FEI Four-in-Hand Driving World Championships under way in Germany

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Chester WeberCombined driving is not a sport for the weak-hearted. Despite what the polished, elegant appearance of a gleaming horse and carriage and traditionally attired driver might suggest, competing in combined driving events (CDEs) takes guts. When you add a team of four horses to the equation, you get one of the most challenging sports an athlete can do sitting down.

This weekend, the world’s best four-in-hand drivers are competing at the FEI World Championships in Reisenbeck, Germany. Combined driving is based on the sport of three-day eventing and follows a similar format. On the first day, competitors perform a driven dressage test. The rules vary in some ways from ridden dressage. For example, drivers can use vocal cues and the tests do not ask horses to canter. However, the teams are still judged on their gaits, collection, bending, and responsiveness to their driver.

Watch some of the marathon phase from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games below.

The second day is the fast-paced marathon phase. Drivers guide their teams across open terrain and through challenging hazards that require perfect control and exceptional judgement to get four horses and a carraige through small spaces and tight turns. Each hazard is timed as the drivers work to complete the marathon in the optimal time without accruing any faults.

The CDE ends with the obstacle phase, often referred to simply as “cones.” In this phase, drivers compete in the arena and must navigate a course of pairs of pylons. Each pylon has a ball set on top, and drivers are penalized for knocking a ball down as they race to finish the course in the fastest time.

Combined driving is most popular in Europe, but the United States now has several drivers reaching the top of the rankings. As of Friday, at the end of the dressage phase of this year’s FEI World Championship, American Chester Weber is in the lead individually, and the U.S. team is placed third behind the second-place Germans and the reigning world champion team from the Netherlands. But anything can happen with the marathon on Saturday and the cones on Sunday.

Learn more about the U.S. four-in-hand driving team at USEFNetwork.com.

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