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“Arena Driving Trials”
by Bob Fetters
please read our copyright notice

How about an ARENA DRIVING TRIAL?

An Arena Driving Trial is a new form of driving competition in the USA which is already very popular in England. It is being prototyped in the Virginia/Maryland and Massachusetts area. In VA/MD Muffy Seaton has run several events in the past 9 months and is planning more during the next few months.

In late November I took my new pony to one of Muffy's events at Bob Cook's indoor arena in Maryland. Dressage, cones, and hazards all happened in one day and with minimal need for the assistance of volunteers. It is informal, it's terrific practice, and lots and lots of fun! The horses love it because everything happens on a flat, well groomed surface which offers great footing. It is frequently held at an indoor arena but if the weather is nice an outdoor arena works fine too. Because Dressage, Cones and Hazards are all held in the same arena, it is not necessary for your horse to be at peak fitness. This makes these events attractive during the winter when it is difficult to keep your horse in very consistent work. The dress code is informal and turnout is not scored making the competitors relaxed and focused on learning and practice.

Muffy Seaton reports that in the USA we are going to call this event an "Arena Driving Trial". A committee is working on a formal set of rules to submit to the ADS. Muffy organized her prototype event into two divisions, Novice, and Advanced. She uses two reformatted dressage tests which suit the smaller space used for competing. The great majority of entrants have been in the novice division. Muffy feels that this event is an excellent way to introduce pleasure drivers and others to the fundamentals and fun of Combined Driving. It also seems to be excellent practice for more advanced drivers.

How exactly did it work?

We were asked to park our trailers near the arena and use them as our headquarters for the day. Initially, we walked around the arena to see the size and arrangement of the ring and the dressage markings.

Then we harnessed up and did the dressage test. Next a course of 10 cones was set up and we walked it. The cones were set widely spaced and are not adjusted to each drivers carriage (so the Cones phase is quickly completed). They were set in challenging places (like going deep into and out of a corner.) and we were scored based on how close we came to an ideal time. In the future, Muffy is planning to adjust the cone spacing to the width of the vehicle for the Advanced division.

For Hazards, two portable obstacles were set up, one at each end of the arena. The first hazard was built with plastic barrels connected together with white PVC pipes to make 4 gates. The second hazard was constructed of large oblong water tubs turned upside down. They were arranged in a star shape and then marked with 4 gates. One gate of cones was placed in the middle of the arena. This one set of cones are both the entrance and exit for both the hazards. The participants helped to set up the hazards and then they walked them.

In driving the hazards, we entered the arena at the trot and drove through the set of cones to enter Hazard 1. We drove the 4 marked gates and exited through the same set of cones. After exiting the first hazard, we drove halfway around the arena while Muffy recorded our time for the first hazard and reset her stopwatch. We then used the set of cones to enter hazard 2, drive through 4 marked gates and exit through the same cones. Again we drove halfway around the arena to allow Muffy to reset and then we repeated the whole process. We ended up driving each hazard twice. It really was neat to see if you can do each hazard faster the second time through.

This event is so much fun (for horse and driver) and such great practice that more than one Driving Club is considering sponsoring one in the springtime. Muffy Seaton can be reached at fourfleas@aol.com Submitted by Bob Fetters bobfetters@aol.com



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