What is Carriage Driving?

For years horses have been driven and used as a form of transport for day to day existence, but modern horse driving trials came into existence in 1968 when HRH Prince Philip initiated the formulation of the rules for the new sport. “British Carriagedriving” are the governing body of the sport in the UK.

The sport of competitive Horse Driving Trials consists of three very different phases or stages. Modelled on the ridden three day event, a Horse Driving Trials is a triathlon for horses/ponies which tests the overall versatility of an animal in harness.

Day 1 – Dressage 

The objective of the Driven Dressage Test is to judge the freedom, regularity of paces, harmony, impulsion, suppleness, lightness, ease of movement and correct bending of the horses on each move. Athletes will also be judged on style, accuracy and general control of their horses/ponies. They are also judged on their dress, condition of their harness and carriage and the presentation of their whole turnout. Each competitor will complete a Dressage test whereby a sequence of set movements must be driven in accordance with the Driver’s set test. Each driver will complete a different test dependent on their class and ability. As you move higher up the ranks, the movements become more complex. Each test is marked by a team of judges who will provide individual marks for each movement. This is one of most elegant phases of driving but can sets the rankings for the rest of the event. 

Day 2 – Marathon/Cross Country

The objective of this phase is to test the fitness, stamina and training of the horses/ponies as well as the driving skill and general horsemanship of the athlete. There are three sections to the Hopetoun Marathon Course: 

Section A – Athletes will drive between 5000-9000 metres across roads and tracks with their turnouts. This section is timed and drivers must complete the phase within a Minimum or Maximum time to ensure they do not incur penalties.  

Section B – Athletes will drive between 6 and 8 obstacles (dependent on the Class) whereby they must navigate through a series of gates in the correct order. The obstacles can consist of anything from post and rail wooden gates to haybales and there are not one but two water obstacles at Hopetoun where drivers will need to convince their horses/ponies to get their hooves wet! This phase is not to be missed and is a crowd pleaser with spectators. 

Day 3 – Cones

The objective of this phase is to test the fitness, obedience and suppleness of the horses/ponies as well as the skill and competence of the athletes after the Cross Country Phase. Drivers are marked on both time and precision in this phase and must complete a course of cones. They must navigate their way through each set of cones ensuring they do not knock down the balls that are positioned on top of each cone. Every ball knocked down will incur penalties. Dependent on the class in which the driver competes in will decide the width that the set of cones are measured at. The higher up the ranks you go, the narrower the cones become. Drivers are tested on time during this phase and again dependent on the class which the driver competes in will decide the time allowed to complete the course.