Driving is the fastest growing equestrian sport in North America partially because all horse breeds can be used, but also because it appeals to people of all ages. There are four basic divisions: recreational driving, sanctioned competitions specifically for Pleasure Driving, Combined Driving and draft horses.
Most everyone who drives a horse, pony, very small equine (less than 99 cm.), donkey, mule or zebra enjoys some form of recreational driving. Whether on private property, nearby roads or on the Trans-Canada trail, drivers enjoy exploring the countryside alone or in groups, either spontaneously or organized. Driving appeals to the entire family and spans all ages. It is common to see parents and their children working together and sharing the experience. Examples of some group activities include fun recreational events such as TREC driving or the more formal competitions of Pleasure driving with both ring
and cross-country classes being judged on horsemanship, turnout and reinsmanship; or Combined driving – a three competition including Driven Dressage, Marathon and Obstacle-cones components in varying formats from one to three or more days. There are also classes and competitions for those who prefer to drive draft horses, do distance drives, endurance drives and competitive trail driving.
Equine Canada is the national governing body (NGB) for all equine and equestrian sporting activities and interests (except racing) in Canada. Drive Canada is the national sport organization (NSO) representing the driving community at the national federation as members of the Recreation and Sport Councils. In Sport, Drive Canada is one of an eight member family of disciplines participating in all the material committees including Coaching, Officials, Competitions, Rules and High Performance Team.
As the NSO, Drive Canada represents all non-competitive and competitive driving from the grass-roots through to Canadian Equestrian Team allowing participation in international competition and at FEI World Championships, developing rules and guidelines, licensed officials and coaches and providing education workshops and seminars for organizers, competitors and the general public.
Driving is governed by the Canadian Diving Committee, an Equine Canada discipline committee whose members are elected by the Regional Council in accordance with the Terms of Reference. Each year two of the six committee members are elected for a three year term providing continuity. Interested individuals who support the aims and objectives of the sport of driving, and pay the annual Equine Canada-Driving affiliation fee are eligible to be nominated and vote in the annual regional election for Council representatives.
All sanctioned competitions in Canada must operate according to the Rules of Equine Canada. General rules for driving, enrollment and promotion of licensed officials, guidelines for recreational competitions, and rules for draft horse and Pleasure driving are published in Section C while rules for Combined Driving (based on the international rules from the FEI Regulations) are published in Section H of the Equine Canada Rule Book.
The Rules of Equine Canada are published annually. It is the right of every member of Equine Canada to propose amendments to the Rules subject to its policies, procedures and schedules. Extraordinary rule amendments are permitted for safety, monetary, ethical and equine welfare reasons. Notices regarding rule changes are published on the EC website.
For more information, contact the Canadian Driving Committee and Committee Chairs, see Contact Us
Drive Canada is responsible for team selection for drivers representing Canada in international competition. For information regarding criteria & team selection procedures, see Qualifying Criteria.
For issues or concerns with Coaching, Competitions, Officials or Rules, our contact at the national office is:
Manager of Para-Equestrian, Non-Olympic FEI Disciplines, Breed Sports
Phone: 613-248-3433, ext. 125
Driving 101 : A quick course on what carriage driving is all about.
Drivers often meet people who have heard of our sport but haven’t had the opportunity to experience it first hand. Sometimes we meet riders who wonder out loud, “You are crazy to do that. I feel so much safer riding on top of a horse rather than sitting in something that’s chasing it.” Thus Driving 101 was created to explain and educate those interested in learning more. But be warned…driving is fun and contagious!
The majority of horse owners enjoy recreational activity. There are no age boundaries, size of animal or breed. The family pony often takes on a new career in driving after the children have left home. Driving is fun for the whole family and can be done individually and in groups, either spontaneously or organized. There are many fun games and activities based on various themes – people enjoying their animals and good company.
For those having a competitive spirit, the most popular competitions are Pleasure Driving and Combined Driving. Pleasure driving focuses on the traditions of driving as established in a bygone era. Emphasis is on the use and display of authentic and restored vehicles, appropriate harness, horses and clothing. This “Turnout” is judged by a qualified licensed Judge at a Pleasure Show for various qualities and performances as explained in a Prize List. For instance, the Judge will observe a field of turnouts in an arena to see their way of going, the suitability of vehicle and harness and the skill of the
driver. Traditions involving attire and appropriate harness have importance. Drivers may be professionals and amateurs alike. In a typical class entries must demonstrate the walk, slow trot and fast trot in one direction, a change of direction, halt in a row, and a reinback. During a cross country class the drivers maneuver through various obstacles, typically they could encounter during a drive in the countryside. Emphasis is on fun, tradition, spit and polish, suitability of attire, harness and carriage. Junior classes, driving for the disabled and coaching classes are often included.
Combined Driving is a very popular sport first developed by HRH Prince Philip who was still driving competitively well in his eighties. This is somewhat like a car rally and was based on the principles of Three Day Eventing. The first of three competitions at the event is Driven Dressage in which the drivers must perform dressage tests in front of qualified Judges. These events are offered at levels: Training, Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. The tests are designed to illustrate the progress in training the horse through various paces and figures such as collected trot, extended trot, and reinback.
Upper level tests may include one handed reinsmanship and movements at the canter.
Marathon is the second competition involving three sections. The first is a free pace warm up, the second a mandatory one kilometer walk and followed by a veterinary inspection and rest before the third section. Time keepers record the driver’s progress around the course to monitor the required pace. Penalties are given for arriving and the end of sections either early or late. Once cleared by the Veterinarian, the driver enters the final section, the Obstacles. The driver and navigator work on strategies to complete the gates in each obstacle in the correct sequence and in the shortest time.
The third and final competition is Obstacle-Cones. It is similar to Stadium jumping except the drivers pass through pairs of cones rather than over jumps. Width of cones varies by class and elapsed time on the course is compared to an ideal pace attracting penalties for displaced cones or taking additional time. The driver with the least penalties from all three competitions wins the event.
Although Combined Driving is not an Olympic sport there are World Championships held every other year for each of Ponies, Single, Pair and Four-in-hand horses. In Canada we have some excellent national level events including Bromont International CAI-A, Bromont Quebec and Birds Hill International CDE in Birds Hill, Manitoba as well as regional and local events in many areas of the country.
For more information about Driving and links to regional organizations and clubs, See Regional Organizations.