How to Get Involved with Driving Trials When You Don't have a Horse!!

So why would you want to get involved with the sport of Combined Driving also known as Horse Driving Trials?

Everyone involved in the sport is involved for different reasons but they all share a love for the community created by the sport. This community is so unique and special that it draws people from all over the country to come together to share wonderful experiences in some of the most beautiful venues in the country.

Perhaps it's because of this...

Stunning view at carriage driving event

Stunning view at a carriage driving event

Or it might be because of this...

Raehill driving trials

Hopetoun house driving trials

Almost certainly it's because of this....

People at driving trials

Friends at driving trials

Friends at a driving trials

And of course let's not forget about this...

 kids at driving trials

You might witness some scenes like this...

Rosei at driving trials

 carol backstepping

games at driving trials

but not to worry you'll also see scenes like this...

driving horses

And maybe even this...

driven dressage


So what is it all about?

The evolution of combined driving was greatly influenced by the Duke of Edinburgh who was an active participant between 1964 and 1986 and in fact president of the FEI during these years, and who's royal patrionage did much to promote the sport.

It largely consists of three phases being driven dressage, marathon (a cross country phase) and cone driving. It loosely follows similar lines to ridden eventing with it's dressage, cross country and show jumping. The level and size of the event dictates the exact order of these phases and over how many days it runs.

The first rung of the ladder are grass roots events which are usually carried out over one day. This is followed by two day events which are held over Saturday and Sunday with dressage and cones running on the Saturday and marathon on the Sunday. Finally we have three day events with dressage on the Friday, marathon on Saturday and cones on Sunday.


What roles are available for you?

Our sport relies heavily on the generosity of others who give up their time to help us by stewarding and officiating at these events. The roles are very varied and interesting and suit a wide range of people with different skill sets and abilities. The important thing to remember is that many of the roles require little or no prior knowledge of the sport or of horses. Any knowledge that is required you will be told or assisted with.


Construction of the Event:

Let's first not forget the "putting up" of the event and "taking down". Depending on the level of event, this role ranges from driving plant machinery to putting up banners or painting obstacles. If you enjoy being in the countryside and getting jobs done this is ideal for you. It takes a small army to put on some of the largest events and all hands and skills are welcome. Despite the hard work involved it's tremenduous fun and some deep long lasting friendships have been formed

Hopetoun construction

cothal construction driving trials

hopetoun driving trials construction

Anyone can get involved with construction and you'll receive a warm welcome and probably a bacon roll too



This phase is probably the lightest when it comes to stewards required. Here you have between one and three judges who each need a writer or scribe.

Dressage Scribe:

Their job is to write down the judge's comments and marks on the dressage sheet as well as to double check the competitor's number when they enter the arena. The skill level of this job depends greatly on the level of event and level of dressage test being judged, some tests have movements which come thick and fast and others have a more relaxed tempo. If it's your first attempt at scribing you will most likely be matched to the lower level tests to find your feet. There is no technical knowledge of dressage required only the ability to calmly write down what is required and keep up with the judge as they score each movement. This role is not best suited to a chatterbox as the judge does need to concentrate on their job but it is still a pleasant and sociable day. You will not be required to bring any equipment with you though it's always a good idea to keep a spare stash of pencils just in case.

dressage sheet

Usually you will collect the paperwork from the secretary prior to the start of dressage and meet your judge. You will usually be seated in a car or judge's box but on the odd occassion it may be a little more rudimentary

dressage judging

This is usually a fairly sought after position, particularly at the more prestigious events


Arena Steward:

The arena steward, or in some cases stewards, are their to allow competitors into and out of the arena as required. They will follow the instruction of the judge who will indicate when they are ready for the next competitor by flashing headlights or waving a hat or raising an arm. You will also need to raise or move the "A" marker at the entrance to the arena to allow the competitor entry to the arena. At higher level events suitably smart attire is worn in keeping with the occassion.


Score Collectors:

These individuals collect the scores from each judge's scribe at a suitable moment, ie. not whilst a competitor is in the arena, and return them to the scorer. They may also be asked to relay messages back to the scorer or event secretary. Just be aware that whilst you are so close to the arena it is advisable not to chatter too loudly as this can be very distracting for judge's and competitors



Let's not forget one of the most welcome members of the team, those carrying the refreshments. It can be a long day for judges and stewards alike and a quick cup of tea and a biscuit is very welcome. We always need people who can hand out teas and coffees to those working on the arena.



