, teams must negotiate a timed series of natural or man-made obstacles. Marathon tests the horses’ stamina while also offering a degree of speed and danger. In each marathon, obstacles consist of up to six lettered “gates” with the correct direction through each marked by red on the right and white on the left. The gates must be negotiated in the proper order, and missing a gate or spending more than five minutes at a single obstacle equals elimination.
Cone Driving: The “stadium jumping” of combined driving tests the horses’ agility, speed, and obedience, requiring teams to complete a complex course marked by pairs of modified traffic cones with a tennis ball balanced on top of each cone. Each pair of cones is just slightly wider than the carriage wheels of a cart, meaning that precision is the name of the game. And, like show jumping, the cones are numbered and must be completed within the time allowed; if a ball is knocked off one or more of the cones, faults are incurred.
Can your truck do all that? We didn’t think so.
To learn more about this year’s Kentucky Classic CDE, watch this: