Our Weekend at the El CDE in Ethel WA

Last weekend was the El CDE held in Ethel Washington at Happs and oh my, was it ever FUN!!! Maren, Janie and I all had the opportunity to be there and volunteer our time to help with the event. We also had a table set up with some tack and we had time to visit with our loyal customers and listen to different issues they were having with the harnesses as well as ideas they had to make things work better. I love this part of my job!! That is one of my favorite things about working for Chimacum. If something isn’t working we want to know so we can do it BETTER. And boy do we have some cool things coming!!

Speaking of cool things – at the event we had the pleasure of unveiling our newest harness – The Whiteman Harness. This harness was made in memory of Ron Whiteman who was so so integral in not only helping Janie really get Chimacum Tack going, but also in bringing so many people, young and old, to the driving world. It was an honor to be able to present this new harness to Dorothy Whiteman and I particularly loved seeing her horse wear it for the Cones portion of the CDE on Sunday. Not only did her horse look beautiful… they totally ROCKED the course!!

Dorothy Whiteman sporting the NEW Whiteman Harness!

I’ll bet some of you are wondering what a CDE is! CDE stands for Combined Driving Event. This is similar to a Three Day Event in riding with Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. The CDE has Driven Dressage, Marathon and the Cones course. In most cases it is broken up into 3 days, Dressage the first day, Marathon the second day and Cones the third day. The El CDE was an ADS recognized event which can bring in even more competitors as it’s a sanctioned event.

I have been interested in CDE’s for years and years, but because I live in Montana I have to travel some distance so I haven’t ever been able to participate in one. I was so excited when Maren and Janie let me know they were going to be going and wanted me to be there as well! Though I didn’t take a pony this year I am planning on taking one next year! I did volunteer and got to be a timer for one of the obstacle courses in the Marathon and was a cone setter for the cones part of the event. I thoroughly enjoyed both!

Though I missed the first day, Driven Dressage, I got to hear about it from some of my friends. It was a fantastic first day for many and a perplexing first day for others, but all were still having a great time. Everyone looks so clean, tidy and well put together for the Driven Dressage part of the event. The components in driven dressage are quite similar to ridden dressage in that you want a forward moving horse that is in the correct frame. The entire picture should look smooth and polished showing the judge how well you and your horse can work together. The drivers strive to look as though they are dancing with their horses.


Gerda got to go for a little ride with Cindy and Koal! On a side note… Koal is wearing one of our very first Sport Harnesses. Cindy upgraded a few parts this weekend and Koal was so happy in his new Deluxe collar! AND Koal is 23 years old and still going strong! He is a testament to Cindy to be sure.

Marathon is about safety, speed and fun! Though speed is a component it can also hinder you! If you come in too fast for your level you will be penalized through the points system. The marathon course has some cross country driving and some obstacle driving. Often there will be water crossings and water features as well as challenging obstacles that really show how well the horses listen to their drivers! I was honored to be a timer at one of the obstacles. There was some pressure because the drivers get one chance at each obstacle so being the timer is very important. People can place, win or lose, because of a 1/2 a second too long spent in an obstacle. So accuracy is extremely important! I did manage to get some photos at my obstacle and really enjoyed watching everyone turn on the speed between obstacles and then on the way OUT!

The cones course is very exciting! It can be quite complex which was proven at the El CDE. It had many tight turns which made trotting the vehicle between the cones without knocking a ball off even more difficult! There are cones numbering from 1-20 and the driver needs to know where each set of cones is in the arena. Number one can be on one side of the arena and then number 2 can be on the other side of the arena. The distance between the cones can be tricky for the small ponies and minis as they get tired trotting or cantering from one side of the arena to the other. So the level of difficulty is similar for the big horses and the little ones. The cones course shows the partnership between horse and driver in a much different way than the marathon course does. It’s about precision and speed. There is a time limit for the cones course and for each second that you go over the allotted time you are penalized.

Carol and Isabella flying through the cones course!
This was just one of the two four-in-hand Fjord teams that participated this weekend! You can imagine how much more complicated the cones course becomes when you are trying to get 4 horses and your vehicle through!

As a cone setter I would run out between horse and driver teams and measure the cones, setting them to the proper distance. Each competitor’s vehicle had the wheel distance measured on the first day before the Dressage competition. So the cones are adjusted as needed. Also if a driver knocks a ball off then the cone setters run out, remeasure the distance and reset the cone and ball. We worked in teams of two and they broke the course up into 6 different areas for each team to manage. This made things go a bit faster. I had a blast doing this job!!

The miniature horse competitors stay at the in/out gate supporting each other before, during and after their runs. It was so awesome to see this wonderful show of sportsmanship!

I loved seeing all the minis and small ponies that are competing. I was told a few times over the weekend that when they started allowing the minis and small ponies the influx of new people revitalized the sport around here! Also… LOOK at all those Comfy Fit harnesses!!!

There was one junior driver at this event and the adults had to bring their A game to keep ahead of her! She was rocking and rolling through the entire event! I can not wait to see how she grows in this sport. I truly loved watching her compete. Go Izzy and Mikey!! (We need more young drivers participating!!)

After this weekend I am super jazzed to get my two boys going so we can go have some fun of our own next year. There are several levels of competition, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced, I’ll be starting in the Training Level. They slow things down for Training Level so you have some time to figure things out and learn the ropes. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, it makes it all about having fun and bettering yourself each time you go out! Just the kind of competition I enjoy.

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