Horses were driven long before they were ridden and, as such, Driving is the oldest competitive equestrian sport yet it continues to thrive in the 21st century. Drivers sit on a vehicle drawn by a single horse or pony, a pair or a team of four and they face three trials – dressage, marathon and obstacle driving.
Dressage involves performing a sequence of compulsory figures within a 100 x 40 metre rectangle. Movements – which must be executed from memory – include speed and gait transitions, circles of different sizes and halts.
The marathon is a spectacular time trial run over a course including natural hazards such as sharp turns, water and steep hills, and artificial ones such as labyrinths. It tests the horses’ fitness and stamina and the driver’s judgment of pace and horse control.
Obstacle driving – or cones – tests the fitness, obedience and suppleness of the horses after the marathon, as well as the skill and competence of the driver who must weave cleanly through a narrow track outlined by cones with balls balanced on top.
Driving came under the FEI umbrella in 1970 thanks to the efforts of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, then the FEI President, who organised the meeting in 1969 which produced the first rule book. One notable alteration to the rules followed a competition in Windsor, Great Britain, where a back wheel collapsed on a vehicle and the watching Queen Elizabeth allowed for a small tree to be tied to the axle to keep it off the ground. The rules stated subsequently that a "vehicle must have four wheels crossing the finishing line".
In 2006 Para Driving joined the ranks of the other 7 FEI disciplines with national and international competitions in Driving for individuals with a disability.
© Foto Studio Strauch
At its in-person meeting in FEI Headquarters after last month’s Sports Forum, the FEI Bureau approved the granting of financial support to eligible National Federations for the participation of Athletes in the Four-in-Hand Driving Event at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon (USA).
The conditions of eligibility for this funding are set out in one document which can be consulted here.