What is going on in the carriage? Carriages must be just as well maintained and presentable as the horses. The carriage being used also dictates the fashion of the team. The clothing of the driver and the harnesses must match the style of the carriage.
Although the driver is the only one allowed to control the horses with the reins and whip while they are moving, he or she is not the only person in the carriage. Four-in-hand drivers are allowed to be accompanied by two "grooms" in all phases of the competition. The grooms' presence is most important in the Marathon phase, where one groom helps direct the driver and the other helps balance the carriage. The Marathon phase is the only phase in which a groom can give verbal directions.
In the competition, the same carriage must be used for the Dressage and Cones phases, but a different carriage is typically used for the Marathon phase.
So what is the difference between these phases?
In driven dressage, the driver is responsible for taking his or her horses through a dressage test similar to what a dressage rider would ride. Also similar to dressage, drivers will all be performing the same test in a flat, rectangular arena lined with letters. The arena in driving, however, is 100 x 40 meters, almost twice as large as a ridden dressage arena.
The Marathon phase of Combined Driving is designed to test the stamina and agility of the horses and the maneuvering skills of the driver. Drivers will take their teams over natural terrain and complete an exciting course of obstacles that include water, hills, sharp turns and more. The object is to complete the course without faults and within the optimum time.
The Cones phase of Combined Driving features a tight, challenging course of cones that must be navigated within the time allowed. Tennis-sized balls are placed on top of cones on the course and the drivers must direct the horses around the cones without displacing the balls. At this point, the horses have completed two phases, and it takes exceptional driving skills to be successful at Cones.
How is all of this scored?
Just like regular dressage, driven dressage is judged subjectively. Five judges surround the arena and will score the driver on the accuracy of the test and the effectiveness and style of the driver. The dressage test will include mandatory movements, figures and pace changes. Movements in driven dressage include extended trot, shoulder-in, rein back and more. During these movements, the driver and his or her team is judged on the smoothness of transitions, the obedience of the horses and the harmony between the driver and the team, as well as the harmony among the horses.
Judges will score each movement of the test from zero to 10, with 10 being "excellent". Drivers can also receive penalties. If they make an error on their test, the first error is five points; the second is 10 and the third results in elimination. Other penalties include incomplete presentation of the vehicle, a horse on the team stepping out of the arena and disobedience of a horse.
For the Marathon phase, the course is divided into different sections. These sections may call for pace changes, specific turns and movements and the completion of obstacles. If the rider exceeds the time allowed for any section of the Marathon phase, the penalty is .2 points per second. Other penalties for Marathon include error of course, incorrect pace during a section and stopping on the course.
German driver Christoph Sandmann at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen. © Kit Houghton/FEI
And all of this is one competition?
Yep. The final scores for Marathon are calculated by the penalties drivers received from each phase. The judges' marks in dressage are calculated and converted into a penalty score, and any penalties incurred in the Marathon and Cones phases are added to this score. The team with the lowest number of penalties after the three phases of competition wins.
Now that you know more about driving, you may be wondering how much involvement you can have as a fan.
Fan etiquette for driving is similar to that of golf. When golfers are focused on the green, fans are quiet observers. But, as soon as they sink the putt, the crowd goes wild. It works the same way for Combined Driving. When drivers are maneuvering their horses through complex obstacles, it is important for fans to remain quiet as not to disturb their concentration. Once the driver has completed the obstacle, however, cheering is totally acceptable, and encouraged.