For the past few months I have been helping out with a driving horse called Flash; he is about eight and is a 14.3hh Trotter cross Welsh section C.
His owner drives him out on the tracks near the yard and I go along as her groom, holding Flash whilst she climbs on and off of the carriage and helping with crossing roads.
The whole experience has been very exciting as Flash gets quite excited and often takes off in his huge extended trot (or occasionally breaks into canter)!
Recently I had the opportunity to accompany them to a driving competition…
This particular competition was fairly informal, so there wasn’t really a dress code and there were fewer obstacles than there would be at a larger show.
It was split into three phases – dressage, cones and obstacles.
In the dressage phase I didn’t really have to do anything as it was down to the driver to remember the test and control the horse, so I just stood on the back and observed. Due to him being half Trotter, dressage is Flash’s weakest phase – although he did score more highly for his extended trot!
In the cones phase I had much more to keep me occupied – as the horse has to turn tightly at speed to negotiate the cones, the carriage must be balanced to prevent any wheels from lifting off the ground – this can be achieved by the back-stepper leaning on the inside of the bend to put more weight over the inside wheels.
The aim is to get around the course of cones without knocking any of the balls down: we went clear in this phase which boosted our score after the dressage.
The final phase was the obstacles – in this my job was very much the same as with the cones – although some of the turns were tighter. Flash is amazingly good at dodging his way around the course, however apparently he can sometimes get too clever and try to decide his own route!
Luckily it all went well and at the end of the day Flash came second.
The video below shows our round – there were a couple of occasions when I forgot the route and didn’t lean the right way, but I thought for my first time as a back-stepper I did ok!