… about the sport

A Brief History of Driving

Egyptian bas-relieves which come from the 11th century BC often presented horses in two-wheeled carts. The carts were used in both games and wars. In M. Czapski�s publication about the history of horses you can find detailed descriptions of Assyrians� carts with lavishly embellished harnesses with pearls, ribbons, and plumes. At solemn ceremonies horses were presented with golden bits. During warfare selected horses were harnessed to military vehicles, which were tremendously effective at that time. At the ancient Olympic Games in Greece the most attractive game was a chariot race.

The usage of carriages to sports competitions is dating to English ruler George IV, who is thought to be the precursor of horse driving.

These days Prince Philip is a great promoter of the discipline. He was the president of International Federation for Equestrian Sports, an active competitor from 1970 to 1980, and a member of the national team of Great Britain in four-in-hand events.

International Federation for Equestrian Sports approved the motion of forming driving section. The then president of Polish Equestrian Federation Eryk Brabec had a great influence on forming and developing the section. The other person who also had a significant influence on developing the new discipline was Czeslaw Matlawski, who was the authority in the field through years.

Contemporary competitions include three categories: singles, pairs, and four-in-hand events. World championships are held every two years. In even years the world championships include singles and four-in-hands events, in odd years, only pairs.


ABC of driving rules

Having in mind that in the future some of you will watch driving events for the first time we have decided to put here basic information about driving rules.

What makes the driving discipline so peculiar is the fact that there are three categories of competitions.

The first kind is called DRIVEN DRESSAGE. It took place on the grassy or sandy arena which is 100 metres long and 40 metres wide. There are letters assigned to certain positions around the arena for dressage tests to specify where movements are to be performed. A dressage test is identical among the same carriage category but it differs in singles, pairs or four-in-hand competitions. Horses in pairs or four-in-hand can walk or trot. A test should be performed as precisely as it is possible with sequenced movements changed in assigned letters. The aim of the competition is receiving marks for horse’s pace and impulsion, relaxation, harmony of movements as well as correct horse’s posture. The main difficulty in pairs and four-in-hand carriages is to make horses work properly with almost the same postures. What is also marked by a judge is driver’s silhouette and subtleness of his aids as the contact should be soft but effective.

Competitor and groom’s clothing should suit a kind of a vehicle and harness which they use. A carriage is usually in a particular style which refers to national history or a region from which it derives from.

Preparing horses to dressage competitions is not as easy as you think. It requires a good choice of suitable horses as well as precise manner of riding them, which mainly involves diligence, patience, knowledge and a little talent of a driver. Correct dressage riding is the basis of further success in two more competitions which are conducted in following days. And last but not least, a good score in a dressage competition is necessary to be successful in a final classification, however, one cannot be fully sure of success as there are still two more events.

MARATHON – Competition B

Bravery, speed, and precision are features of the horses which take part in the competition. A competitor must have quick reflexes, good memory as well as the ability of quick decision making. A groom is of great importance during a competition because of his or her assistance which involves indicating a course, telling a competitor time in certain parts of the course, but first and foremost, balancing a carriage, which helps to achieve maximum speed in obstacles. In a word, it is team work that really counts. The carriage, harness, clothing are three elements far more different than in the past. This reflects a change towards professional sport occasionally involving extremely difficult and dangerous situations. A modern marathon carriage is the essence of the newest technology and its application is a real surprise even for car lovers, who have nothing in common with horses.

The whole competition consists of three sections. The first one (A) is several kilometres long and it is driven in a free gait about 15 kilometres per hour. The second section (D) is 1000 metres of walk. The third part (E) is with obstacles and it is about 7 kilometres long. Along the section there are 8 natural obstacles. The time of covering the distance determines classification in the competition. Obviously, there are plenty of rules which describe principles of driving particular sections as well as obstacles, however, most important for a novice fan of this sport is clarity of rules concerning obstacles. Each obstacle has starting and finishing markers (the Compulsory Turning Flags) with electronic timing equipment. In an obstacle zone there are gates with letters from A to F which drivers must go through. The sections must be driven in alphabetical order, in the direction to have a letter against a red background on the right, and a letter against a white background on the left.

A driven gate “doesn’t exist any more” which means that you can go freely through it, e.g. when you want to drive another obstacle, however, you cannot do that with not a driven gate yet.

If competitors fail to pass through the obstacles in designated sequence and direction they are given penalties or in case of not re-driving a particular section correctly they are eliminated. Each second of driving at an obstacle is incurred 0.2 penalty. There are additional obstacles easy to fall down; knocking off one of these incurs 2 penalties what is equal to 10 seconds at an obstacle. These penalties usually determine the winner.

A few days before the competition a groom and competitor have a possibility to look into each obstacle in order to plan their driving. It is adjusted to both horses and drivers’ abilities. A level of horses’ dressage is extremely important because, apart from speed, it is precision, smoothness and rhythm which counts most. Horses must be fit since on the third day there is the last competition.


In marathon each obstacle is immovable, touching an element didn’t cause falling it down. It is different in the obstacle cone driving since here obstacle are movable and knocking off a ball from a cone results in 3penalties.

The whole course with obstacles could be placed on the area similar to the arena that is why the final can be watched from the same place. The additional difficulty concerns time limit as exceeding it results in penalties (i.e. 1 second is 1 penalty). However, the greatest enemy of competitors is stress because it is the competition which decides about final classification as well as medals for winners.

The competition is to check the horses’ ability to precise and fast moving after the hard marathon the day before. A competitor has to be concentrated and he must perform extremely precise and fast driving.

The carriage looks like in the driven dressage competition, however, neither its appearance nor style is judged, but only effectiveness.

The highest tension is when last competitors drive since they have been classified in the highest positions after earlier competitions.

During the three days of diverse competitions each carriage is incurred with penalties, and the carriage with the smallest number of penalties is the winner.

So we wish competitors the smallest number of penalties and great excitement.