A Nice Note

Our September-October issue features an article about young drivers. They are the future of our sport, and not only do we need to recognize them, we need to encourage them and encourage older drivers to take them under their wings.

This was in my email inbox today: “I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed your last edition. I especially loved the article about all the youngsters who are driving. The driving community is definitely shrinking out here in Oregon with fewer venues to compete and an older population winding down. It was such a nice upbeat article. Thanks!!”

From a reader

We love it when we hear from our readers when a particular article resonates with them.  In this case, we didn’t like hearing about the reader’s accident, but glad if it helps with the recovery

“Dear Ann—thank you for publishing the article on driving accidents.  My sister brought the new Driving Digest to me when she visited me in the hospital the day after my driving accident.  We had to  smile at the timing!

I am full of gratitude that my horse suffered only some scrapes and swelling, and is recovered already, my passenger, who was celebrating her 85th birthday, was safely off the carriage, and my prognosis is for a full recovery from a broken hip and full hip replacement.  God is good!
Your article was very helpful and encouraging—many thanks to you and the author!
Dorothy Edwards”

Surviving Southern Pines

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!

Safe Sport

I recently completed the Safe Sport program that the USEF requires its members to take.  It took a while, and I didn’t realize that it was in three parts, and thought I had completed the whole thing after I downloaded my certificate after taking the first part.  This program is required for all US Olympic sports, of which equestrian is one.  We’ve heard of sexual abuse between coaches and athletes at some very high levels, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It happens more than we can imagine.  The course goes beyond sexual abuse, and included bullying and emotional abuse.  While we know it happens, I think taking the course clarifies many things, including how to respond if we suspect any kind of abuse, how to recognize signs, and just making us aware of abuse in general.

The courses were well done, including video and short scenarios that ask multiple choice questions.  I had to answer some scenarios “not sure” until they were explained in the next segment.

It was well worth an hour of my time.


It has been a while…..

Recently several people pointed out to me that I hadn’t posted anything to the Driving Digest blog lately.  Honestly, I haven’t thought about blogging for some time, obviously!  I guess that Facebook has somewhat taken over my social media thoughts.

Today the November-December issue was mailed.  This issue usually contains reports on whatever World Championships were held in the fall, and this issue is no exception.  There were three Championships: four-in-hand (WEG), single horse, and para-driving. I didn’t attend any in person, but thanks to our great reporters and FEI TV, I feel like I was there, and I hope you will too when you read about them.

We will be reaching out to carriage drivers across the country, Canada, and Europe soon to help us improve Driving Digest.  We want to know what you’d like to see both in the print publication and on the website.

Happy 2015

Driving on the carriage roads at Acadia National Park

Driving on the carriage roads at Acadia National Park

It’s a brand new year.  Resolutions are made, some will be kept, some not, but all indications are that 2015 will be a better year than 2014, economically speaking. I am hoping that the lower gas prices and general optimism will encourage traveling to shows and driving activities.

In the two years that the Driving Digest has been owned by Pringle Publications, we have received many, many positive comments.  We are committed to continuing to improve the magazine and website.  And we are always interested in knowing what you would like to read about.  If you know of an activity, person, company, that you think others would like to read about, please let us know so we can arrange to cover it.

The January/February issue will be in the mail this week.  The cover is beautiful.  Kathi Peters of Maine is the artist and it depicts a pair driving on the carriage roads at Acadia National Park.  I hope you’ll enjoy this issue.

Getting ready for Metamora CDE XXX (30th year)

Monday Richard and I drove back to Michigan after Elk Creek.  I dropped him off at Larry and Norma Wheeler’s in Oxford (spent the night) and Tuesday drove up north to check the mail, repack some cloths, water the garden, and drive back down on Wednesday.  I picked Lisa Singer up at the Flint airport on the way.

Upon arrival I found out that the golf carts hadn’t arrived because their delivery truck broke down, so they wouldn’t be arriving until this morning. Very nicely, they were here very early with the first load.

We had a nice dinner last night at the High Street Eatery in Metamora.  Boots Wright arrived, as did TD Ian Moller.  The White Horse Inn, which many who have been to Metamora will remember, is undergoing massive restoration and will reopen later in the summer.

Because of the change in date, I feel like I’m not as well-organized as I would like to be. I got up very early so that I could get the office organized and start to work on packets.  At 6:15 I arrived at Windrush Farm only to find that I couldn’t get to the barn because gates were closed across the driveway because horses were turned out there.  Fortunately, Richard came along a couple of minutes later, and led me out back on the track of the course and we came in behind the barn!  And fortunately Barb has a Keurig so I could get my second cup of coffee. I am handing out packets with as much information as we have.  The judges and TD looked things over this morning, and some changes to the course are in the works.  Mostly shortening Section A.

The secretary’s office and scoring is set up in Barb Chapman’s big barn this year.  It is nice to be out of the elements and have plenty of room, but it is also removed from the rest of the competition.  However, I’ve seen so many events, I don’t feel I’m missing too much.  I will get out a little bit throughout the weekend.

The 30th Anniversary Program is a real keeper.  It is loaded with color photos of Metamora’s past, histories of the event and of the Metamora Carriage and Driving Association.

A briefing is going to be held at 4:30 this afternoon, to be followed by the traditional welcome reception on the Windrush Farm terrace with that outstanding view of the Metamora countryside.  Hopefully the rain and clouds will be gone tomorrow. The forecast says we will have a lovely weekend.


