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Questions about driving

How much does it cost to compete in driving? And do the drivers finance it themselves, or do they have owners/sponsors or do their home countries help foot the bill? I know how expensive it is to travel abroad with one horse and tack. I can’t imagine what it costs to travel with four plus a carriage etc.

I would also be interested. It has to be much more than the other disciplines.

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It’s actually 5 horses and 2 possibly 3 carriages. No idea how they finance it I just know it’s very very expensive


I was a groom/navigator with Team USA for the World Championships in 2004 in the DFD (Driving For the Disabled) division. Similar to the Para classes, drivers are graded/classified based on level of impairment, and there are Team and Individual awards to compete for. My whip, or driver, was a good friend who had had a stroke. We had been working together for several years at local and regional competitions for Combined Driving. The World Championship that year was in Scotland, and the able-bodied teams were competing as well. I got to see some of the best in the world, including HRH Prince Philip, who was key in developing the sport. ((It is modeled on three day Eventing, with Dressage, Marathon, and Cones. The Cones course is the equivalent of the show jumping phase in Eventing, demonstrating that the teams’ horses are sound after the Marathon phase, and are quick and (hopefully) clean going through the Cones course.))

Individuals did a great deal of fundraising, and some had more resources than others. One team member shipped her specially adapted carriage over! The rest of the team members made arrangements with people in Scotland who were willing to lease or loan their equines and vehicles for the competition. An amount was allocated from USEF’s High Performance division to pay the fees and costs for two coaches and a chéf d’quipe. It was an FEI level event.

Competitors paid their own way for travel, accommodations, transportation, meals and incidentals during training and the competition. Fundraising by individuals was difficult because there was very little time between when team members were confirmed to the team, and the actual competition. I can’t say for sure if that process has changed for either the DFD or able bodied teams as I am not involved in competing right now on that level. (I would do it again in a minute, it was an incredible experience from trying to make the team, to competing in Scotland.) Things get very expensive, especially when traveling with up to five horses for a single competitor (four, and a spare). Some will use a cart (two wheels) for Dressage and Cones, and a carriage (four wheels) for the Marathon phase. Others use a single vehicle for all phases. At the WEG level, it is almost essential that competitors will use a four wheeled carriage on the Marathon, as the driving, maneuverability, balance and strategy is more suited to a carriage. The Marathon vehicle is usually much more sporty looking, compared to a more traditional looking vehicle used for Dressage and Cones. Attire and turnout is also different in Marathon vs. Dressage and Cones.

The US has some extremely competitive and successful Combined Driving teams. There are a few key locations that host the higher levels of competition, particularly on the east and west coasts. The sport IS an expensive sport at those levels, and while I don’t know particulars, competitors may pay their own way, have sponsors, or other donations to allow them to compete. I don’t know if national organizations provide funding for the international competitions. The sport has a longer history in Europe. And simply because the US is so large, high level qualifying events are not as easily attended by competitors coming up in the ranks.

The US IS quite competitive at this time, and I was very glad to hear that the Driving event today, the Dressage phase, was well attended and had a crowd that knows the sport. There are single horse, pairs, and four-in-hand divisions. Marathon, or the equivalent of cross country, is scheduled for tomorrow, I believe. That is the exciting, fast, amazing-to-watch day, especially watching the four horse teams go.


The sport is expensive at the level of national and international competition. But getting started in Driving can be done in a reasonable manner. Some people transition to Driving if they are no longer able to ride due to the various things that come up with age. Others simply prefer the sport over riding, and there are some who do both.

The “start up costs” can be modest or huge. Horse + safe, well fitting harness + vehicle + lessons/coaching. Plus trailer and vehicle to haul equines + vehicle; our vehicle fit in the trailer when we went to competitions.

Riders have the same expenses in their horse + tack; it is the cart and/or carriage that is a big investment for the Driving sports.

Thank you @keysfins for the insight! I do have some friends who dabble in driving, but just with one horse. I just am trying to figure out the logistics of the four in hand…so many horses to prep, keep healthy, fit, and sound, and just the time it must take to get them ready to school. With pro eventers, dressage, and show jumping riders, they have plenty of time (ha) to work to work with client’s horses, sale horses, projects, etc. I can’t imagine having to work 4-5 horses to compete in just one single class, if that makes sense.

