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The Skunk River Horse Driving Trial: An Exciting Equestrian Carriage Combined Event
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The Skunk River Horse Driving Trial: An Exciting Equestrian Carriage Combined Event

Enjoy a beautiful summer weekend watching horses of all shapes and sizes glide through a series of competitions at The Skunk River Horse Driving Trial. This equestrian carriage combined event will be held on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 in Ames, and is free to the public. There are three components competitors must complete: a driven dressage test, a cones obstacle course, and a cross country marathon course with hazards.

In the dressage test, competitors drive a memorized pattern. They are judged on how smooth, relaxed and compliant there horse completes the pattern. The horse(s) and driver are given points on each "movement" of the test. The horse's harness should be polished with all brass or silver parts thoroughly shined. The drivers wear fancy outfits and fancy hats. They must, also, wear a driving apron and brown gloves.

In the cones course, the drivers maneuver through a series of 10 to 20 sets of orange highway-type cones with tennis balls on top. The cones are set just slightly wider than the axle of the carriage. The cones are in a random arrangement and change from competition to competition. Drivers are given a target time to complete the course within, if they go over that time they lose points. They also lose points if they knock tennis balls off the cones. Each set of cones is marked with a white number and a red number, the driver must drive the course so that they enter each set of cones with the red number on their right. The drivers can walk the course prior to the competition to figure out their path, but cannot drive it with their horse(s) or take the horse(s) on the course.

In the marathon, drivers drive a marked cross country course (across fields, through timber, through orchards, etc.) with periodic hazards that have to be negotiated. The hazards consist of such things as large posts, trees, large round bales of hay, series of gates or fences, metal barrels, etc. The hazards are labeled with sets of red and white letters (A to E). Like the cones they must be driven with the red letters on the right and can't be practiced with the horse or horses prior to the competition. The marathon course is usually about 10k in length. Drivers are given target times to complete the course based on the size of their horse(s). Drivers lose points for completing the course faster or slower than their target time or for getting off the course.

The winner of the competition is based on the best score for the composite of the scores from all three parts of the competition. There are levels from beginner to advanced within the competition. The Skunk River Horse Driving Trial brings competitors from as many as 10 different states as well as Canada to Ames each year to compete. The judges come from across the United States and Canada, as well. They either do or have competed themselves, and some have even competed internationally.

This event is supported by the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau Community Grant Program. The competition will take place Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, 2015 at the Skunk River Equestrian Center, 17830 550th Ave, Ames. 

For more information, visit

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
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