May 24 & 25, 2003
(Memorial Day Weekend)
CDE Learning Weekend with Bob Giles
Combined Driving Event (CDE) is the fastest growing equestrian sport in the country. Grounded in tradition, combined driving compels a unique partnership between horse or pony and driver that relies on training and trust. Similar to ridden three-day eventing, it features the elegance of dressage, the excitement of cross-country, and an intricate test of skill and precision. This clinic will cover all aspects of a Combined Driving Event (CDE) and  is for anyone who wants to learn about CDEs, people new to driving and want to learn how to prepare for a CDE or have been driving for a while but have never driven in a CDE and want to learn about them.  
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Cypress Keep in Plant City hosted a Combined Driving Event Learning Weekend over the Memorial Day Holiday. Saturday morning was spent in the classroom, with a professional onscreen presentation and helpful clinicians. Bob Giles, a professional driving trainer and international-level driving competitor from the Winter Hill Driving Center in Morriston, discussed the basics of a Combined Driving Event Competition and the equipment and skills needed to start the sport. Bob most recently won the Live Oak and Black Prong CDEs in pair ponies, and is an expert coachman and driver of 8-horse hitches. Charlotte Trentelman, from Rebel Ridge Farm in Ocala, is an "S" judge in Dressage with the USAE, having competed through the Grand Prix level. Charlotte has competed in driving CDEs for the past five years, with wins at Training and Preliminary levels. Charlotte covered elements of turnout and driven dressage.
Dan and Pat Uptegraff, professional show timers, talked about timing and volunteer positions at CDEs. Dr. Erika Matulich helped out with general rules and veterinary basics. Jill Cullinan Haight from Seminole Feed gave a presentation about nutrition for the performance horse. Jill also brought her scale for weighing equines and carriages. All clinicians generously donated/volunteered their time.
After lunch, clinic participants were given demonstration drives in the three phases of dressage, hazards, and cones. Jerry and Robin Hagaman with their Morgan Sax helped to demonstrate, as did David Getz with his pair of ponies in the cones. Participants were then taken on the all-important course walk, to learn where the phases began and ended, count the mandatory gates on the route, and review the map.
On Sunday, a practice CDE competition was held, including every phase of turnout, dressage, marathon with hazards, and cones. In the VSE (Very Small Equine) division, the CDE was won overall by Brenda Anderson driving Bluey, with Linda Fristchle and Jazz in second place by only ½ a point. Sioux Winter with Valentine won the dressage phase, and Francine Lucas had the fastest times through the hazards. In the Pony division, Audrey Kitchens won the CDE overall, and Lucy White with her Hackney/Arab Charlie Brown was a close second only 4 points behind. Nelie de Greef was the fastest through the hazards with Amber. Earl Diemer won the turnout and safety check. In the Horse division, Linda Cochran and Cedar took top honors overall, with Kim Hillegas in second place with her Arab Sonata and Laura Howell in third place with Smooth Sailing, a Trakehner. Bonita Beam also drove her Morgan mare in this division.
The Clinic was rounded out with a discussion of scoring and how to enter upcoming driving events. Lunch was served, participants cooled off in the pool, and many stayed throughout the afternoon to school their horses or take private lessons from Bob Giles. Many thanks to special volunteers and donors: Mary de Greef of Whisenant Farms donated time and hundreds of tomato stakes. David Getz donated his time as a cones judge and his professional cones course. Margarete Matulich coordinated all the food and drinks, while Serge Matulich created hundreds of directional and informational signs. Black Dog Farm and the Lakeland Dressage Association donated their dressage equipment and property, and the Cross Family donated their property and time. David and BB Blackwelder helped build hazards and videotape the event. Linda Cochran helped set up the course, and John Porter was the course and hazard designer. Erika Matulich was show secretary and scorekeeper. Jerry & Robin Hagaman, Marna & Peter Egyed, Karen Harrison, Janice Aulisio, and Ann Greunke did an excellent job judging hazards and timing sections. Many thanks to the Heart of Florida Girl Scout Troop 517 from Lakeland for providing excellent hazard timing!
The Clinic was a great success, and was completely booked. Jeanice Marsh even flew down from Pennsylvania to attend! Cypress Keep plans to repeat the clinic during Memorial Day Weekend 2004.