It just seems like the four in hand alone is a full time deal, especially if some of these people have careers outside of the equestrian world. I can’t imagine the time and cost it takes to keep all those horses in tip top shape (and they are part of a team, it’s very different from having 4-5 different jumpers or eventers) and be able to travel internationally with them and all the gear.

Also, this might be a really stupid question, but do the grooms have to ride on the carriage when they school or is that only in competition? Add another element of complication, needing people to ride on the carriage while you practice. I am just so curious about how it works and who the people are who are competing at this sport at the highest level.

To compete at this level, yes it is crazy expensive. You need 6 horses, harnesses for each and at least 2 and sometimes 3 carriages to compete. You need 2 grooms and 2 navigators, who are not likely the same people, although they could be. You need a tractor trailer to move them all around. But just like all horse sports there are crazy rich people at the top. Georgina Bloomberg? To compete as a single horse or pony you only need one animal but you do need 2 carriages and most people have show harness and day to day. You also need an atv or gold cart or scooter so you can do a good job of walking the marathon course.

I think one of the differences with driving is that there are so fewer people that the ratio of crazy rich to regular folks is more like 1:3 not 1:3000.

I have one pony. His one carriage cost about 5k, but you could spend 10. And you can find them used. his harness about 1200. You do not need a special trailer but it can make it easier. My hats are expensive! The local shows are inexpensive (less than 100) and the recognized CDEs are on par with a multi day USEA competition

its a reallly fun sport and the people are very friendly. Jimmy Fairclough was grazing one of his guys when I was grazing my pony one time and he was very happy to answer all my starstruck questions about the 4 in hands.


Driving like riding can be done on a budget. For lower levels of Combined Driving you only need one cart (2 wheels) or carriage (4 wheels) and you can find decent ones for under $2000. A solid harness is around $1000, though both costs can be higher.

The horse is the biggest variable. People compete everything from minis to 17+H WBs, you need to decide what you want or if you want to have a current horse or pony trained (excellent option for that outgrown kids pony you want to keep :slight_smile: :slight_smile: ). Just make sure you have the horse before the equipment to make sure everything fits

For the trailer, most 16’ stock trailers will be useful to start for a single or pair as long as it’s wide enough for the carriage.

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I also did driving on a budget, 1 little mare, my 4-wheel vehicle cost less than my current dressage saddle, harness about same as a very top double bridle. yes, can be done.
BUT to the original question: The 4-in-hand drivers representing USA at WEG are 2/3 family wealth and 1/3 sponsor supported. Chester Weber (Campbells Soup) and Missdee Wrigley Miller (Wrigley candy/gum). Jimmy Fairclough has a sponsor.

Fairclough was quoted in an article as sayng “sending one of us to Europe is like sending the whole dressage team” but actually probably a bit more. The vehicles are sent by boat, along with other equipment AND a rig to haul them around Europe. They get some support from USEF.

Costs go on and on, but do the math: if it costs roughly $10k to fly horse 1 way, the 5 horses travel costs alone will run you $100k if you want to go compete at Aachen, for example.


Here’s my “driving on a budget” experience at lower level recognized competitions.

I have a good friend who competes. I almost always go with her to navigate and lend a helping hand wherever it’s needed. CDEs are tons of fun to watch (when I have a spare moment to spectate), and we’ve found the driving community as a whole to be very friendly and welcoming.

My friend has a single driving horse, and one carriage that she bought used. You don’t need two vehicles to get started, you can use a marathon carriage for all three phases. Just make sure it’s clean and tidy for dressage. She only has one harness, a Comfy Fit. It looks nice enough for showing, and it’s durable enough to hold up well for day to day driving. She takes good care of the harness and cleans it up for competition.

She now has a trailer that can hold the horse and carriage, but initially all she had was a 2 horse bumper pull. The carriage was carried in the bed of her truck.

