The History of Driving Trials
Horse driving trials was first started in 1968, when Prince Phillip initiated the writing of the first rulebook for the sport. It is has moved with the times, with carriages getting more complex, however over 40 years later it still follows the same format.
A Brief Introduction
Driving Trials follows a similar format to eventing; with Dressage, Marathon and Cones. Here at WMDG we run one day events with dressage and cones in the morning and marathon in the afternoon. (other clubs do 2 day and 3 day events):
Dressage is very similar to ridden dressage with competitor completing a sequence of set movements, marked for accuracy, obedience and paces of the horse. The arena varies in size depending on the class and the competition.
After this is cones, where you have to drive through narrowly spaced pairs of cones within a set time. The marking is similar to show jumping. This requires a supple horse and a steady hand. The time set depends on the class with beginners needing a nice trot to achieve the time.
In the afternoon is everyone’s favourite discipline, marathon. This involves navigating 4 to 6 obstacles, with gates lettered A-F, in the fastest time. This is a fast paced, exciting discipline testing the judgement, and skill of the driver; and the horse’s ability to turn tight quickly.
Driving is not just for the Driver
As well as the driver, every carriage must have a groom. In dressage and cones, they are there to assist if anything goes wrong, however in marathon they help to navigate the obstacles and keep the carriage upright by moving from side to side (similar to a side car on a motorbike).
The best thing about carriage driving is that anyone can do it on an equal footing no matter their age. We have juniors and veterans competing against each other. Pretty much any pony or horse, from Shetland to Shire can compete (classes are separated into horses and ponies).