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Recreational and show driving

11th in a series

Patricia Demers / Horsetrader columnist - April 16th, 2015 - About Driving

PatriciaDemers_170pxWelcome to spring, which means show season begins. Carriage driving shows share their history with the old agricultural fairs, where farmers and breeders would bring their best animals to sell or to publicize their breeding services. The good working animals would be paraded around for the prospective buyers, both private and military, and the general public who admired good horses and their beauty would also attend. The sellers then would compete their horses against one another with hopes of attracting the highest bidder.

Carriage and wagon builders would also bring their latest models to display to prospective buyers, very much like a trade show at a fair. Today, we carry on this tradition with horse shows. Some shows have both riding and driving classes, while others are events completely dedicated to driving.

Where do you find this information? The internet is a great tool, with sites like horsetrader.com (click on “shows-events” on the menu at the top of the page, then select “driving”) and the various driving and horse registry sites helpful. Publications like California Horsetrader also have calendars of events with shows and clinics listed.

Volunteering: Shows are also usually in need of volunteers (who are very much appreciated!) to help put on these events. Volunteering is a super way of learning about a sport or event, and making new friends. Many jobs don’t even require knowledge of horses! Volunteering makes you feel special and a part of the event! Contact the event organizers and ask questions.

Recreational driving: this is usually non competitive and simply for the fun of driving and socializing. Some drives are just for a few hours or miles in varying locations, while others can be multiple day events such as wagon trains or campouts. Many have a theme, such as a picnic, flower viewing, a special location or theme. The public is often welcome to come watch.

Show driving: is all about competition. There are a variety of various classes. Some are judged on the horse, while others are judged on the skill of the driver, or the whole ‘turnout’.

Some are classes are based on skill and precision, while others are based on speed.
Here is a sample of typical classes that can be found:
*Turnout: This is about the overall picture of the driver, carriage, and horse or horses. Correctness, cleanliness, appointments, and dress.

*Working/pleasure: This is judged on the equines’ appropriateness to be a ‘pleasurable’ to drive, to the particular carriage type and driver (gentlemen, ladies, junior).

*Reinsmanship: Judged on how well the driver drives the horse to perform its paces: walk, three trots-slow, working, lengthened and a halt.

*Obstacles: Usually traffic cones set in a pattern which can be numbered or lettered. This is for speed and accuracy. The cones are set at varying widths-between 4” – 24” wider than the axles- depending upon the difficulty of the class.

*Vehicle type: These classes are broken down into subsets of 2 or 4 wheeled type, further broken down into working, country, sporting, commercial or formal/park types. These vehicles can be antique or modern.

*Equine type: mini, pony- medium and large, horses, drafts, or by breed type such as Arabians, Morgans, Mules, Donkeys etc. All shall be judged as the best representation of their breed’s movements and standards.

*Multiples: Two or more equines harnessed together to a vehicle. Judged on how well the equines work as a unit, and on the driver’s skills.

*Draft type: Usually an equine weighing over 1,500 Lbs. minimum. This includes: Clydesdales, Percherons, Belgians, Shires, typically.

*Draft shows: These shows represent a time when horses were used daily. The classes at these shows often have teams of horses- from two to six, hitched to delivery wagons, or singles hitched to high wheeled road carts. There are many different classes based on the breed of draft horse, the driver’s skills, weight pulling contests and halter classes.

Showing can be an ends to a means or a means to an end. It can be a reward for good training, or for the enjoyment of competition, or a way to sell your animal or your training services.

PLEASE, if you want to take your horse to a show, prepare your horse by driving them a lot before the show and exposing them to all kinds of things such as being passed by other carriages! I encourage new drivers and green horses to have at least a few months of consistent driving before going to a show. It’s not only for YOUR safety, but those around you! Please familiarize yourself with show etiquette for the show entered. Don’t be shy about contacting the show organizers before the show and ask lots of questions, they are usually happy to help you!

Sportsmanship: nothing can ruin a good time faster than a poor competitor. You know who I’m talking about — the one who complains about show management, classes, other competitors, the judging, or how they placed. You’ll get noticed for sure, but possibly not in a good way. Do yourself a favor and observe others, listen to what’s being said, and learn. Win humbly, lose gracefully, and protest with dignity. Drive on!

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