Metamora CDE – 30 years ago

Right on the heels of Elk Creek, Metamora CDE starts in a couple of days.  This is a the 30th ADS approved CDE.  It is actually the 32 event that the Metamora Carriage and Driving Association has organized.  I’ve been involved with all 32.  I was the first secretary back then when combined driving was in its infancy.  The rulebook was much smaller and held together with brass brads.  The ‘organizers kit’ was just a few pages in a duo-tang folder.  The roster of officials was very short.  Back then, copy machines were hard to find.  I had to go downtown to a local insurance company and pay for each copy the first year.  The next few  years, when I was working at a real estate office, I could use their copy machine – also paying for every sheet.  Needless to say, the paperwork was much less.

I remember the painful process of trying to figure out schedules by hand. It was always done in pencil with a BIG erasure, because several attempts were required before the final product was correct.  Especially the marathon schedule.  What we now call the “passing times” that is only used by officials, we gave to everyone.  Once that was finished and typed up on a typewriter, no changes were allowed!

We made all the signage from wood – painted and stenciled.  The obstacles consisted of groves of trees and other natural effects. I remember having a donkey in a pen.  The rule preventing using real animals came into effect shortly after. Construction was very simple and crude.  But then carriages were often antiques.  This was long before specially  made competition carriages even existed.  Driving through the Flint River was considered an obstacle.

The hazard area had to be marked – called a hazard zone. Competitors were allowed to enter and exit from anywhere. It really kept the hazard judges on their toes – especially if any part of the turnout crossed the line before they had finished going through all the gates.

The parties back then were much fancier affairs.  Coats and ties were required by the men, and dresses for the ladies.  They were usually held at a hotel or restaurant.  I also remember being much younger then and having three people staying in our home, having a party on Friday night (doing all the cooking and cleaning too) as well as being the secretary!

When I look back at 30 years of Metamora, I remember hundreds – of competitors, and the many officials who came over the years. One – Kirsten Brunner – is the only one who has been to all 30 events!  The event has been held at 3 different farms, each providing its own flavor and challenges.

Happy 30th Anniversayr Metamora!



Marathon at Elk Creek 2014

Paul Grippa at the water obstacle

Paul Grippa at the water obstacle

Driving and walking along the Elk Creek course, I really enjoyed seeing all the wildflowers in bloom – clover, wild roses, honeysuckle.  Not only do they look lovely, they smell beautiful as well.

Another lovely day today.  A little warmer than yesterday, but still with a little breeze.  I was able to get out and take a few pictures.  Simon Rosenman the TD was nice enough to let me ride with him in his gator as he made his rounds.  I stayed for a while in the area between Obstacle 1 and Obstacle 5 (I think) the water.

Beverly Patrick storms through the water obstacle

Beverly Patrick storms through the water obstacle

I have to mention that the score runners here were outstanding.  There were 3 of them and that means that they kept the score sheets coming in at a very regular pace – not in big piles as is often the case.  Much appreciated, especially at the end.

Chet Halka in Obstacle 1

Chet Halka in Obstacle 1

A couple of drivers withdrew, there were a couple of eliminations, and corrected courses.  Jeff McCarthy is here and flying his drone around to the interest of all.

Dan Rosenthal and his Dartmoor Pair at the water obstacle

Dan Rosenthal and his Dartmoor Pair at the water obstacle

Cynthia Doll

Cynthia Doll

The competitors’ party was fun.  Everyone crowded around the TV that Mary Mott Kocsis had set up to watch the Belmont.  All were disappointed that California Chrome was unable to win the Triple Crown, but it was great to have the opportunity to watch the race while at the competition.

Mary Mott also made sure everyone was well fed again today, even my dog Pumpkin, who was the recipient of a lot of turkey from a sandwich that had to be converted to a veggie.

Bev Lesher passed the hat and asked for donations to go toward building a new obstacle for Elk Creek next year.  Many of these obstacles were built many years ago for Fair Hill International, when Lana Wright was running things.

For those who have been in this game a while, Chandler Irwin was on site to watch his granddaughter Brooke Tadlock drive the marathon today.  Her mother Susie Tadlock, was her navigator.

Dressage and cones at Elk Creek

Two dressage warm up arenas are set up on the stone dust arena. Scoreboards are located at the stabling area and over at the competition area.

Richard is scoring in Bev Lesher’s carriage trailer, which is equipped with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, not to mention those non-essentials for scoring – harness, carriage poles, and cleaning supplies. Although, who knows, we might find a need for the cleaning supplies. The trailer has good ventilation and shade. And we can see the cones course from here.   All the drivers come by us and stop on their way to dressage to have their wheels measured under the shade of a sycamore tree. A couple even set up a table and had a picnic lunch next to the wheel measuring area.


Paul and Maureen Grippa and their pair of Arabo-Friesians

Paul and Maureen Grippa and their pair of Arabo-Friesians

Some really nice dressage tests were driven today, just from looking at the scores. And some really beautiful turnouts were presented.

Brooke Tadlock and her new New Heritage Farm carriage.

Brooke Tadlock and her new New Heritage Farm carriage.

Yesterday I posted photos of 6 obstacles, and then found out that there were 7. Somehow we must have driven by without seeing it. It is in the trees and quite dark, so I’m not going to take a picture.

Tracey Morgan and Gaylen Snowbunny get their carriage wheels measured.

Tracey Morgan and Gaylen Snowbunny get their carriage wheels measured.

Mary Mott Kocsis, who is usually driving her pony Stanley at the Advanced level, is in charge of volunteers here. She is racing around in her Kawasaki making sure everyone is well fed and watered.

Dewayne Pash, an attractive gentleman's turnout.

Dewayne Pash, an attractive gentleman’s turnout.

After the competition today, a TV is supposed to be set up in the tent so we can all watch the Belmont race, followed by the competitors’ party.  More tomorrow!