WINDSOR — Caroline McSwain was grateful to the organizers for including training level in this weekend’s Katydid Combined Driving Event. The Columbus, N.C.-based driver was thrilled to be able to bring her young horses and to have the opportunity to expose them to the same types of things asked of advanced-level horses and ponies during competition.
McSwain was very pleased with her dressage test in the training single horse division, with Magnum, a Fresian gelding, and the driver/horse combination found themselves in second place after the first phase of the competition.
“We were smooth,” said McSwain. “There was a lot to look at. He was right there in my hand. He was pretty soft, and he’s such an elegant animal. He was well-mannered, obedient, and his halts were great.”
The event organizers took great care in making sure the dressage and cones arena and marathon course were safe, said McSwain.
“The folks putting on the competition are aware of what’s going to be a distraction and what’s not,” said McSwain. “They are very thorough. So, having a tent that doesn’t flap around and is well-anchored and bleachers and a judges stand that are well positioned makes a huge difference.”
Combined driving horses are extremely well conditioned, and their mental and physical well-being plays a large role in how well the driver/horse or pony combination perform during the competition.
“There’s actually a measurement on how much you can warm up your dressage horse,” said McSwain. “You can do up to 5 kilometers. Fitness and endurance is a huge part of combined driving. We spend a lot time working with these horses on fitness for all three phases, but there’s a lot of emphasis for the dressage because you have to be soft and supple, yet fit, and be able to have stamina to work through the warm-up, go into the tests and still be effective and not be flat when you get to where you’re actually doing it. By the time you incorporate the warm-up and the test, you can do between 5 and 8 kilometers in distance.”
McSwain was extremely impressed with the marathon course and found the footing to be excellent.
McSwain and Magnum incurred one-time penalty point in the cones but otherwise turned in a clean round.
“It was a very nice course, well thought out, had a flow to it but also had a degree of difficulty, said McSwain.