The Southern Pines Combined Driving Event took place last weekend – April 11-14. Those dates are misleading. Competitors arrive 1-3 days earlier, and often don’t leave until Monday morning. Some officials arrive as early as the Sunday before and depart on Monday. Organizers are working full time the week before, during, and after the event.
This year, in my role as secretary, I did not see one competitor drive. That’s part of the job. Some years it works out that I can zip around the course and watch some of the dressage, marathon, and cones, but this year I was constantly busy and the schedule didn’t allow for the office to close for even an hour during the day.
Being an FEI sanctioned event adds significantly to the amount of work. Drivers need to enter through the FEI online system as well as send paper entries. If they aren’t in the system one hour before the competition starts (in this case 2 pm on Thursday – an hours before the horse inspection – they can’t compete.
New this year as well, all drivers, owners, officials, and organizers had to complete the Safe Sport training through the USEF.
The greatest challenge we had to overcome was when not one but two of our FEI officials could not come. The first occurred on Sunday when our course designer had to cancel. Fortunately one of only two FEI course designers in the US was able to come, but not until Tuesday night. The second was a judge coming from Germany – his passport was stolen and there was no way he could get a replacement in time to come. Under this extenuating circumstance, the FEI allowed the President of the Jury to also serve as the Foreign Judge. Whew!
The weather forecast called for rain, but lucky for us, we only had one brief shower on dressage day. It wasn’t very pleasant for the competitor in the dressage ring, and those who were warming up, but it could have been worse. We got through the marathon and cones without getting wet. However, because this area has had so much rain in the last 6 months, the water table is very high, so the normally well-draining sandy soil does not drain as well. With some of the highest temperatures we’ve seen so far this spring, and anticipation of deep going, the officials made adjustments to the length of Section A, and removed one of the obstacles for the FEI classes. There was a lot of scrambling to make these changes known to all concerned, especially the competitors, but it all got done.
Southern Pines CDE is well-known for its hospitality. No one goes hungry here. The venue was lush and green, the stabling area one of the best, and an extra perk – the local massage therapy students from the Sandhills Community College were came all four days to give free massage to anyone who wanted one!