About Carriage Driving
What is carriage driving?
Over recent years, carriage driving has increased in popularity, both as a pastime and a competitive sport. It's suitable for all age groups, and you don't have to be superfit to compete. Whether you decide to try a short drive or a take a longer, all day experience, we know you will remember it for a long time.
During your experience you will be really be at one with your pony and the elements! Carriage drivers are exposed to rain and storm but they also enjoy the sunshine and gentle breeze of comfortable weather conditions, as do their horses. Driving does not have to be competitive: you are taking part in a traditional recreational activity, and can experience the simple joy of working with a horse
Whatever you decide to do - a short drive or a longer experience which may involve spending the morning learning how to harness a horse and handle the reins before driving the carriage in the afternoon we are sure you will remember it for a long time.
Where did it all start?
Since the first horses were domesticated, they have been pulling carriages. The Romans built richly decorated chariots and wagons, and used them both in battle and for entertainment. The Celt's horse cart was a simple platform suspended in an elastic frame. The early Europeans constructed the first “closed” coaches, many enhanced with gilded frames, glazed paint, and fancy upholstered seats. Carriage driving has been both a pastime and practical means of travel for people of all degrees, from paupers to kings. It is challenging to learn and even more challenging to master, but if you take the time to enjoy the journey, you will make lifelong friends (of both the human and horse variety!) More history
What types of carriages are used?
Today, carriages are built with distinct purposes in mind: work (heavy, solid materials), competition (light, elastic materials), and pleasure (a blend of materials that provide comfortable seating for driver and passengers). Though most carriages fall into these three general carriages, there are seemingly endless varieties of specific carriage types. Link to more info on Carriages ( as below)
What types of ponies are used?
Driving ponies are in their prime when they are between four and ten years old, although they can go on for a further ten years if looked after well, depending on the type of driving activity and standard of competition. A pony taking part in private driving activities will go on for longer than one competing in driving trials or scurry driving.
Temperament is important with a driving pony. A pony which has been with the same family for several years is likely to be suitable and will probably accept harness breaking without too many difficulties. In addition to standing quietly when being harnessed the pony also needs to respond quickly to the driver’s command and move off briskly.
Ponies are quite strong and even a small pony, which would not be able to take an adult rider could probably, with the right ‘vehicle’ be driven by an adult.
Various breeds have been used for driving in the past. Connemara ponies have proven to be very suited for driving because of their versatility. Little Shetland ponies, while not suited to competitions requiring dressage are strong, willing and remarkably fast and have been very successful when drive in pairs in Scurry Driving events.
Carriage Driving has much appeal for drivers, not at least that people of almost any age can compete on equal terms with equal success. Combined driving comprises it all: Tradition, athletics and velocity,.
What is a driving trial?
Driving trials follow a similar format to three day eventing. The competition consists of three phases using a penalty-scoring system. In Phase A competitors have a drive a sequence of set movements (Dressage) . Marks are awarded for obedience, quality of paces and style. Phase B is a marathon over varying distances – the timed sections have to be completed at different paces. Phase C is an obstacle test around a course of cones. This phase tests the driver’s skill and the obedience of the driving horses.
What is a driving trial?
A specially designed cross-country vehicle is required. There is a standard weight and track width which has to be conformed to, which means that the size of pony for these event is more important. A larger pony than may initially be considered necessary may be required as in the cross-country phase the competitor has to have a groom riding with them in the carriage in case help is required in one of the deep muddy sections! Appearance is also important and a pony that is too small with a large driver may look unbalanced.
Driving trials follow a similar format to three day eventing. The competition consists of three phases using a penalty-scoring system. In Phase A competitors have a drive a sequence of set movements (Dressage) . Marks are awarded for obedience, quality of paces and style. Phase B is a marathon over varying distances – the timed sections have to be completed at different paces. Phase C is an obstacle test around a course of cones. This phase tests the driver’s skill and the obedience of the driving horses. Further details of the three stages can be found here
Queen Victoria was apparently given a pair of Shetland ponies for her 7th birthday with exquisite harnesses and a low phaeton big enough to carry herself and a governess. When she was older she was frequently seen in Windsor Great Park.
Queen Victoria’s children were all encouraged to drive and there is an engraving showing Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) at the reins of a pair of goats (yes, goats!) harnessed to a miniature Siamese phaeton. Driving goats, either singularly or in pairs was a popular pastime for young children in the Edwardian era.
In 1976 Prince Charles drove a pair of greys in the concours d’elegance class during the British Driving Society’s annual show on Smiths Lawn at Windsor.
HRH, the Princess Anne became the 1,000th member of the British Driving Society and to mark the occasion she drove a pair of Halfinger ponies belonging to the Queen and took them to the Windsor Horse Show.
As children Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret often enjoyed driving their little grey pony ‘Snowball’ in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Later as Queen, Princess Elizabeth took Prince Andrew, while he was still a toddler, for a drive in Queen Alexandra’ a little can-bodied phaeton. It was drawn by a pair of New Forest ponies.
In addition to being a keen polo player, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has competed in driving trials with a team of Fell Ponies.