Monthly Archives: April 2011

Driving for Pleasure

I think it is reasonable to say that most driving is ‘driving for pleasure,’ but many people make a distinction between driving competitively and driving without any compensation such as a ribbon or other prize.

For some, getting a group of drivers together for a single drive or a series of drives comes naturally, for others, it seems to be as complicated as putting on a CDE.

Last weekend a group of drivers, all members of the Four-in-Hand Club, met in Southern Pines to meet, eat and drive, not necessarily in that order.  Each drive over the three days began at 11 o’clock in the big field at Big Sky, Claire Reid’s farm.  Each day’s drive was lead by one of the local hosts. It was follow-the-leader style, with only the leader knowing the route.

I chose Saturday to attend and take photographs.  It is fun to watch those from out of town who are stabled at Big Sky prepare and put to.  The local drivers appear from different directions and wander around the field until all are ready and someone on the leader’s carriage sounds the horn to indicate that the drive is starting and all should follow.

It is a challenge to find good spots to photograph the 10 or so turnouts.  It is also a challenge sometimes to figure out their route, and then find a way to get to a spot via a different route, and set up before they come trotting by.  This particular Saturday I was lucky to find two or three good spots.  Once they start coming by, I have to shoot fast.  It’s much harder than a photographing at a competition.

The social aspect of these drives is also important. Usually a boxed lunch is served at a designated stop enroute, giving the drivers, their guests as well as the horses and ponies, a chance to rest, and for those who follow along in cars, to view the turnouts. Cocktail parties are held in the evenings.

You can imagine that the grooms are very busy for the duration of the weekend, keeping four horses, harness and carriage gleaming.

After a week at the Southern Pines CDE, it was a real treat to be able to watch a just for fun drive.


Surviving the storm

Thanks to brilliant forethought by the officials, the marathon was finished well before the storms hit our area.  There was a brief shower when Lisa Stroud was in the obstacles (apparently it always rains when she competes, so if you are in a drought, invite her to your show!)  While the final scores were being processed, the siren for a tornado went off, but all we got at the Carolina Horse Park were strong winds and strong rain.  Other areas weren’t so lucky. The tv reported that there were 105 tornadoes yesterday, the majority in North Carolina. 

The tents stayed up at Big Sky where the competitors’ party was held, and over 100 people enjoyed a beef tenderloin dinner and rehashed the day’s events.  All the competitors were grateful for the changes that kept them safe and dry.

Today, the sun is shining, and because we are in the Sandhills area, the ground has absorbed all the rain that flooded the ground yesterday, and we should have a very nice day for cones.  We have a new electronic score board making its debut. That should make it more exciting for the spectators.  Let’s hope there are no glitches.

We had one tip over yesterday.  Catherine Levasseur flipped in obstacle 1. No serious injuries, just bruises.  Claire Glenn almost took out a spectator/photographer who should not have been inside the log pile obstacle. Claire had dropped a rein and made an unexpected turn which took her between two trees that were a little too narrow, but with a bump or two she made it, but the spectator was standing behind one of them!  Note to spectators – never go inside an obstacle – you never know where a competitor might go.  The only two times I left the office to see some of the marathon, I saw these two incidents, so I decided to stay put in the office.  Too much excitment for this secretary!

Southern Pines Update

Busy day yesterday, so sorry I didn’t have a chance to post. Dressage went on without any incidents.  The two rings side by side decorated with pink and white azaleas were lovely. 

Because the weather forecast for the marathon indicated the chance for severe weather – rain and potentially severe thunderstorms in the afternoon, the officials decided to change the schedule, moving the start up 1/2 hour and starting the Prelim and Int. levels off at four minute intervals and the Advanced single at three minutes so that we could finish as early as possible.  I’m monitoring the doppler radar as I write. 

At 12:37, the last competitor has started A.  Hopefully we will finish before any bad weather hits, although we just had a report of a porto-john blown over.  It is very windy, but the temperatures are pleasant. 

You can see the results Live Scored at

The cones course is being built and will be open to walk later this afternoon.

Southern Pines CDE

Day One. Although it seems as if we’ve been going full steam ahead since Monday.  The Carolina Horse Park has their biggest event of the year here the weekend before our event, with about 9,000 spectators for the Stoneybook Steeplechase.  So on Monday there are about 100 tents, about that many portojohns in and around our obstacles and Section E track.  Hundreds of cars parked on our dressage rings.  We were very glad that it didn’t rain!  But now, all evidence is gone, and we are ready to start dressage bright and early tomorrow morning.

Our officials all arrived, although Sarah Mullins missed her connection (not fault of her own) and so the ground jury didn’t arrive until close to midnight. But they were here early to inspect and approve the course so packets could be completed and handed out on time.

The horse inspection is over.  Only one, sadly, didn’t pass. Now we are waiting for the briefing.  No course walk.

No new obstacles or major changes were made to the course, but a new electronic timer will be in place for cones which will make it much more interesting for the spectators and helpful to the drivers.

We have been enjoying lovely weather, cool in the morning, but mid 70s by afternoon, however it is probably going to thunderstorm on marathon day, but we’ll hope that the weatherman is wrong, as he has so often been this year.