Now this looks like fun! Carriage Driving Champs

The North Island Carriage Driving Championships proved quite a challenge for the sport's enthusiasts.

Isabel Cochran and Shadow. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)
Isabel Cochran and Shadow. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

Many of us may not have had the opportunity to see the wonderful sport of carriage driving here in New Zealand but through the lens of the hard-working Barbara Thomson, you can get a great idea of what fun this is!

The New Zealand Carriage Driving Society, formed in 1983, has about 100 members spread throughout the country, with nine clubs in the North Island and three in the South. The main competitive activities are Combined Driving, showing, driven dressage and P.O.D’s. (Precision, Obstacle, Driving). There are also plenty of pleasure drives, fun days and educational days – and lots of opportunities for socialising!

Joe Pearson and the very cute Avalon Pixie Prince. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)
Joe Pearson and the very cute Avalon Pixie Prince. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

Combined Driving is the equivalent of the ridden two- and three-day eventing, and after a number of competitions during the season, the three-day championships are held.

2016 North Island Championship

This year’s North Island Championships took place at the end of April at the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre in Taupo: a perfect venue for the sport. With 33 entrants and cool, clear weather, competition was strong in all classes for the first day (dressage), and some very good scores were recorded.

Malcolm Baker and his team of 4 - 2nd in Multiples. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)
Malcolm Baker and his team of 4 – 2nd in Multiples. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

The second day was marathon day, with a challenging course designed by Lloyd Weal. Drivers needed great vigilance to keep to the marked route. Unfortunately there were several eliminations, but all combinations came home safely.

Alison Cooper with Greyway and Picasso. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)
Alison Cooper with Greyway and Picasso. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)

The third day is “Cones Day”.  This year’s course was tight and the time was difficult to achieve. Only one double clear round was achieved in the open class, and also only one in the novice and intermediate sections.  Both were very small “pocket rockets” with impressive speed an accuracy.

Results are available at the end of this article.

Cups and ribbons! (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)
Cups and ribbons! (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)

Background to Carriage Driving

The dressage phase is like dressage in other disciplines; it is in an arena and you are expected to salute the judges before starting your set test.

Jessica Wild with Greenlea Colette (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)
Jessica Wild with Greenlea Colette (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

The marathon is divided into sections, each driven at a different pace and speed. The first section can be up to 10km in length, but is usually shorter and is driven in a trot. There is a time allowed that you should be aiming for, and penalties are given if you are too fast, or too slow. If you exceed the time allowed, you get time faults, but there is also a minimum time which is two minutes less than the time allowed. Finishing under minimum time will also incur penalties. You therefore have a two-minute “window” and finishing the section within this will not incur any penalties.  After section A there is a transfer section and a rest of about 10 minutes before the start of the final section. Water is available here to refresh the horses. An event official or a vet may check over the horses to make sure they are fit to continue.

Joanne Taylor and Double Delight (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)
Joanne Taylor and Double Delight (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

Section B is the final section, which can be driven at any pace, with the exception of the final 500 metres, which must be at a trot. This section can be up to 10 km in distance and contains a number of obstacles or hazards which the driver must negotiate. A combination of man-made elements and natural terrain is used to form a series of gates, which the competitor must drive through in the correct sequence and at the fastest possible speed. Each obstacle has entrance/exit flags and 0.2 penalties are awarded by the timekeeper for every second the competitor spends in the obstacle. Depending on their design, there may be between 3 and 6 gates within the obstacle. They are flagged with red on the right and white on the left and labelled A, B, C … etc. The gates must be driven in the correct sequence and direction. Some gates in an obstacle may contain “knock-downs” – elements that fall easily if the obstacle is hit by the horse or carriage. Penalties are added for each knock-down. There are often obstacles containing a water crossing or a bridge to test the driver’s ability to cope with these hazards.

The object of obstacle driving is to find the fastest route through all the gates in the correct sequence. There may be several routes, some longer but easier to drive and others faster but more difficult. The driver and groom walk the obstacles before the marathon starts, choosing and memorising their preferred routes.

As well as time penalties for the length of time spent in each obstacle and for knock-downs, further penalties will be given for errors of course, the groom dismounting and other infringements.

The last phase is cones driving, where a course is set out with a time allowed. Time penalties are incurred for exceeding this, and if the cones are not successfully negotiated.

Donna Tholen and Ayn Dara Aphrodite. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)
Donna Tholen and Ayn Dara Aphrodite. (Image Barbara Thomson Photography)

A groom must be utilised in all phases of the competition and is seated during the dressage and cones. During the marathon, the groom may stand on the back step of a vehicle, and assist the driver while making turns by leaning their weight in the appropriate direction.

It is also the groom’s job during the marathon to navigate the course and keep track of time and progress on each section, allowing the driver to concentrate on controlling the horse or pony. In the dressage and cones phases, the groom may not speak or otherwise communicate with the driver.

Jill Udy and Bandamare's Lady Holly (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)
Jill Udy and Bandamare’s Lady Holly (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

All driving trials scores are shown as penalties. This means that the competitor with the lowest final score wins.

If you are keen to be involved in this sport, you can get contact information from the website on this link.

Isabel Cochran and Shadow. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)
Isabel Cochran and Shadow. (Image: Barbara Thomson Photography)

 

NZCDS N.I. Championship Combined Driving Trials 2016

Open Horse: Yvonne Weal, Mt Tulloch Royal Legend

Open Large Pony: Isabel Cochran, Shadow

Yvonne Weal and Mt Tulloch LegendOpen Small Pony

  1. Wayne Millar, Chumba Wumba
  2. John Flintoff, Coal

Open Multiple

  1. Alison Cooper, Picasso/Greyway
  2. Malcolm Baker, TRRZ Team

Intermediate

  1. Donna Tholen, Ayn Dara Aphrodite
  2. Helen Paddison, Bryn
  3. Christine Tarrant, Ben 10
  4. Anne Donnelly, Klondike Hi-Light

Novice

  1. Joanne Taylor, Double Delight
  2. Jessica Wild, Greenlee Colette
  3. Val Baker, ZinZan
  4. Cate Tyrer, Sunninghill Mac

Training

  1. Michelle Reddy, Greenlee Merry Dance
  2. Viv Christie, V.L Tawney Owl
  3. Fiona Hicks, George
  4. Rhonda Boyland, Just a Gem