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Carriage Driving Stars Step Out At Midlands Equine Fair

Carriage driving stars Dick Lane and Gary Docking will be showing the crowds the full extent of their skill at this year's all-indoor Midlands Equine Show, due to be held at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, on 8 and 9 March.

Dick Lane represented Great Britain in the World Equestrian Games in Spain. Last year was a good season for Dick, who finished second in the points league of the National Horse Driving Trials circuit and third at the National Championships.

Dick at Cranleigh Show

He was introduced to the sport of carriage driving by Pippa Bassett and has worked his way through from single, tandem, pair and finally to horse team. The team of Lipizzaner geldings that Dick drives has represented Great Britain on two occasions when they were owned by Pippa.

At present, Dick is preparing for the next World Championships in Hungary in 2004, but he will be taking time out of his busy schedule to put on a good show at the Midlands Equine Fair. As part of hiss et he will introduce the horses to the crowd, and take them through the procedure of harnessing up and putting to, explaining about the harness and the carriage. He will also build an obstacle in the arena and drive it with the team. Anyone can ask him questions about the sport, and for one lucky visitor there will be the opportunity to ride the course with Dick.

Also at the Fair will be Gary Docking (photo left), one of the sport's most colourful characters who has earned himself the title Mr Private Driving.

From a start far removed from carriage driving - as a red coat at Butlin's - Gary now runs a superb yard with 16 boxes, 40 acres of land, an outdoor school and a soon-to-be indoor one as well. As a Light Harness Horse Instructor (LHHI) Gary is qualified to teach carriage driving. He is also a respected judge and has judged as well as given lectures and clinics in the USA and Australia.

Horses have been used as transport for centuries, but the modern sport of horse driving trials only came into existence in 1968 when HRH Prince Philip formulated the rules for the new sport.

Horse driving trials take place over a three-day period, and according to the British Horse Driving Trials Association it is the only equestrian sport where competitors can compete on an even footing regardless of their age, sex or the horses or ponies they drive.

The first day is devoted to dressage, which consists of a sequence of set movements driven from memory: these are designed to display the schooling and obedience of the animal.
Judges look out for accuracy of the movements prescribed in the dressage test, which includes circles, half-circles and serpentines, driven at various speeds and paces - from walk to extended trot. Other manoeuvres include circles driven one-handed, serpentines, halts and rein-backs (reversing).
Each movement is awarded marks out of 10. At the end, all points are added and the total is subtracted from 150 (maximum score) to give the final mark. The competitor with the lowest mark is therefore the winner of the dressage phase.
Further penalties may be added for errors of course or dismounting of grooms. All turnouts must carry a groom (two grooms for teams of horses or ponies) who must remain seated throughout the test and may not speak or sign to the driver.
The marathon takes place on the second day, when competitors drive the five timed sections of the cross-country marathon course. The last stage is 10 kilometres in length and includes up to eight obstacles which must be driven at speed. The obstacles are often built up around natural features and are made up of a series of lettered gates that must be driven in order. Different routes within the obstacle course leads to tight turns that require a great deal of judgment and skill from the driver if the course is to be competed with the minimum of time penalties.
A veterinary examination may be carried out during the halts, where horses and ponies will be checked for pulse rate, respiration, dehydration or injuries and any which are deemed to be unfit shall not be allowed to continue.
The third and final day consists of cone driving. This element of the competition equates to the show jumping phase of a ridden event and test the skill and competence of the driver as well as the suppleness and obedience of the horse. The objective is to arrive, in a set time, through narrowly spaced pairs of cones with only centimetres to spare on either side of the wheels.

Penalties are awarded for exceeding the allowed time or for dislodging any of the balls that are laced on the cones. Further penalties will be given for errors of course or for the groom dismounting. If a driver manages to drive the course within the allocated time and without hitting any cones, he will have driven a "double clear" and will incur no penalties.

Tickets for the Midlands Equine Fair are available in advance from Contour Exhibitions & Events by calling 08700 115007 and advance booking discounts are available. Further information and leaflets are available by calling 01884 841644, or by logging on at


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