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A Day of Driving followed by . . . Another Day of Driving

What ranges from 9 to 17 hands? Entries in the first-ever “Day of Driving” at the Fox Valley Saddle Association and at the first-ever HUB Club Arena Driving Trial, that’s what! Held Saturday July 15 and Sunday July 16 at FVSA’s 40-acre facility in Hampshire, IL, Cathy Brock had the smallest horses, with the pair “Pippen” and “Bilbo,” while I had the largest with “Newman” who went by the show name of “Newmiepoopasaurus Rex.” Other participants included:

• Linda Syverson-Kerr with her Norwegian Fjords “WW Russert” and “WW Reidar”
• Linda Fidler and the warmblood mare “Northern Lights Reign”
• Carolyn Sluiter with the hackney horse “Cole”
• Michael Chuman and “Gimme Some Sugar,” a Belgian/Haflinger mare
• Kelly Chuman with “Burning the Midnight Oil” aka “Bert,” a Percheron/Quarter Horse
• Sue West and her Morgan mare “Dancastle Kahlua n’Cream”
• Judy Dowling with “Pink,” the pony
• The palomino pony “Dreamer,” driven by Lonnie and Reiner Schuetz as well as Beverly Horsley
• Multiple members of the Double L Mini Driving Drill Team from Spring Grove, IL.

What is a “Day of Driving?” Because there aren’t that many carriage driving shows in the Midwest and therefore competitors come not just from Illinois but also Wisconsin, Iowa, and other states, the show organizer wanted to give drivers who trucked a long distance plenty of opportunities to hitch their horses. Saturday was therefore two shows in one, with a Driving Derby in the morning and a Pleasure Driving Competition in the afternoon which consisted of Pleasure Driving and Reinsmanship classes in a ring, then a Cones class, followed by a Town and Country class (just over 1km around the property).

Here’s where it gets fun: the show bill said “American Driving Society rules apply.” So according to the ADS rulebook, the Driving Derby follows Combined Driving rules, while the Pleasure Driving Competition follows Pleasure Driving rules. That means in the morning we were required to wear long pants (no shorts!), an approved helmet, gloves, and carry a whip, while in the afternoon we were required to wear gloves and carry a whip, as well as wear a “hat” (helmets are recommended but not required) and an apron or knee rug. Also, a groom is required to ride with large pony, horse, or multiples (ie pairs, four-in-hands, etc) in a Driving Derby, while grooms are not mandatory in Pleasure Driving Competitions for single horse and pony turnouts, only for multiples. Of course, there are lots more little differences, which caused me to have to read the rulebook not once but TWICE before this show! In the Driving Derby alone, there are 22 different ways to be penalized, with 11 of them resulting in Elimination (such as loss of control, failure to dismount to repair broken harness, and carriage turnover, yikes!) Here’s a super-fun rule: in the Driving Derby, each pair of cones remains “live” and therefore can’t be driven through again or knocked down while the competitor is on course but the lettered gates in the obstacles become “dead” or neutralized after passing through them in the correct order.

What is an Arena Driving Trial? The next day was a completely different show, although it too fell under ADS rules and it too was also a form of Combined Driving. However, being a three-phase competition (dressage, cones, marathon obstacles), each had their unique requirements so back to the rulebook for a THIRD reading for me! This time, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t eliminated or lost points for having my groom speak to me during dressage, failing to start the cones course within 45 seconds of the signal, or not correcting a wrong course through a marathon obstacle. As if the rules weren’t enough to fill my head, by now I’ve walked and memorized my FIFTH course over two days!

1. Driving Derby (10 pairs of numbered cones and 2 gated obstacles)
2. Pleasure Driving Competition cones course (12 pairs of numbered cones)
3. Pleasure Driving Competition Town and Country course (16 numbered “gates”)
4. ADT cones course (12 numbered cones)
5. ADT marathon obstacles (for Prelim, two obstacles with four lettered “gates” each)

FYI: In driving competitions, “gates” aren’t really gates as in openings in fences, “gates” are a pair of numbers (in the case of Pleasure Driving Competitions) or letters (in the case of Combined Driving marathon obstacles) that drivers must pass through, in order, with red on the right and white on the left, as part of the course.

Why do drivers put themselves through this? Finally, the question everyone wants to know: why on earth would people put themselves and their horses through all this? Reading it, it does sound a bit daunting, and I can testify that both Newman and I needed the following Monday AND Tuesday to recover. But here are the reasons, personally, that I competed:
1. Show support for FVSA and the HUB Club
2. Challenge myself and my horse with real courses, real judges, and real timers (and real rules!)
3. FUN! We drivers LOOOVE courses (especially ones that we didn’t have to set up ourselves) and we all strive for the “double clear” ie a trip that is under the time limit and has no knockdowns, so fast and smooth.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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