I first want to say that I do not do CDE's just pleasure shows.
I had been helping a friend select a new marathon vehicle and delayed steering came up. The dealer didn't recommend it for a single but liked it for pairs.
I really didn't understand it much until I ran across a video of it in action.
To me it seems like an unfair advantage and you need less skill with delayed steering. I was just wondering what others thought on this subject.
Delay CAN get you into a lot of trouble, depending on where and how you use it.
Doing things like a line of cones, you build up "energy" in the turns, so by the end the back of the carriage can be like the tip of a whip, almost "snapping" in the final turn. Groom back there NEEDS to really hang on if there is any speed involved!! I got flung, rolling across the arena, did an emergency room visit to learn that fact!
We actually don't use the delayed steering anymore, have it "turned off" on the Multiples carriages now. Husband decided that just "being a better driver" would cover most of the things the delayed steering is supposed to "fix" in a situation.
I guess we would have to look at some of the more recently built vehicles to see if there are any great improvements over what our older vehicles have, in the delayed steering department. He WOULD like to try using the 5th wheel locking system, see how that works for him.
I don't think that until you get to the highest CDE levels, that the delayed steering is that much of an advantage when used. Driver STILL needs to have a good eye, good driving skills to put equines where needed, to avoid parts of a Hazard. Rubbing stuff or getting stuck, REALLY slows down your times! Having to restart a vehicle from a standstill wears out your horse, can add up against you in a Marathon. Even with delayed steering, you can certainly hit things anyway. It won't save you if you lack the good skills or needed basics to get around a course.
CDE competition is a sport, like any other done independently by the competitor. Some runners will buy the expensive shoes, but others can't afford to own those shoes, still might be able to run faster! Bicycles are a similar thing, higher and lower quality, but either kind could win. The tack used in horse sports is what they can afford or choose to use for individual reasons. Some items may actually give a small advantage, but many other times good skills, natural talent, being PRECISE thru MUCH homework, being fit, are what is going to give you those winning points over the purchased, specialized equipment. I see folks win who put in the time to work their horses, become a team with the equines so each totally understands each other in the competition sections. This is both driven and ridden equines.
The Pros in any equine activity are usually reliably better because they get to spend so MUCH more time doing the driving or riding, than their competitors are able to. Maybe they have multiple animals to drive or ride, getting in even more time polishing up their skills EVERY DAY.
Have to say we have some local older ladies, LOTS of time available, who could really do well in ANY competition they felt like attending. They work hard to be so skilled, polish the animal to be equally skilled in all the Driving areas, on an almost DAILY basis.
I have never driven with delayed steering- But I don't think it's actually a matter of "needing less skill" to drive- it's just that you can drive a different, more agressive line in a tight spot. You can take your horse through a more flowing curve at a higher speed- than having to drive him into a corner, slow down and swing if your are driving to save your rear-end.
It's like comparing a Porche and a Pickup on a mountain highway... does one take more skill to drive? Well- I guess if the pick up driver can keep up with the porche- he's certainly using a lot of driving skills- but it's not like the Porche is going to drive itself.
As for hitting stuff- I remember the first time I saw agressive marathon hazard driving which included some hits. After so many years driving commercially where other people's cars were the obstacles- where not hitting anything EVER is absolutly written in stone- it was really schocking to me to see a style of driving that seemed so reckless- but it was just a totally different scenario and the vehicles were designed to handle it- not get hung up and not break.
Last fall my husband and I were also looking at buying a new carriage. Our current marathon carriage is just over 10 years old and still pretty much looks brand new (even the dealer couldnt belive how good our carriage looks) but we wanted a newer carriage for shows (we want the same carriage as we love our current carriage) and we can continue to use our older carriage at home for training. We drive a pair and looked at delayed steering and 5th wheel brake. We have no problem using our carriage the way it is and asked his opinion on the both of those options. He really didn't suggest going with either of them since we don't seem to be having problems with our current carriage. It also might be hard to go from training with a vehicle that does not have those options and then going to a show and all of a sudden using the delayed steering or 5th wheel brake. We decided to go with neither of those choices....I think it really depends on what the driver/navigator likes really...