DrivingThe venue

Event guide: Driving

September 19, 2010 

  • The dressage and cones competitions will be contested at the Driving Stadium. The marathon will take place on the cross-country course.See map, Pages 20-21


  • See a demonstration of driving.

The event

The combined driving competition involves four horses, a driver, a navigator and a groom on each team. It is based on the Olympic sport called eventing but with a carriage behind the horses. As in eventing, teams are required to complete three phases of competition over four days: driven dressage, marathon and cones.

Driven dressage: Teams all perform the same pattern in a 100-by-40-meter arena (about 328-by-131 feet) and are judged on how well they perform each step, such as the extended trot, and how fluidly they transition from one gait to another. The driver may use reins, whip and voice commands to steer. The navigator and groom sit immobile and silent on the back.

Marathon: Teams thread their way through eight complex hazards along an 18-kilometer (about 11.2 miles) cross-country course at speed. Hazards can include tight gates, bridges, water, trees, hills and other natural elements. Teams use a more spare, sturdy carriage for this phase. The navigator, who keeps time with stopwatches, stands directly behind the driver and may communicate with the driver during the marathon. The groom serves as ballast and may lean off the sides of the carriage to keep it balanced. Cones: Teams negotiate a timed course of 20 pairs of cones. Each cone has a ball balanced on top. Knock off a ball, incur penalties. The cones are spaced so that the carriage has only 10 inches of clearance. The driver must hold a whip at all times.

How it's scored

The three competitions are designed to test the responsiveness, agility, fitness and stamina of the horses, and the judgment, accuracy and capability of the drivers. Teams are assessed penalties for mistakes, so the lowest score wins. In the marathon and cones competitions, the time it takes each team to finish the course also factors into the scoring.

What to watch

Horses must pass several veterinary checks: before competition begins, at the 10-minute rest period before the final phase of the marathon, at the completion of the marathon, and before the cones competition. Horses cannot be substituted, so if a horse can't pass the fitness test the team will be disqualified. Grooms may be substituted for injuries on the course.

Spectator etiquette

Driving has been compared to golf in the way spectators observe quietly while the player focuses on a shot but cheer as soon as the shot is complete. As drivers maneuver through obstacles, fans should remain quiet, but when the obstacle is passed, cheering is encouraged.

Fast facts

■ The sport of combined driving is relatively new, having been developed in the 1970s under the guidance of the Duke of Edinburgh.

■ Horses may be of any breed; European "warmbloods" and Morgans are popular for driving teams. The horses in back, usually a little larger, are called "wheelers"; the ones in front, usually flashier, are called "leaders."

■ Carriages must be at least 158 centimeters (about 5.2 feet) wide for the dressage and cones competitions; for the marathon, they must be at least 125 centimeters (about 4.1 feet) wide and must weigh at least 600 kilograms (about 1,323 pounds).

■ In the dressage portion of the competition, each team's score includes presentation, so horses will be glossy, tack and carriages will gleam, and the competitors will be smartly dressed. Drivers and grooms wear hats and brown gloves; the driver wears an apron.

Participants

Countries competing (based on preliminary nominations): Seven countries have driving teams; one country will be represented by an individual.

Individuals competing: 30 athletes have been nominated to compete.

Awards: Medals and trophies will be presented to winning countries and individuals.

JANET PATTON, jpatton@herald-leader.com

Dressage, part 1, 9 a.m.

Dressage, part 2, 2 p.m.

Dressage, part 3, 9 a.m.

Dressage, part 4, 2 p.m.

Marathon, 10 a.m.

Cones, 10 a.m.

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