For the 2003 Labor Day Weekend, Cypress Keep will once again host the Silly Six fun driving day, and an Arena Driving Trial.


What is Combined Driving?

Combined driving is the ultimate challenge to the true horse lover as an official international sport more than 20 years ago when a group of driving enthusiasts asked the Federation Equestrian International (FEI) to put together a set of rules to standardize driving competitions and give the sport a base from which to grow The sport demands versatility in drivers and their horses as they compete in the three very different sections of the competition - each with its own specific requirements. Suppleness and responsiveness are called for while driving the dressage test; while the horse must be tough, fit and ready for anything on the marathon. Finally, they must prove they have recovered from the marathon and that they have the energy, skill and obedience as they come back for a demanding complicated test of precision and timing on the cones course. To add to the challenge, drivers accomplish this while separated by distance - able to communicate with the horse only through the voice, hands on the lines and cues with the whip.

The competition begins with a dressage test - a set pattern driven by each competitor. This is where the driver shows off the harmonious development of his horse's physique and ability through progressive levels of training. The best dressage tests will show off the horse's even, rhythmic cadence, brilliant movement, and correct, accurate transitions. As you watch the horses 'dance' through the set pattern of the test, look for the subtle cues of whip, hand and voice.

The marathon builds on the dressage training base. A correctly trained horse maintains the focus developed in dressage and uses it to negotiate a taxing cross-country course with its challenging obstacles. If the team has done their homework, the driver will be able to rate his horse, making the times set for each section while conserving every bit of energy possible for the final section of the course. An added bonus for the driver is that the fitness conditioning and horse/driver camaraderie built in marathon training pay off in better communications and a more athletically able horse for dressage.

 There are five sections to a marathon - three trot sections separated by mandatory walks. In the first trot the driver warms the horses up into the rhythm of the course. The next section is a cool down walk - but don't mistake this for a real rest for the horse's since the speed is set fast enough to require a forward march rather than an ambling dawdle. After a short rest stop, it's off to a speed trot - a test of the horse's stamina and the driver's skill followed by another walk.

Because horses are what the sport is all about, and their well-being is of utmost importance, there is a vet check before the final, most challenging section of the course. The 10-minute vet check is a busy place. Ground crews work to cool the horses down and check over harness and carriages, while the driver/navigator team takes a last look at their plan for Section E - a fast-trot cross country with challenging marathon obstacles which must be negotiated at speed. Meanwhile, veterinarians look the horses over to be sure no one is overstressed and that they are recovering well from the miles they have already driven on course. Drivers spend months conditioning their horses for this test of strength and endurance, and this is where that work pays off.

Combined driving horses enjoy the marathon as much as their drivers do and they seem to look forward to the challenge of the man-made and natural obstacles. You can actually see the best horses looking for the red and white marker flags on course as they thread their way through a maze of fence lines or bounce through a strewn crossing and whip around a tree. This is all part of the game on Section E and since scores are based on the length of time spent in the obstacle, you can bet drivers will be really moving when they come through.

On the final day of competition drivers face a completely different challenge - the cones course. Developed to demonstrate how well horses have recovered physically and mentally from the stress of the marathon, the course is a test of precision driving and timing. Drivers wind their way through a course of tightly-spaced pairs of cones, trying to make the time allowed on course. To keep thing fair, cones are set with the same wheel clearance for each competitor and topped by balls which will topple off if the cone is struck. Preliminary drivers have 50 cm clearance, but advanced drivers negotiate the course set only 25 cm (or 10 inches) wider than their wheel track.