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"Open Driving" Class -- Newb Question -- New Update (Show Results).

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  • "Open Driving" Class -- Newb Question -- New Update (Show Results).

    I live in Minnesota, and most of the shows around here are run by WSCA rules. I've been to many of them, and though they're open shows, the competitors mostly ride stock horses. Some shows have classes for saddle type horses (Saddlebreds, Morgans, Arabs, etc.) as well.

    Some of them also have a class called "Open Driving." I've never shown my horse in harness before, but I'm planning to enter the driving class in a show on August 18th.

    So here's my question. I have a saddle type horse (part Saddlebred). He's not particularly fancy compared to a full Saddlebred, but he is obviously a saddle type and has a lot more flair than any stock horse. I'm just wondering if anyone has experience with these "Open Driving" type classes, and knows what the judges are looking for. They are supposed to judge every breed according to its own standards, but they are definitely stock horse judges at heart. So I'm wondering: should I work towards my horse's breed type, and push for a bit more brilliance and collection, or should I stick with what I have, which is very consistent but slightly boring?

    I have a month to prepare for the show, and I can definitely tailor my training towards brilliance or towards mellow consistency. My horse is very sensible and has been shown a lot, so it's easy to turn him on and off, so to speak. Any thoughts?

    Also, any general tips for a newbie showing in harness?

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Sithly; Dec. 14, 2007, 06:22 PM. Reason: Updating.

  • #2
    I have LIMITED experience with this, but ....my mare is a National Show Horse by breed, but does not fit their standard. She is just kind of a fancy Pinto.

    I try to stand out to the judges by using a Meadowbrook and russet harness, while they use Jerald carts and fine harness. They go RREEAALLYY slow(when they trot, Tootsie laps them at a walk), so you are going to feel very fast.

    Just smile and have a good time!! Good Luck!!



    • #3
      OK we have not personally been IN a show ring in years (not my bag) but we have watched lots . . .

      Stick with your own comfort level and go in thre with intent to have fun.
      You cant change the judge or what they are looking for but you dont want to rattle either yourself or your horse by turning into something you are not. My best advice is to drive your horse like you are really really enjoying yourself and definitely remember to smile - just not a plastic, pasted on, toothy grin Make everybody watching WANT to drive YOUR horse. There is usually at least one at every show that makes you really want those reins in your hands - Make that one yours. Look like you are having just about the best time you possibly can.

      Be comfortable with your own clothes and make sure you practice with your show harness if it is not the same harness as you drive every day. Same thing with the cart! You want everything you are using to be totally comfortable to both you AND the horse.

      Then - listen to the command and do just that. Make sure you can show distinct differences in the trot (slow, working, trot-on)

      Be courteous to your fellow competitors. If your horse is going to "lap" the others in the ring, position yourself so you dont cause problems. Also remember that if you are going to "stand out" then do so for GOOD reasons and not for problems.

      Plan your show-craft so your horse can shine. Dont get yourself boxed in so you cant move.

      It isnt always the horse that lets you win - its often HOW you show the horse, HOW you finesse the ring.

      Good Luck and have fun


      • #4
        What great advice from Drive NJ that we can all use in any show.

        We have a little local show that offers some driving classes which are open to any breed, any vehicle, any animal. Most of the time, the judge knows nothing and comes as asks us what to ask for, ie working trot, slow trot, back. We do what suits the majority of us. So the judge knows basically nothing, and we all know it. So we have a great time. Who gets called for ribbons is alway a guess. Could be the one with the prettiest tail. But we all knew that going in and congradulate the winner. We figure we may turn on someone to driving that day. I had out lots of information about our local harness/carriage shop in hopes that someone may get a safer harness/vehicle and answer tons of questions. And it is a great place to get a green horse out to see more sights.

        Have fun and expect only that.


        • #5
          WSCA Open Driving casses- you can and will see everything! Typically a lot of ponies and stock horses with cheap harnesses and metal easy entry carts, some nicer stock horses that show driving at their breed shows in Jerald carts and leather harness, occasionally Morgan/Arabian/Saddlebred in breed show turnout, occasionally soemone with some other funky breed (Friesian, Fjord, Halfinger, etc.) with a meadowbrook. Often a lot of things being done so horribly worng it is amazing more pople don't die. Helped a friend show a pinto pony in a WSCA Open Driving class once and while we were hitching the pony somebody raced up the alley between the trailers with a Quarter orse hooked to a doctor's buggy with a top. Spooked the bejeeziz out of the normally very good pony and the end of the story is we ended up with a broken shaft on the cart and busted harness. Be ready to drive defensivly, don't be afraid to excuse yourself from the ring if there are dangerous drivers in te ring and the judge is not excusing them, and if you have a nice day and everyone knows what they are doing reasonably well and is being safe, then focus on turning your hosre out well and having fun. there is really no telling how you will place as the gamut of what kind of judge the WSCA judge you are showing under that day is. Some of them, even if they are stock horse people, judge all hosrse, stock horses and saddle/pleasure horses, very fairluy, oters won't pin anything that doesn't crawl along with its nose 2" off the ground, no matter the class.


