To test the versatility of horse and driver, combined driving blends three competitions. Drivers compete at training, preliminary, intermediate, and advanced levels?in?singles, pairs, and four-in-hand divisions.
Horses are judged on forwardness, responsiveness, elasticity, and grace while executing a set pattern of movements in a 40- by 100-meter arena. Rhythmic cadence, quality of movement, and precision of transitions all contribute to the score, as do the elegance and appropriateness of the overall turnout.
Adrenalin surges during the hazards section of this phase, where six complicated obstacles requiring advance planning plus split-second reactions test horses' obedience, courage, and agility--and drivers' judgment and skill. Competitors are scored on speed through the hazards (the faster the better), but they must complete other portions of the marathon course--such as the 15 mph trot phase--within an optimum time.
Many a CDE (combined driving event) is won or lost on the cones course, a test of precision driving against the clock through a pattern of narrow "gates" defined by pairs of traffic cones with tennis balls balanced on top. Each dislodged ball adds 5 penalty points to the score. With the between-cones distance only 10 inches greater than the carriage's wheel-to-wheel width, executing the course within the time allowed while leaving all the balls in place is a tough challenge for drivers and indicates how well the horses have rebounded from Marathon Day's physical and mental demands.
More information is available from?the American Driving Society.