Driven Dressage Competition
By Beverly Lynch

Driving, is the oldest competitive equestrian sport. It is a discipline without riders; drivers sit on a vehicle drawn by a single horse or pony, a pair or a team of four; as described within the FEI description of this sport

Most modern driving competitions consist of three phases:

1. Dressage: A sequence of compulsory figures performed within a 100 x 40m rectangle. The smoothness of the maneuvers, the obedience of the horse, impulsion and positioning are assessed. Click here for a full explanation of Dressage.

2. Marathon: A truly spectacular trial, the marathon is a course over a maximum of 18km, which includes natural hazards such as sharp turns, water and steep hills as well as constructed obstacles.

3. Obstacle Driving / “Cones”:  This tests the fitness and suppleness of the horses after the marathon. To successfully negotiate the cones course, drivers must weave cleanly through a narrow track outlined by cones with balls balanced on top.

Driven Dressage can be a stand alone event or part of a two or three phase event more or less a kin to three-day eventing. The other parts of this event could be Cross Country /marathon (obstacle phase) & cones. This section of the guide book will discuss the Dressage aspect only. Portions of the USET and FEI rules are used in the sections below. The link to the USET rules:


In a Driven Dressage Test, (Competition A) as in ridden dressage, all competitors drive the same test and are judged on the qualities of “freedom, regularity of paces, harmony, impulsion, suppleness, lightness, and ease of movement and the correct bending of the horses on the move. The competitors are also judged on style, accuracy, and general control of their horses and also on their dress, condition of the harness and vehicle and the presentation of the whole turnout.”

Participants compete in the Driven Dressage Arena which measures 100m x 40m in general, however at certain events a smaller Arena, measuring 80m x 40m may be used for all classes of Singles and Pairs. A low Dressage fence made of boards or breakable chain and proper letters. It is optional to decorate the outside area of the arena with flowers. Links to tests can be seen at the end of this document.

Large/Standard Driven Dressage Arena Small Driven Dressage Arena


1. Minimum distance between Horse and Carriage when in draft (fender rolls: 40 cm, roller bolts: 50 cm).

2. Swingle trees for Horses: at least 60 cm wide.

3. Pole length: Poles for both Horses and Ponies should extend to approximately the middle of the length of the necks when in draft; except when using a Yoke.

4. Horse Yoke width: 45 cm. minimum. Yokes must not be behind any part of the shoulder. Pole Straps must be of sufficient length to allow free movement of the Horses.

5. For Horse Four- in- Hand leaders, the lead bar must measure at least 1m and the Swingle trees at least 50 cm.

6. For Horse Singles, the distance between Horse and Carriage when in draft must not be less than 50 cm.

7. Any nosebands, attachments or ancillary equipment, which impedes or is likely to impede the free intake of air into the nostrils of the Horse or Pony, are not permitted.

8. Blinkers and ancillary equipment on both Horses and Ponies must not impede forward vision or be so close to the eyes as to irritate them.

9. The minimum distance between the Pony and the Carriage when in harness must be such that there is no interference with the free movement of the Pony.

10. Swingle trees and leader bars must be of sufficient width so as not to impede the free movement of the Pony or Ponies.

11. Yoke width or Pole Straps must be sufficient to allow the free movement of the Ponies.




Method of Driving Competitors may use any method or style of driving.


The Competitor and Grooms: Each Competitor must drive the same Horse(s) in all the Competitions, except if legally substituted.  No person may be tied to the Vehicle in any way during the Competitions. A Competitor may be secured by rope, webbing or belt, provided one end is held by a Groom and not wrapped or fastened to the Vehicle in any way.

Whip:  The Competitor must carry a whip of traditional style. The lash, which may be tied to

the stick, must be capable of release, and must be long enough to reach all the

Dress: The dress of Competitors and Grooms must conform to the style of the Vehicle and

Harness used. Jackets or national dress, driving aprons, hats and gloves are obligatory for

Competitors. Grooms must wear jackets or national dress, hats and gloves. Wet weather clothing may be worn and aprons not required in extremely wet weather.



1. Weights and Dimensions: For Competitions A (Dressage) Vehicles must comply with the following:





Minimum Width

Horse Four-in-Hand


2 behind


Pony Four-in-Hand 138 cm


2 behind


Horse Pair


1 behind


Pony Pair 138 cm


1 behind


Horse Tandem

2 or 4

1 behind or beside


Pony Tandem

4 or 4

3 behind or beside


Horse Single

5 or 4

4 behind or beside


Pony Single

7 or 4

6 behind or beside


In all Classes, if the Vehicle has no brakes, breeching is compulsory. No part of a Vehicle may be wider than the outside Track Width, with the exception of Hub Caps and the Splinter Bar. The Track Width of all Vehicles is measured at ground level on the widest part of the rear wheels. Competitors whose Vehicles do not conform to the required weights or measurements will be Eliminated from the relevant Competition.