          • #6
            I drive very forward ARabs who do not push peanuts. We have to pass people. That said and donning my flame suit, I have lost in classes because I had an Arab and I have won because my mare goes on a relative loose rein (early on in my driving career and didn;t know any better). Any given day you never know what a judge will do. I have seen a pipe cart, blue jeans, a straw hat tied on with a pony beat a beatiful turnout in a high wheel road cart. That was not a good day.
            These were unusual days. Most of the time, the judges do a pretty good job.

            If is it an Open Pleasure Driving class, the judge is supposed to look for a horse that is a pleasure to drive. So as already has been said to you, clean up your cart and harness, put on a jacket, apron and a hat of some sort, gloves and a whip, look like you know what you are doing, smile like you are having the best time, praise your pony when he does well and watch out for the other guys. If there is something in that arena that might scare your horse, stay away from it if possible, remember that you can circle in a corner to get away from someone

            Biggest thing is to have fun, pick a goal for yourself--maybe it is just to enter the show, and come out of hte arena still in your seat (that has been mine on occasion!) --show against your self, don;t worry about the other guys or the judge. As they say--be the best you and your horse can be on this day. Show the flash of your horse--a flashy pinto will catch the stock judges eye--they love paints! use that to your advantage.

            Make sure your horse can back in harness--that often is a tie breaker.

            Get photos, we wanna see and hear about your show afterwardsQ


            • #7
              Aside from doing a rein back do you also have to do a circle using correct rein handling and your whip signalling?

              Here you're not allowed to overtake in the ring: rather you pull out and do a circle and rejoin on the track.

              Also its normal to leave yourself sufficient space for when you go down the longside of the arena where the judge will watch the horse move and to ask for a beautiful extended trot there .

              Also isn't the turnout judged when its stationary as well with all the harness gone over and the horse having a foot lifted to check its trimming and shoeing? At that stage if you have a groom he/she can be set down to head the horse. If its a passenger though, they remain in the carriage and its the driver who dismounts. Passengers only dismount AFTER the driver if there's no groom. Also clothing would distinguish passenger or groom.

              Here though no pipecarts, jeans et al.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                Aside from doing a rein back do you also have to do a circle using correct rein handling and your whip signalling?

                Here you're not allowed to overtake in the ring: rather you pull out and do a circle and rejoin on the track.

                Also its normal to leave yourself sufficient space for when you go down the longside of the arena where the judge will watch the horse move and to ask for a beautiful extended trot there .

                Also isn't the turnout judged when its stationary as well with all the harness gone over and the horse having a foot lifted to check its trimming and shoeing? At that stage if you have a groom he/she can be set down to head the horse. If its a passenger though, they remain in the carriage and its the driver who dismounts. Passengers only dismount AFTER the driver if there's no groom. Also clothing would distinguish passenger or groom.

                Here though no pipecarts, jeans et al.

                In open pleasure driving at open to all breeds pleasure shows you can have anything from a mini to a shire in the same class. Quite often you get many stock horses and a few Arabians or Mogans, and the gait a stock horse person considers an open pleasure driving trot is about 1/2 the speed of what an Arab or Morgan person (and the rest of the world lol) consider appropriate, so you would either constantly be circling or you come off the rail and pass so that you can actually show your horse in some straight lines. The arenas are not huge fields or special areas for driving, they are standard fariground multi-purpose arenas, usually like 100-x200'-150'x300', often with deep sand footing so it is like driving at the beach in the deep dry sand, the horses have to pull hard! You are not judged on turnout per se, but neat appearance should always be better, and there is no "correct" rein handling and you'll see entries not even carrying a whip or with their whip sitting useless in the whip socket. You are not allowed to have a groom or passenger, sometimes they will let people come in to head the horses in the line up, but not always.

