Sometime in the early 2000s, Mike Lyon and Colonel Davis, along with other members of the horse driving community, hatched the idea to create a place where driving enthusiasts could gather just to have fun and exchange information. By October 2005, their solution—the first National Drive—was a reality.
“The mission of the National Drive is to provide a safe and inexpensive venue for recreational drivers to have fun driving, to learn and to socialize,” he says. “Our motto: fun; friendship; learning.”
History of the National Drive
The Drive has been going on continuously since 2005 and, as time went on, it was expanded to a week-long event in early October. In 2012, a Spring National Drive (also called the “Spring Fling”) held over a long weekend in early May was added to the docket.
The Drive was initially held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, but after the KHP became too crowded with other events happening at the same time, the National Drive moved in 2018 to the Hoosier Horse Park in Indiana.
Sadler says the first Drive welcomed 90 participants. As more people became aware of the event, numbers soared to around 400. In recent years, the average attendance hovers around 150-160 humans, 125-130 equines, and innumerable dogs. Thus far, the Drive has hosted attendees from 42 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
The range of equine guests runs the gamut from Miniature Horses and pony breeds to light breeds, draft horses, donkeys and mules. The Fall 2021 National Drive had 27 breeds (plus a few crosses) represented. People drove singles, pairs and four-in-hands using a variety of two- and four-wheeled conveyances. Several attendees also chose to ride around the park.
“We host equines of all shapes and sizes, price ranges and talent,” says Sadler. “In carriage driving, especially for recreational use, [horse] price is not a factor. They just need good manners and to enjoy doing it.”
More About the Event
The Hoosier Horse Park was originally part of the U.S. Army facility Camp Atterbury, and is located about half an hour south of Indianapolis. It comprises over 200 acres of wilderness with many crisscrossing roads, lanes and trails, as well as a marathon course used for the Indiana Combined Driving Event for the last 25-plus years.
With the Park offering an indoor arena, an outdoor driving dressage ring, an outdoor stadium, campgrounds, 384 permanent stalls, and a scenic country atmosphere, participants feel that the Park is a very good fit for the National Drive.
“At Hoosier Horse Park, we’re able to provide a quiet, safe place to relax and drive whenever, wherever,” Sadler explains.
Both the Spring and Fall National Drive offer:
◆ Educational opportunities with top-flight clinicians (clinics, lectures, private lessons).
◆ Free time to drive and ride.
◆ Mock competition to sharpen skills (driving derby and combined driving competition facilities to name a few).
◆ Just-for-fun events (tacky turnout class, safari and arithmetic drives, scavenger hunt, bingo cones, pooch parade).
◆ Social activities, including a cookout, welcome and farewell parties, a mimosa drive (drinks and cookies are served at a picturesque spot in the park) and train rides.
◆ A safety check before going out to drive with advice from experts.
◆ Scales for weighing equines and equipment.
◆ A de-spooking zone set up to expose horses to scary things and practice how to deal with the reactions.
◆ Tack swap and shopping.
◆ Camping and a variety of nearby restaurants and tourist attractions.
◆ The opportunity to network with other attendees in a laid-back atmosphere.
Amy Brockman of Okeana, Ohio, attended her first Drive last spring with her pony Tonka.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “Wow, I sure had a blast! Everyone was so welcoming, laid-back and helpful. Being new at driving, I had many questions that were kindly answered.”
Lana Santamaria of Dubuque, Iowa, has attended four Drives.
“I keep coming back because the camaraderie is incomparable,” she says. “I could talk about the venue or the organizers and staff—they are all terrific—but it’s the camaraderie that delights me.”
For more information about the National Drive, visit www.nationaldrive.net or www.facebook.com/TheNationalDrive.