Sunday, July 22, 2018

Looking into the Future of Combined Driving

Guest Editorial

Looking into the Future

As twenty-year veterans of combined driving, having participated as either driver, groom, navigator, sponsor and volunteer – we are concerned about the future of our sport at the World Equestrian Games.

My husband and I were very lucky to have attended the WEG in Kentucky in 2010.  In 2010, in addition to the two to three team members representing each country, the host country was permitted to have up to six individuals as well.
The FEI Rulebook states:
Article 919 Entries Championships and CAIOs 1. Championships and CAIOs are open to national teams. A national team consists of three Athletes of the same Nationality. In the event that a nation can only send two Athletes, they must be entered as a team. An entry from a nation able to send only one entry shall be classified as an individual entry.
Article 927 Additional Entries for Championships and CAIOs 1. At the discretion of the OC all NFs who have submitted a Nominated Entry for a team may be invited to enter Additional Entries for Championships.
This tradition provided significant encouragement to keep the pipeline full of up and coming competitors.  I for one fully expected this tradition to continue at this year’s WEG being held at Tryon, North Carolina and was incredibly disappointed to hear it will not.  Even if it had, as was seen in Kentucky, it would only add more U.S. competitors but no more from Europe.
This year FEI put up money to encourage competitors to attend Tryon.   
Some have speculated that the FEI has decided to limit each country to only the team members (or individuals from countries only able to send one competitor in each discipline) to the World Equestrian Games since other disciplines have experienced incredible growth over the past several games. This growth may be true for the other disciplines but this is not the case for Driving.  Four-In-Hand drivers have been on the decline and there are only a few young contenders in the world in the pipeline.  Driving a four-in-hand is incredibly expensive, and only the wealthy or those lucky enough to have wealthy sponsors can afford to compete. We all fully understand the glamour of the four-in-hands but they represent just a small part of our sport and is mainly Euro-centric. As many four-in-hand drivers miss going to a WEG, especially when held outside Europe, due to the Expense, it means they have a four-year gap between championships at which they can compete.
Richard Nicoll, current Chairman of the USEF Driving Sport Committee, has been trying for many years, to convince the driving world to allow the single drivers to compete at the WEG.  This would allow our sport to experience the same growth as other disciplines. Single drivers are a growth area and reach far more individuals. It would expand the pipeline of outstanding single drivers by providing the possibility to excel and compete at the WEG’s.  More countries and drivers could afford to come to compete at the WEG’s no matter where the location.  Spectators would have a full day of single drivers to cheer on, rather than 12 to 20 four-in-hands (at best) at this WEG.  It is the right solution to keep our sport thriving into the future.
Tryon International Equestrian Center hosted a test event the week after the Southern Pines CDE in April.  Once again, we had the incredible opportunity to be at the event.  The facility is impressive and will be the premier show venue in the U.S. if not the world, once completed. 
Although this was a test event, it is important to remember it was also a full combined driving event to all the competitors who participated, as well as a selection trial for the teams.  The schedule had the time, and it was a shame all the winners were not pinned in the ring especially having come all that way.
Let every person who loves our sport find a way spread the word and support Richard Nicoll’s efforts to incorporate the single drivers at the future WEG’s. As our friend Kelly Valdes says, find a way to “support your sport”!

60 DRIVING DIGEST                                                                            July/August 2018 Issue 214

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