                A Canadian friend of mine was shocked the first time he chowed his Hackney pony in America when he learned that when the call for the reverse was given it was not done at the direction of he ringmaster in an orderly fashion, but at will with competitors cuting aross the ring wherever they pleased. He insistied that this was not safe, and while te "Canadian" way probably is safer that just isn't how it is done here and you somtimes have to be a very adapt rigman to put on a good show in a small crowded arena.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                  Aside from doing a rein back do you also have to do a circle using correct rein handling and your whip signalling?
                  Depends. In a Reinsmanship class at an ADS show, you might be asked to, yes. In other breed/discipline driving classes, never.

                  Here you're not allowed to overtake in the ring: rather you pull out and do a circle and rejoin on the track.
                  I remember casting an eye over BDS rules and making note of that! Passing is permitted here, mostly for the reason that Renae describes - open classes can have everything from small ponies to drafts. As the driver of an admittedly "doggy" TB, I've been "lapped" by fast flashy Morgans more than once in my time!

                  Also its normal to leave yourself sufficient space for when you go down the longside of the arena where the judge will watch the horse move and to ask for a beautiful extended trot there .
                  Also true here, except that you wouldn't want to *extend* if working trot were being called for.

                  Also isn't the turnout judged when its stationary as well with all the harness gone over and the horse having a foot lifted to check its trimming and shoeing?
                  Depends. There is *always* a line-up, usually with a rein-back, depending on division. Turnout is only judged when it says so in the class description. I've never seen a horse's shoeing checked but most shows don't have shoeing restrictions - I understand it can happen in breeds/disciplines that do have shoeing restrictions; I've just never seen it.

                  Probably the piece of the puzzle that you are missing is that the American Driving Society is not the only organization that governs driving over here. There are a lot of separate organizations for each breed, and each has its own rules, standards and class types that are completely different from one another and also completely different from the ADS. Hence it was important for the OP to state which set of rules her open class is being judged by, which she did.

                  Renae - you'll hear arguments for and against reversing on the diagonal under ringmaster control here in the USA as well... The ADS does it that way. Having competed both ways I think it's kind of a cr*p shoot which is safer! It really just depends who's in the ring with what! I've definitely been in situations where reversing on the diagonal under the ringmaster led to some nasty pileups, but then again we've all seen the free-for-alls in roadster classes that can be kinda scary as well...
                  "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you all SO much for the wonderful advice! Your comments were all really helpful. I feel much more mentally prepared to go into the ring and show my horse as well as I can. I was talking to a friend of mine who shows a lot, and she pretty much said what Pricestory said, that the judges don't know driving, so the ribbons are hit-or-miss. But it will be a great experience for me and my horse.

                    I think I will approach this class the same way I usually approach the riding classes. I just pretend I'm riding a dressage test, get my horse moving the best I can, and not worry about what the judges want to see. I'll leave the slow stuff to the stock horses, lol.

                    I have to say, though, thank God turnout is not inspected. I'm using my nylon harness, which is safe and serviceable, but not the prettiest thing around, and a borrowed cart (which I will practice in before the show). My outfit will be my hunt coat (since the driving class is directly after english equitation), a homemade apron, and a hat from the Goodwill. Haha. But I haven't seen anyone around here with a proper turnout yet, so I won't be too out of place. The driving classes are not taken as seriously, so I think this will be a nice, low-pressure introduction to showing in harness. My horse and I can rack up some experience before we try anything fancy. I'd like to someday show in ADS shows, but I'm a broke college student right now and the budget doesn't allow for it. Got the cart and harness all picked out, though, for when that day comes.

                    Once again, thanks for the advice! I will post an update and pictures after the show.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sithly View Post
                      My outfit will be my hunt coat (since the driving class is directly after english equitation), a homemade apron, and a hat from the Goodwill. Haha.
                      Is there any other way to go with a hat? Walmart also has some straw one that will suffice!!

                      Actually most of my jackets are less tha 10 dollars from goodwill. Only way to go.


                      • #12
                        If you are wearing your hunt attire just keep your hunt cap on.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sithly View Post
                          Also, any general tips for a newbie showing in harness?


                          • Original Poster

                            My local Goodwill is right next to a huge block of assisted living apartments for the elderly, so it has an excellent selection of old lady clothes and hats like this: http://drivingessentials.com/Katie%20Boaters.html

                            I didn't realize it was okay to wear my hunt cap -- I would much rather do that, if I can. I usually drive in a helmet anyway, so it's second nature. I just got a hold of the WSCA rulebook, and it states that the driver's "head attire is optional."

                            Freedom, I have a trainer for my riding disciplines, but I don't know of anyone nearby who does driving shows.


