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CAA Driver Proficiency Program makes the grade

By Patricia M. Demers - October 20th, 2016 - About Driving

About DrivingNow that you drive confidently and have educated yourself with lessons, books and articles, what can you DO with all of that knowledge?

There is a great program available to evaluate all that gained knowledge. It’s very similar to Pony Club. You work upward through the levels of requirements by being evaluated and rewarded for your knowledge. You receive a certificate for each level that you achieve, and a lapel pin for bragging rights. The Carriage Association of America’s (CAA) Driver Proficiency Program (DPP) is an excellent opportunity for recreational and professional drivers alike to put a framework to their carriage driving skills and knowledge. Knowledge and recognition can reduce your liability through safe practices.

The Driver Proficiency Program objectives are to encourage and acknowledge safe practices in horsemanship and carriage driving as well as to help carriage drivers SAFELY and CORRECTLY drive a horse and carriage/ wagon – both in the arena and on the road. The program was developed through the British Driving Society. This is the first effort in the U.S. to develop a comprehensive, standardized program of certification for carriage driving as a discipline.

Anyone interested in earning a CAA DPP Certificate may apply. This is not a teaching program but an evaluation program, so some experience, instruction and knowledge in carriage driving will be necessary. New drivers can seek out instructors who have earned proficiency certificates as way to feel safe that they are being taught by an individual who has demonstrated a safe and thorough understanding of the subject matter.
(Go to http://bit.ly/CAA_program.)

To prepare for each level, there is a syllabus booklet that you need to study. There is also a list of suggested reading and study materials.

There are currently three levels of proficiency in the CAA program. Each level is divided into units. Within each unit there are numerous elements in which the driver is seen to have “Reached the level,” or “Not reached the level.” Once all of the units of a given level have been accomplished successfully, a certificate for that level has been earned, and the candidate is eligible to advance to the next level. During your evaluation, if you do not achieve the required knowledge, it will be turned into a lesson by the evaluator, who will help you with the information and skills required. So don’t panic; it will be a positive experience. Everyone involved wants you to succeed! However, you DO need to prepare.

Level I represents the most basic skills necessary to handle horses and carriages safely. Subjects covered include general horse knowledge and husbandry, vehicle types and their care and maintenance, harness types, uses, fitting, care and maintenance. An additional unit is driving on the road. You will be asked to groom, harness and hitch and drive a horse, as well as drive a simple course.

Level II involves more in-depth knowledge and skill. There are nine units total in Level II, though several of the units are optional to earn the Level II certificate. The units cover a more detailed understanding of horsemanship, competition driving, driving an unfamiliar horse as well as driving pairs. Drivers may also earn credit for documented past experience in Level II. The units of Level II are a combination of practical knowledge, hands-on and documentation.

Level III units include the training of driving horses, as well as driving tandems and four-in-hand. Those students achieving all three levels of proficiency can be approved as instructors for the lower levels. This requires an additional evaluation. There is the opportunity to continue beyond the instructor level to become an evaluator for the program.

The CAA’s Driver Proficiency Program is an excellent opportunity for recreational and professional drivers alike to put a framework to their carriage driving skills and knowledge. Most drivers will usually get their level I, and part of Level II.

I personally have gone through the program from Levels I -III, gotten my instructor certification for levels I-II, and then became an evaluator. I have learned so much, and have enjoyed going through the whole program. I was amazed to learn “what I never knew, that I never knew!”

Another point that I was impressed with is: “Who evaluates the evaluators?” This isn’t a diploma-mill type of program. Everyone has to work through the levels completely. The master evaluators are world-renowned carriage drivers who have reached the highest levels of accomplishments in carriage driving, nationally and internationally. They do this for the love of the sport and to share their knowledge. I was so thrilled to receive my certificates of accomplishment in the levels. It was a lot of fun learning, reading, and expanding my knowledge to be an even better driver, instructor and trainer. Evaluations are done one-on-one, and no auditors are allowed.

So now that you’ve learned about the Driver Proficiency Program, what can you DO with this? YOU will have gained a sense of accomplishment that you have become a SAFE and KNOWLEDGEABLE driver. You should be able to spot a problem before it happens. You can become a mentor to others. In my own opinion, I feel that any driver who wants to participate in a public event such as shows, parades or drives, should have their Level I. It’s amazing to learn about what you “didn’t know, you don’t know!”

If you are interested in learning more about the program you should contact The Carriage Association of America.


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