If you've ever tried to drive a horse, you know that handling one horse and a cart is difficult enough. Now imagine driving a hitch of four horses as they trot, canter, and gallop through an incredibly tight course of obstacles. That's just what the horses in this video do, and the sport? It's called combined driving.
Combined driving challenges horses and drivers to three different competition phases. The team must navigate a dressage, marathon, and obstacle phase. According to the United States Equestrian Federation, combined driving tests a horse's agility, endurance, fitness, and obedience. The driver's accuracy and judgment is also tested. Horses and driver confront obstacles in close quarters that they must navigate successfully, all while being timed.
When competing in combined driving, a driver needs to find a team of horses that work well together. The horses need to be about the same size and must take strides of about the same length in order to travel well together. They also need to be fit, athletic, and in tune to the driver's signals.
But that's not all. The horses must respond quickly to the driver's signals. They must work together as a team but need to have the heart to keep pushing on when they're tired. A good combined driving horse is a very special animal; they don't come along every day.
Boyd Exell, the driver of the team in this video, is a highly successful driver in the sport. He's won numerous championships and top awards and is an incredibly talented driver. Exell creates some top teams and always puts in a great showing of skill.
Combined driving is an intriguing, fast-paced equestrian sport. Be sure to check it out if you ever have the chance to see it live.