2. Equipment

Vehicles used in Competitions A must be fitted with forward facing lamps and rear lamps or reflectors.


3. Tires

Pneumatic or air-filled tires are not permitted. Vehicles must be fitted with iron or solid rubber tires. The outer surface of the tire must be smooth.


General other rules: The Horses must be properly harnessed to the Vehicle, including the Reins. Bits do not need to be identical. Bandages and Brushing Boots are not permitted. Connecting straps between neck or breast collars may be used in all Competitions. The leaders of a Four-in-Hand may not be attached to each other in any other way (except by the Reins). Auxiliary Reins (including any type of check reins) are not permitted when in harness. Tails may not be tied or attached to any part of the Harness or Vehicle, with the exception of a recognized tail guard. No other ancillary device which restricts the free movement of the Horse's tail is permitted. All rings, terrets and/or other devices which have an extreme leverage effect on the reins or bits are forbidden at any time within the Driving Event Location. Bitless bridles (hackamores) are not permitted when the Horse is harnessed to a Vehicle. Tongue straps or guards on the bit are not permitted and the tongue may not be tied in any manner. No attachment or ancillary Harness is permitted to be positioned between the wheelers and the leaders, in such a way as to impair the vision of either of the wheelers. Attachment to the pole, traces or shafts, application or use of any substance, device, or implement which may cause irritation or discomfort to the Horse is forbidden within the Driving Event Location. Working Canter is only acceptable in an Intermediate Level Canter Test and in Advanced (FEI) level competition only; the horse should appear controlled and collected. Any other type of canter or cantering in other levels is not acceptable.


Start and Finish

The Test Starts as the Competitor enters the Arena at A, unless otherwise stated, and Finishes with the final salute. Tests are not timed. The Competitor will leave the Arena at a trot.


The Movements:

1. Halt: The Horse must stand square and straight with the weight evenly distributed among all four legs. The Horse must remain attentive, and motionless, ready to move off at the slightest indication from the Competitor.

2. Walk: A regular, unconstrained walk of moderate length. The Horse, remaining in a light contact, walks energetically, but calmly with even and determined steps with the hind feet touching the ground in front of the foot prints of the fore feet.

2.1 Free WalkShould be as the definition of the Walk, but without the rein contact. A regular and unconstrained walk of moderate length. The Horse, without contact, walks energetically but calmly with even and determined steps with the hind feet touching the ground in front of the footprints of the fore feet.

2.2 Stretching the FrameLetting the Horse take the reins stretching long and low – forwards and downwards, over the back while keeping the same rhythm and impulsion. The driver must keep the reins without throwing away the contact

3. Working Trot: A forward, active trot, with the Horse on the bit, carrying himself in balance and rhythm with even, elastic steps and good hock action. The steps of the hind feet must at least be touching the ground in the footprints of the fore feet.

4. Collected Trot: The Horse remains on the bit and moves energetically forward with a greater degree of engagement, leading to an increased flexion of the hocks and fetlock joints and a lightning of the shoulders thus allowing for more mobility and elevation of the steps. The neck will be raised and more arched, with the poll the highest part, the nose should not be behind the vertical, or the neck restricted.

4.1 Medium Trot - between the defined Working Trot and Extended Trot. The Horse lengthens his stride to cover less ground than asked for in the Extended Trot but more ground than asked for in the Working Trot as a result of greater impulsion from the hindquarters. The Competitor allows the Horse, remaining ‘on the bit’ without leaning on it, to lengthen the frame to gain ground, with the nose slightly in front of the vertical. The hind feet must clearly overtrack the footprints made by the forefeet. The Horse must remain in balance while maintaining the same rhythm with steps of equal size. Going faster is not asked for and is a severe fault.

5. Extended Trot: The Horse lengthens his stride to cover as much ground as possible as a result of greater impulsion from the hindquarters. The Competitor allows the Horse, remaining “on the bit” without leaning on it, to lengthen its frame to gain ground, with the nose slightly in front of the vertical. The hind feet must clearly over track the prints made by the fore feet. The Horse must remain in balance while maintaining the same rhythm with steps of equal size. Going faster is not asked for, and is a severe fault.

6. Working Canter: A forward, active pace with regular steps of three time beat. The Horse, showing good balance, remains on the bit without leaning on the hand, and goes forward with light cadenced steps and good hock action. A Canter to the right, for instance will have the footfalls follow one another in the following sequence: left hind, left diagonal (simultaneously left fore and right hind), right fore, followed by a moment of suspension with all four feet off the ground before the next stride begins. The quality of the Canter is judged by the general impression, and the regularity and lightness of the three-beat pace. The Horse must be on the bit and well engaged in the hindquarters with good hock action, and must have the ability to maintain his rhythm and natural balance throughout the movement and the transitions. The Horse must remain straight on straight lines and correctly bent on curved lines.