This is by far the most expensive day in terms of stewards but it's also the most exciting. There are a variety of roles throughout the marathon and all are vital to the smooth running. There will be a meeting for stewards prior to the start of the marathon and you will also be given a pack lunch or similar

Crash Team:

This is usually a group of fairly handy people who can quickly make repairs to broken obstacles on the course. From time to time a turnout (the term used to encompass the horse, carriage and occupants as a unit) may bump something and pull up a post or marker flag. This needs to be repaired or replaced as quickly as possible to prevent disruption to the proceedings. This can be quite an exciting role speeding through fields to make repairs like action heros!

Section Time Keepers:

The marathon consists of various sections which all require a timekeeper at each end;

Section A is a drive out across country at a designated average speed

Transfer section is a short section which is timed and is designed to cool off the horses before reaching the halt

The halt is as you might expect, a halt, where the horse's are cooled off and at higher level events they are inspected by a vet . Additional stewards may be required at the halt to assist the vet and to direct competitors

Section B contains the obstacles.

Obstacle Stewards:

Obstacles consist of a series of gates created by post and rail, barrels, straw bales or something similar. There may be between 4 and 8 obstacles depending on the level of event and each obstacle needs it's own team of stewards. There are, on average, four stewards on each obstacle and at least one of these will be an experienced obstacle steward. Each steward should have a role to focus on, two will be time keeping and one will be calling out the letters to the obstacle scribe who records the order of the gates driven and any errors made.

Some obstacles might be quite elaborate

Ashfields obstacle driving trials

and some more basic but full of imagination

Cothal obstacle

As mentioned, the obstacles consist of a series of gates, these gates are lettered from A up to a maximum of F. The competitor must drive each gate in the correct sequence and in the correct direction, with the red letter on their right and the white letter on their left. Once a gate has been driven it is then dead and can be driven in any direction to reach other gates in the obstacle. The total time spent negotiating each obstacle is recorded and converted to penalty points.

Though it may sound a little complicated it really isn't, you will be given full instruction on how to correctly steward the obstacle.

Score Collectors:

Scores are collected from each obstacle regularly and then taken to the scorer for tallying up. Sometimes members of local scrambler groups or on occasion children from pony club on their ponies may be used for score collecting, it's a lot of fun!



Cones is a test of precision and control and involves driving a course of cones with balls on top without knocking the balls off or going over time.

Cone driving

Collecting Ring Steward:

Some of the larger events may require a collecting ring steward to usher the competitors to the arena at the correct time

Arena Stewards:

The roles may vary depending on the level of event but one job which is always required is someone to pick up the balls and put them back on the cones. You may also have a stick for measuring and altering the width between the cones for different levels and classes. At low level events time keeping is done manually so there will usually be two people timing the competitors. At high level events you will also have a steward allowing competitors into and out of the arena helping to keep things running on time and smoothly

Wheel Measuring:

When a competitor leaves the cones arena they then have the width of their wheels checked. This is done by placing a cone on the outside of the wheel on both sides of the carriage, the competitor then moves forward and the distance between the cones is checked.


So why would you want to do all this?

  • Well as already mentioned the community of carriage driving is second to none. It is a wonderfully diverse group of people who all enjoy the outdoors and getting away in the countryside.
  • It often gives you the opportunity to visit beautiful estates and spots of the countryside that you would not normally be allowed to access. If you are so inclined it is a great opportunity for a weekend away with your caravan or tent.
  • It is a wonderful way to meet great people who can become firm friends for life.
  • It is the perfect way to learn about carriage driving trials if you are thinking of becoming a competitor yourself.

If you love the sound of it and want to get involved!

Please remember that you will always be given the guidance you need to carry out any of these roles and you will be greeted warmly so don't be shy

British Carriage Driving is the official body governing horse driving trials in the UK and you can sign up with them to be a volunteer here

You might also want to contact a group in your area and a list of affiliated clubs can be found here

You could also check out the events in your area and come along and watch to see what you think, though it's always better to just jump in and immerse yourself. The main events listings are here though you can also find events listed at your local club through their own website


Thank you for taking an interest we hope to see you at an event near you soon!


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1 comment

  • Alexandra Moraiti

    Hello, i would like to know everything about this sport?

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