The Wonderful World of Driving Horses
It is really nice to see new drivers entering into our world, and falling absolutely in love. We’re a fortunate group of horse enthusiasts in that generally drivers are really happy to share their love of driving equines with others who have never experience it before! If driving is something that you would like to try out or learn more of, it can certainly feel overwhelming figuring out where to start. Our ambassador, Rae Lombino, shares with us today the story of how she was introduced to driving, which forever changed her life as an equestrian, along some tips on how to get into driving you are searching for a place to start with your own journey.
The Start of Something New
If you asked me just over two years ago what the first thing that came to my mind was when someone said “driving horses”, I probably would have said “New York City carriage horses” with confusion. The sport of equine driving was something I didn’t really know existed outside of people with minis and the fancy carriage horses in NYC, it just didn’t “exist” in the areas where I had boarded.
I was introduced and practically tossed right into the whip’s seat when I first met my friend Lindsay LaBella. She and her Moriesian stallion, Pietro Antonio DHA but affectionately known as “Pete”, were my kind teachers who sparked my interest and love for the sport. It all began with Lindsay asking if I’d like to go for a ride on the back of her carriage, which sounded like fun, but I certainly didn’t expect to see a bright yellow and purple carriage get wheeled out of her barn to hitch Pete to. It was something I had literally never seen before, and would have never guessed existed!
Of course, I was beyond curious as to why such a vehicle existed and Lindsay explained all about CDE (combined driving events) and HDT (horse driving trials). Lindsay told me I could join her at a horse show and drive Pete and gator (aka “navigate” for her on the back of her carriage) to see what all the fun was about. And I’m one to never turn down some pony fun so of course I said heck yes!
Lindsay taught me how to drive, and as a rider I caught onto it fairly quickly. But even if the rein cues are similar to that of riding, driving is definitely NOT as easy as some make it look! I practiced going through cones and constantly plowed them over and sent them flying, thankfully Pete is a very forgiving teacher and would carry on without a fuss after my countless mistakes. I got in a few weeks practice and improved with each drive, then I was off to my first fun local show with Lindsay and Pete.
The first show I ever drove in was a special show hosted by the Western New York Combined Carriage Association (WNYCCA) called ECHO, which stands for Equine Cones Hazards and Obstacles. It consists of three classes: optimum time (get as close as you can to the given time to complete the course), progressive (run through the course as many times as you can in three minutes), and fastest (go as fast as you can!). This show was a perfect first event for me as a driver, the show staff and all the competitors were super encouraging and friendly and now, roughly two years later, are some of my best friends and horsey family!
After competing at this show with Pete and Lindsay I was officially hooked, I was constantly messaging Lindsay to see if I could come over and drive, and then started taking lessons with one of the top driver’s in the nation, Sarah Bates. It was through Sarah that I later got my mini gelding Harley, and trained him to drive!
Now I compete in ECHO shows usually once a month, and also attend a handful of other driving shows across NY throughout show season. As much as I love to ride, and always will, driving is really where my passion with horses burns hottest and is definitely something I want to continue to chase after at a competitive level.
Where to Begin in the World of Driving Horses
So, maybe you’re a rider like me who is unfamiliar with driving but you want to learn more and try the sport out, here’s how you can get yourself into the wonderful world of driving: First, you’re in the right place for reading great blog posts from a wide variety of drivers all about the sport right here on Chimacum Tack’s website! But if you’ve read everything here and want to find more resources I highly recommend checking out the page about Combined Driving on USEF’s website as there are lots of links for various resources to their competition calendar, driven dressage tests, and so much more! Social media is another great way to reach out to the driving community, if you’re in any Facebook groups for horse folks in your area, try making a post to see if there are any reputable trainers in your area that you can lesson with or see if there are any shows you could watch. If not, YouTube is another great place to at least be able to watch and enjoy the sport of driving (I personally post a fair amount of driving videos over on my channel “FourthTimesEquestrian”, including helmet cam style videos when I show). If you’re ready to actually drive, I highly recommend seeking out an experienced and reputable trainer to assist you, as driving is not something to simply DIY with no experience.
And if by chance you’re in New York state I would like to personally invite you to come to the WNYCCA’s ECHO shows! Check us out on Facebook for all of our show dates. We welcome drivers, riders, and long liners alike!
I hope you all enjoyed reading my little story, and I hope that if you’re on the fence about branching out into the world of driving that this helps you take the leap and really check it out!
– Rae Lombino