Almost Rained Out!
The 2016 South Australian Combined Driving Championships, conducted by the Southern Carriage Driving Society at the Monarto Sporting Complex, near Murray Bridge over the October long weekend, were successful despite flooding rains throughout the state in the weeks leading up to the event. Many regions of the state were affected by flooding rivers and storm damage from galeforce winds, such that more than 20% of the record number of entries scratched due to highways cut or storm damage at home.
Nonetheless, the club’s organizing committee was determined to run the event as it was an important dress rehearsal for their hosting of the 2017 Australian Combined Driving Championships over Easter. In this regard it did prove to be a valuable shakedown event which demonstrated the many attributes of the venue and highlighted some areas for improvement.
Combined Driving is a three phase competition consisting of a dressage test, an 18km marathon (Cross Country) and a precision cone driving course (not unlike a showjumping course in concept but using pairs of cones with balls atop and set 10 to 15 cms outside the width of the carriage wheels. Indeed a suspenseful test of driver accuracy and fitness of the horse or pony after the rigours of the marathon.
The sandy soil of the sporting complex drained very well as the dressage and cones arenas were firm under hoof all of which augurs well for the nationals next Easter. The Course Designer, Hilton Trigg (who lives 700 kilometres away to the west in Port Lincoln) did an excellent job, utilizing satellite technology to produce a well marked marathon course which was fair and safe. In their paperwork kits, competitors received detailed course maps which set new standards of accuracy as they were printed on Google maps! The marathon obstacles contained numerous options and provided a challenge commensurate with a championship.
Early on, organizers made the bold decision to run a Level 4 event in conjunction, for those who hadn’t qualified for the championship Level 1 event. The Level 4 competitors drove simpler dressage tests and only four of the seven marathon obstacles as well as a shorter cones course. Nonetheless, they produced some promising results in gaining the necessary experience for the coming nationals event.
The cones course was a variation of a championship course used at the same venue two years ago. Substantial time penalties incurred by the early runners had officials concerned that maybe they had under measured the distance until two experienced competitors scored double clear rounds (No balls down and no time penalties).
Class Championship winners, with their placings in the three competitions were: Class 1 Novice Small Pony – Julie Mackay (Vic) 2, 1, 1. Class 2 Novice Large Pony – Leonie Hartshorne (SA) 2, 1, 1. Class 3 Novice Horse – David Cockroft (Vic) 2, 1, 2. Class 4 Intermediate Small Pony – Bernadette Lewis (Vic 1, 1, 1. Class 5 Intermediate Large Pony – Elizabeth Trigg (SA) 1, 1, 1. Class 8 Open Large Pony – Anne Lindh (SA) 1, 1, 1. Class 10 Pony Pairs – Rhys Vaudin (SA) 3, 1, 1. Class 11 Pony Tandem – Karen Rogers (Vic) 1, 1, 1.
The Championships received tangible support from the Council of the Rural City of Murray Bridge and the Murray Bridge Veterinary Clinic.