Possibly stupid beginner question. I've never actually driven myself - though want to learn - and never actually seen a combined driving competition before WEG.
I noticed in the dressage that several of the drivers on the circles did them holding the whip straight up in the air with one raised hand. Is this an increase of difficulty thing, like in ridden dressage where you can get brownie points for doing moves with only one hand on the reins? Or is it some kind of cue to the horses?
Totally enjoyed seeing this competition, and marathon was amazing. Here are my marathon pictures if anybody wants to browse through. Again, I'm a total ammie with an ammie camera, but loved dressage and the marathon (didn't get to see cones). The driving was actually the event that I felt gave me the most value and memories for my bucks among the WEG tickets I bought. Wonderful competition. Also impressed seeing a few drivers stop in the middle of an obstacle when there was a problem and jump the groom down to check - yes, got penalties, but clearly, the horses took precedence at all times.
With only one hand on the reins, you have to have ALL the horses still under control, the perfect rein adjustment to make your perfect circle.
Whip hand is extended out to show there is no help from the right hand or whip. Started out as a show-off move, on the order of "Look, a GOOD driver only needs one hand!" for great circles and is now required.
In many of the adjustments with a Team of Four, the right hand does a lot of tweaking, just not very obvious unless you study the driver's hands. With right clearly visible in the air, the left hand is doing ALL THE WORK of the circle with obedient horses responding well. Driving the Four, the hands of Driver are not ever as quiet as the hands of a rider where you can often set hands and relax. Driver has to to be ready for turns ahead, correcting the eager horse, getting Lazy up on the bit where they need to be.
You drive each Pair separately, they don't just follow each other. That was another interesting part of the test, Leaders doing shoulder-in, Wheelers straight ahead. Then the carriage has to be figured in as well or you cut corners and hit things! Hands have to be automatic in responses, adjusting, and then you can add in some speed, gait changes. If you have to LOOK DOWN at reins to adjust, you are going to hurt someone. Doing it well, being smooth, is all part of the challenge of driving Fours!!
When 3 phase driving trials first came into existence as a 3 phase event, the whole of the dressage phase was driven with reins in left hand and the right hand used only as an assister hand. That is the traditional "correct" way of driving and is known as either Coachman or Achenbach rein handling.
Over time though there was a successful move to allow drivers to compete using a rein in each hand for cross country (marathon) and cones phase and eventually that even extended into the dressage class.
Though as a token gesture to those of us who objected about the decline in standards and the loss of core skill they retained a collected trot, reins in one hand and circle 20 metres
If you drive traditional Coachman or Achenbach style then it's a doddle. If you drive 2 handed though then it's important for drivers to ensure that the right hand is removed from the rein. The whip should indicate the direction of travel. So if it's a circle left then you raise your right hand with the whip and using the point of the whip indicate over your head the direction you're going. It's also held up with the purpose of ensuring that it's clearly shown to the judge that you aren't using both hands.
Also... regarding the groom down... that's in the rules too.
For many it was a no brainer, but for some, they'd finish the obstacle with the horse hopping along so they wouldn't get the 10 points for groom down. Now its not a choice. If you don't put the groom down for leg over trace or lost trace, you can be eliminated.