Question from those who don’t drive

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching the driving at Olympia in London. The skill level of these drivers and their horses was incredible. But the more we watched the more we noticed the person standing behind the driver duck down to fiddle with a knob before and after they went in the do the looping around the obstacles (I’m sure none of this is correct in driving terms but bare with this show jumper :crazy_face:). Can you all explain to me what they were doing? No amount of googling will give me my answer because I’m sure I’m not using the correct words.

The knob you are referring to is the break for the fifth wheel. The navigator can control how much drift the back end of the carriage can do by loosening or tightening that knob. I am not going to get into the mechanics of a marathon carriage, I am sure someone will go into greater depth.

I can’t remember if if was Bram or Koos that stated the footing was more waxy in London (it was probably Boyd that said it). and there was less drift around turns compared to Geneva where they were last show.

When those guys are driving in those tight arenas full out galloping, the back end can swing out when making turns. If that back end swings out and knocks a ball or a cone, or a knock-down in a hazzard it adds time to the score. Thing about it when they go over the bridge element. You would not want the back end to swing out and hit the bridge. You would want the back end to track in the same place the front wheels go. Where the front wheels go, is where the wheelers went.

Also, the wheels cutting (drifting) unnecessarily into the footing will create drag thus also add time.

I hope this makes sense.


That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Marathon carriages can drift SOOO BAD, I mean the back end can fly out from under you, especially on a surface that isn’t grass. I can feel it slip out in my arena when I’m doing a 20m circle at a medium trot and there are hazards where I pretty much never take my foot off the 5th wheel brake, which brings me to the three available options out there. I have a brake pedal (not a wheel) on both my carriage that operates the fifth wheel. The good news is that I, as the driver, am 100% in charge of whenever I need to dampen the fifth wheel. The downside is that I do not have a range of response on that fifth wheel. The older option is to have that wheel on the back and no brake pedal, and at that point you are really reliant on a good back stepper or navigator to apply as much fifth wheel dampening as the turn might call for. The best option is to have a fifth wheel brake and a wheel. That way you can tighten up the response to the pedal as much as you need.

For instance, when I use the fifth wheel on my presentation carriage, I want it to lock down the shafts completely so I get a straight(er) trot up the center line or a rein back that doesn’t go askew, but generally when I’m sliding around a turn in a hazard, I want the mobility of the shafts to be dampened not completely rigid. My marathon carriage only dampens, it doesn’t lock the 5th wheel, whereas my presentation locks it down. At various points I would like the option too have both responses, but that means a pedal and a wheel. Having both gives you the most options, although you still need the person operating the wheel in the back to be accurate in how much they tighten it. ( And a driver who knows when to use it, although it can be really hard if you have to use both brake pedals at the same time (5th and rear) while you are getting slung around a turn. Most of the time you are in a hazard, you are bracing your legs for everything you are worth so lifting one foot of the pedal and staying in the seat presents it’s own challenges!


Thank you both! That makes a lot of sense!