Carriage Driving–the most fun you can have sitting down!


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The most fun you can have sitting down...that’s the motto of the Australian Carriage Driving Society (ACDS)…but what’s it all about?

The ACDS is an organisation which promotes carriage driving. Some people might think that would be a boring sport but it can be full of fun, action and good friends, two and four legged!

Some people just like to go on a pleasure drive through the bush, stopping somewhere to have a break and a bite to eat and then drive home again, admiring the scenery and wildlife. Others enjoy show driving, dressing up in either period costume to suit their carriage or in elegant finery with the carriages and harness sparkling in the sunlight and the horses and ponies gleaming.

Club days can be a navigation drive, novelty events (like handy mount), slalom driving (like bending races) and heaps more.

For those who like lots of action, there’s combined driving which is just like eventing: you do a dressage test (in a bigger arena than a ridden one), a marathon which is like cross country (roads and tracks and drive around marathon obstacles (MO) instead of going over jumps!) and cone driving instead of show jumping. The distance and number of marathon obstacles you drive depends on the level of the event (there are 4 levels). They can be trees, water or man-made and are comprise lettered gates from A up to F. These are to be driven in alphabetical order in the quickest and safest way. Someone driving a single horse or pony would usually drive it differently to someone driving a multiple.

The cones course is made up of pairs of cones with balls balanced on top which are carefully measured to be only a little wider than the carriage. If you hit one and the ball falls off, you get penalties just like knocking a pole in showjumping.

What’s a multiple?

A multiple is when you drive more than one horse or pony. You can have a pair–two horses or ponies next to each other; a tandem–two horses or ponies, one in front of the other, and a team which is four horses or ponies with two in front and two behind.

How old do I have to be to drive?

To drive in a single pony or horse in a CDE you must be 12 years old and have an adult with you. You must be 16 years old to drive by yourself in the small ponies class if you don’t want to take a groom. To drive a multiple you must be 16 years old to drive a pony multiple and 18 years old to drive a horse multiple. For all other classes you must have a groom with you no matter what your age is or what you are driving. You must be 10 years old to be a groom for a single and 14 years old to groom for a multiple.

What does a groom do?

During the dressage and cones part of the CDE, a groom must be dressed appropriately to suit the carriage and the driver’s outfit and takes no part other than to sit and look pretty! They can’t talk to the driver or touch the reins but during the marathon section, they can join in the fun! The groom then becomes a navigator and helps the driver keep an eye on their time on the different sections of the course to make sure they get no penalties. In the MOs, grooms help the driver remember the course they have worked out earlier in the event and they also help to keep the carriage balanced as they turn corners tightly whilst standing on a back step (called backstepping) especially in a four wheeler.

What type of horse or pony can you use?

Any type as long as they are happy and sensible in harness. Your harness and carriage must fit comfortably and be safe for the type of driving you want to do.

Where can I find out more info?

You can visit the Australian Carriage Driving Society’s Federal website and click on your state link to find a Club near you.

By joining a club you make new friends, get lots of help at training days, fun days, etc, are covered by insurance and get a magazine about carriage driving in Australia four times a year. In some States, there’s a Young Drivers Program which has camps plus their own competitions and training days and newsletters.

So what are you waiting for...get out there and have fun!

Janice Gorick (ACDS-Victorian Branch)

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