Not an easy Sunday drive

Horse Driving Trials are challenging for horse and driver

Joan Bourke and her navigator Leona Davies take their trials with light-hearted fun.

Horse Driving Trials were held in 70 Mile House July 17 – 19 with several competitors from Quesnel attending. Held at the Huber Farm, participants came from all across the province.

Also known as Combined Driving, this equestrian event has drivers in carriages pulled by either a single horse, a pair or a team of four in two divisions, the training and the preliminary.

The sport has three phases: dressage, cones obstacle course and the X-country marathon, each with its own strict rules of competition.

At the beginning of the weekend every animal was inspected for health and soundness and the competitors were allowed to walk the courses including the cones obstacle course for the Saturday competition which consisted of 20 gates which drivers must get through in the correct order, as fast as they can with no penalty points for knock downs or time faults. They also checked out the hazards which the drivers would face during the x-country marathon, a 12-km event made up of three stages on Sunday. This is the most challenging competition of the weekend for both the horses and the drivers, navigators and volunteers. Unlike the Saturday events where the navigator can function merely as ballast for the carriage, in this event the navigator plays a huge role. It’s their job to know the course and keep the driver on the right course and let the driver know when they need to speed up or slow down. With their position at the back of the carriage, their job is also to counter balance the carriage and keep it from tipping as they travel over the uneven ground and whipping around sharp corners and driving on side hills. The marathon takes up the whole day.

For Quesnel competitor Joan Bourke, this was her first full Combined Driving event and it was also first for her horse Handsome Bob and her navigator Leona Davies. They were entered in the training level of competition. After Saturday’s dressage, Bourke finished second and first in the Obstacle Cones Course placing her first overall.

Facing Sunday’s marathon, Bourke and Davies took time to watch the veterans and when it was their turn to head out, they knew it would be a learning experience and were determined to have fun along the way. Due to poor pacing along the route, they earned four penalty points but much to Bourke’s surprise once they tallied up the scores, her team won the Horse category of the training Level Marathon as well as the high point for all the categories in the training level for the whole Combined Driving event. Bourke credits the friendly and helpful experienced competitors who she said bent over backwards to assist her and her team and offered sound advice.

However, Bourke said without her horse Handsome Bob who she describes as honest and hard working with a fantastic mind, their success would never have happened.

“This horse does not know the word no, what he does know are the words, just show me what you want and I’ll try,” she said.

“As a horse owner you can never ask for more than that.”

In the preliminary level of competition two other Quesnel competitors took top honours. Fred Harder with his horses Happy Herman and Buckley and navigator Rose Eklund placed first overall in all events in the horse division (other divisions include pony and Very Small Equine or Miniature horses) and Linda Atkinson with her horse Pacing Artist and navigator Bill Atkinson took the second position also in the horse division overall.

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