Most folks do have an ATV or golf cart, but you don’t need one. We put on our walking shoes and walk the entire course. The training level DT course is about 5k, so it isn’t too bad to walk. For longer courses, we would probably bring mountain bikes. People look at us like we’re nuts, but we both love hiking and genuinely enjoy walking the course. It also gives us a really good feel for climbs, downhills, footing, etc.

Since neither of us have a LQ trailer, we tent camp if it’s allowed. So far we’ve always been the only ones tent camping, but hey, it works! At venues where this isn’t allowed, we’ve camped in a nearby park.

Some of the things I’ve described above are way out of the norm (anyone reading this that competes in our region probably knows exactly who I am, haha)… but it is doable! My friend typically places very well, so she hasn’t been hindered by having one carriage and one harness that isn’t show-specific.

We have SO much fun at driving competitions. If anyone wants to learn more about them, I highly recommend finding a local CDE and volunteering. Ask questions, you will get answers. Driving people are generally very friendly!


This doesn’t surprise me, but it does make my brain explode a little!

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I had the good fortune once to scribe for a driving dressage judge.

The weather was nasty… cold, windy and tried to spit rain all day.

The judge was awesome. He’d done some ridden dressage judging and knew the differences between driving and riding (I’ve only done ridden).

The driven dressage tests tend to be “slower” as the arena is larger and, with very few exception, the dressage tests are walk and trot, only rarely canter work.

He’d talk, I’d write and he’d explain, as he had time, what the movement was and how it should be scored and what he was looking for. By the end of the day, he’d ask me what I thought of a test (the results were all his, trust me) but fun to see what I thought compared to what he scored.

The following day was the marathon and yes, a wide variety of carriages competed from the one carriage does everything to those that did have a marathon specific carriage. The event I was at had only singles and pairs, no four-in-hand. Got some awesome photographs and saw some amazing teams (including a few mules). Got to see a few navigators have to get off and convince the horse/team that yes, they really did want to go into the water :lol:

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What size is the dressage arena for driving, out of interest?

40 x 100 meters is the large, 40 x80 is the small

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I just did my 1st ADS-sanctioned CT (Driven Dressage & Cones only) Dressage ring was 40mX120m - same for my 34" mini as for larger horses.

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Interesting. The sizes I posted were from ADS rule book…

Yes, should have noted that you only need one vehicle for the lower levels - at the FEI level you need to have a presentation (pretty) carriage for dressage and cones and a marathon carriage for that phase. But otherwise you can use your marathon carriage for all 3 phases. My pony’s carriage is a versatile one that also carries passengers - he’s my mom’s pony and she enjoys being able to go out when I am training him now that she no longer drives him herself.

I didn’t realize that the WEG teams only brought 5 horses. I have seen them bring 6 to places like Bromont.

Just finished watching the tail end of the marathon from WEG. When I’ve had the chance to catch marathon on the FEI TV feeds before, I was under the impression that the entire course was timed, like eventing cross country, with teams charging off at a brisk trot, if not a gallop, between obstacles when allowed according to terrain and the rules. From what I could tell at this year’s WEG, only individual obstacles were timed and moving between the obstacles was much more leisurely. Does anybody know if this was a temporary alteration due to local weather conditions to spare the horses, a global change, or do I just have a bad memory regarding how things were before?

The commentators at one point said that the time for the marathon was between 32-45 minutes. The obstacles are timed for placings but the in-between could be taken at any pace the driver wanted. They just needed to finish before 45 minutes or so. This was because the pace was to be 14 km/hr ( I think) I was busy listening on the FEI channel and doing chores at the same time. Please correct me if I am wrong. But very interesting obstacles. I would have been dizzy.

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Mine too! That’s kind of what I was trying to communicate in my original post. Not so much about those driving singles or even pairs, but the four in hand that travel internationally. Even though there are those super rich in every equine discipline, this one definitely oozes it. As Hilary said, the ratio is much higher and I can’t imagine how anyone without substantial means could be successful internationally without some sort of miracle sponsor or owner, where in other disciplines, it is difficult but can be done for those without super deep pockets.