                            • #15
                              Hunt cap is fine, and helmets are better and are always acceptable


                              • Original Poster


                                My friend brought over her cart (the one I'm borrowing for the show) last week, and so far I have driven in it twice. It is WONDERFUL. Not only does it look nicer, but it also has better suspension and it's much quieter. It's also lighter, and I can really see an improvement in the way my horse moves. And the seat is higher -- I love being able to see over my horse. So nice. The only thing I don't like about it is that you can't adjust the balance. There is a bit more weight on the tugs than I would like, but it's definitely not excessive. It's just that I have experienced the "float" you get with proper balance, and now I find it hard to settle for anything less. I'll go over the cart a little closer tomorrow, and see if there's any possible way to change the balance. The seat does bolt on to the supports, and I wonder if there's any way to add a sliding mechanism between the seat and the support bars?

                                Anyway, I had the most lovely drive tonight. Scotty was so forward and responsive. We practiced going from working trot to extended trot and back, and he is getting so much better. We're actually getting longer strides now, instead of quicker steps! He's really powering into it. This is progress for him, since he's usually pretty lazy. We also practiced going from extended trot to collected trot, and managed to do it without losing all the energy. Definitely a good night.

                                And, to top it all off, my friend also came out to drive with me. Since my horse has never seen another turnout, she came over to help me practice passing and being passed. My horse seemed to take it all in stride, and didn't give her more than a passing glance (pun intended! wah, wah, wah).

                                So, needless to say, I am on top of the world tonight. I'm thrilled with the way Scotty's going and excited to get to the show and show him off!

                                (Don't worry, not getting a swelled head or anything! I know I still have a lot to work on.)


                                • #17
                                  You are doing exactly what you need to be doing!!

                                  If the seat does not slide, there isn;t much you can other than actually move the axle.

                                  Have fun and we await with baited breath your experienc.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Hey, I just realized I never updated this thread. Just wanted you all to know that your good advice didn't go to waste.

                                    Scotty's first show was, overall, very good! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures. It was pouring down rain, so I was afraid to take out the camera. Anyway, it was a good experience. Scotty was very well-behaved; he did everything asked of him.

                                    The weather was miserable: lots of cold, driving rain and a temperature of about 45 degrees (yay Minnesota). We were both soaked and shivering. We rode in a few under-saddle classes in the morning (got reserve champ, which sounds good, but there were only three in the division. ), then took a quick lunch break.

                                    The driving class was a few classes after the break, so I had a friend head Scotty for me while I put him to. She had a lead rope attached to him just in case, but he stood like a rock and was not impressed by any of the stuff blowing past him. She unclipped him and off we went. We headed off to the far corner of the parking field to warm up since the regular warm-up area was right next to the ring and I didn't want to disrupt the saddle horses. It's pretty rare for them to have driving classes here, so most of the saddle horses are not used to seeing carts.

                                    As we drove off into the pelting rain, I very quickly realized WHY driving aprons became traditional -- I was so much warmer in mine, even though it was only a single layer of thin fabric (homemade). I definitely see the benefit of an apron now. That thing was a lifesaver. My teeth stopped chattering once we got going a bit, but my hands were still frozen solid. I never thought to pack warm gloves for a show in August. :O

                                    Warm-up went well, but it was an early preview of the problem we were about to have in the ring: Scotty was fussy about the rain pelting in his face. He was perfect when he had his butt to the wind, but when we turned into the wind, he'd turn his head away from the rain and bob it up and down a bit.

                                    When we got into the ring, it was the same story. He was perfect going away from the wind, but a little fussy going towards it. However, he still executed all of my commands obediently, and he was very nice and forward (he tends to be lazy at home). All in all, he made a good account of himself, aside from that minor issue. I was proud.

                                    We placed last out of three, which was no hardship because the other two horses were very good. I feel with a little more mileage, we will definitely be competitive on our local circut. Since that show I've noticed that the judges are pretty open-minded when it comes to the driving class, and they'll place a flashier type if it does well. My friend placed at the championship show with her Hackney pony, so it's definitely possible.

                                    Learned that I definitely need to ride and drive in the rain more! Neither of us were used to it.

                                    Thanks again for the tips!


                                    • #19
                                      Congrats on a well done show, even with mother nature putting in her two cents.
                                      We have an open show circuit here in MI, one of our clients pushed asked for the classes. Since it started three years agao we have had six plus entries for every show. A great venue to get started with some good competition. The series is eight shows over four weekends with eight different judges in April, May, June, and August. The first two years the top three were clients, I was pleased to have them kick my butt last year as my mares performance was just not all it could be. This year my mare was on her game and we made Hi Point Driving Champion. We have found the open shows a great low stress venue for those new to showing and those with a horse that needs some more mileage before the full carriage shows.

                                      Good luck in 2008.