7. Rein Back: The Horse must walk backwards in a straight line, with the legs being lifted and set down in diagonal pairs. The Horse must remain on the bit, straight and not evade or resist the contact. Transition to the next movement must be immediate and smooth.

8. Shoulder In : Shoulder in for the driven Horse is performed in Collected Trot. The leaders are positioned so that the outside leader’s tail is in front of the head of the pole. The leaders’ shoulders are taken to the inside with a constant angle of approximately 30 degrees and a slight but consistent bend in the neck. The inside hind leg steps forward into the line of the outside front leg so that the Horses are working on three tracks. Impulsion, rhythm and engagement must be maintained throughout. Too much bend in the neck results in loss of rhythm and suppleness. The wheelers must remain straight with no counter bend.

9. Transitions: Changes of pace must always be made smoothly and promptly, with the Horse remaining in balance and on the bit. A transition must be completed as the nose of the Horse arrives at the prescribed marker, unless otherwise stated.

10. Change of Pace and Movement: Changes of pace and movement are made when the heads of the leaders reach the point indicated in the test.

Judged on: The following must be considered when judging Driven Dressage movements: Obedience and Lightness – willingness, response to aids without resistance and correctness of bend. Regularity – the regularity, evenness and rhythm with which the Horse puts his feet to the ground. Contact – the tension/connection in the reins between the Competitor’s hands and the Horse. It should be light and flexible and maintained at all times. Impulsion – the willingness of the Horse to go forward energetically at all times and to respond quickly and evenly to changes of pace. The Horse must remain in balance while maintaining the same tempo with steps of equal size. Straightness – carrying the head, neck and body in a straight line with the weight evenly divided among the legs. Collection – roundness and engagement, with good hock action, elevated poll allowing the shoulders to move with ease. The Horse’s energy is contained in a more deliberate pace than the Working Trot. The haunches are more compressed, the croup is lowered and the forehand elevated to the same degree. The stride is shorter but more powerful than the Working Trot, and the front legs will move from the shoulder with greater agility, resulting in lightness and greater mobility throughout. The neck should be more arched. The shortening of the frame is not and never should be a result of pulling back, but rather of asking and allowing the Horse to move forward into the Competitor’s (Driver’s) hand. Accuracy - Accuracy of turns, circles, serpentines, along side rails, deviations.


Additional aspects of Judging: There are five boxes at the end of the Judges Score Sheets for marks on General Impression.

1. Paces: Regularity and freedom (if Four-in-Hand, Pair or Tandem, maintenance of pace by all Horses). The quality of paces in each movement is marked under the appropriate movement. The mark for the general impression must reflect paces and transitions during the whole Test.

2. Impulsion: Moving forward, engagement of the hind quarters (if Four-in-Hand, Pair or Tandem, all Horses working). The level of impulsion may vary between movements and pace, but the mark for impulsion must reflect the performance of the Horses throughout the Test.

3. Obedience and Lightness: Response to aids, willing and without resistance, correctness of bend, suppleness, acceptance of the Bit.

4. Competitor: Use of aids, handling of reins and whip, position on the box, accuracy of figures. The mark must reflect the consistent level of accuracy and quality of transitions.

5. Presentation: Appearance of Competitor and Grooms, cleanliness, fitness, matching and condition of Horses, Vehicle and Harness. If the Competitor, Groom(s), Vehicle or Harness do not comply with these Rules, or equipment or clothing is missing, the President of the Ground Jury will award 5 penalties.


Approved Tests: Details of approved FEI Driven Dressage Tests are shown on the FEI Website at:  The Schedules for all Events must state clearly which of these Tests is to be used.

Link to ADS (American Driving Society) Training level:

Link to ADS (American Driving Society) Preliminary level:

Link to ADS (American Driving Society) Intermediate level:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 6A, Advanced level:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 1 Horse & Pony Pairs, Singles, Four in Hands, Young Horses, Young Drivers Pairs, singles:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 10, Pony fours, pairs and tandems:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 9. Advanced Level:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 8b. Pairs, Intermediate Level:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 8a. Four in Hand and Tandems, Intermediate Level:

Link to FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale’) No. 8a. Single horse or Pony, Intermediate Level:

Link to BHDS (British Horse Driving Society) to view BHDS Driven Dressage Tests:

Specific notation from the IMEHA:

Extra Credit: Competitor number on bridle and back of vehicle. Spares kit, crocheted ear net, and braided manes with loose tails. Dressage tests are available at the American Driving Society, British Driving Trials Association, and FEI websites. (LINKS?)

Always, please state where the entry is in the dressage test and what level.


Single Horse Driven Dressage                    Pairs Driven Dressage, 4 wheeled vehicle


Single Pony Driven Dressage                                                               Tantem Pony Driven Dressage

Photo Credit for photo’s above; American Driving Society:

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Updated: January 16, 2013