Driving world in uproar over short format national driving trials

  • The British Horse Driving Trials Association (BHDTA) is consulting members following a row over the shortening in format of national events.
    The BHDTA website forum has been awash with complaints from competitors that all 10 British national events will this year run three-section rather than five-section marathons. Event organisers must decide whether to take out the fast-trot section and the second walk.
    Horse tandem driver Pat Cooper said: “Nationals were always five sections, club events were always three.
    “Reducing the sections just puts more emphasis on dressage and driving trials is about the whole scenario — obedience, stamina, speed, precision — by reducing the marathons, you are losing the stamina element.”
    Horse four-in-hand driver and former European pony teams champion Georgina Frith is concerned the BHDTA is not listening to its members.
    She said: “Why should people pay three times more for a competition that can be of better quality at club level?”
    In 2007, three national events were scheduled to run five-section marathons, but bad weather and foot-and-mouth restrictions resulted in them running the shorter format. This year, no five-section marathons have been scheduled.
    BHDTA and Hopetoun driving trials committee member Ian Gilbert explained: “I like driving a five-section marathon but organisers have to find eight extra stewards, a second vet and a judge.”
    He said a questionnaire has been sent to BHDTA members.
    But International Equestrian Federation (FEI) technical delegate Phillip Bateman said that even if the membership proves in favour of five-section marathons, organisers cannot be forced to run them.
    “Since 2000, all world championships have run three-section marathons, due to lack of space and the change in type of horse,” he said. “As people have moved towards finer types, it is getting more difficult to get them up to the standard of fitness required for a five-section marathon.”
    But Georgina Frith warned: “If you’re not offering people a product they want, they will vote with their feet.”

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