This class includes two types of Marathon Driving: Combined Driving Marathon, and Pleasure Driving Marathon. Rules common to both events are listed first; rules specific to each event are listed separately below. Marathons are a test of the fitness and stamina of the horses, and the skill and horsemanship of the driver. There is a vet check and sometimes a rest stop. Please state which kind of marathon the entry depicts in the description.

Judged On: Fitness and stamina of the horses; skill of the driver. Singles, pairs, tandems, and four-in-hand teams may compete. AND -

Combined Driving: Horses may take any gait through obstacles (no cantering in obstacles in Training Level) but must trot the last 500 meters. Gaits used: Section A- free pace, Section B- walk, Section C- trot, Section D (no obstacles) - compulsory walk, Section E- free (except last 500 meters are compulsory trot). Section E is the obstacle phase and tends to be the favorite among model horse exhibitors.

Pleasure Marathon: Overall presentation of turnout. Gaits are walk and trot; a few strides of canter or gallop are allowed. The last kilometer must be at a trot.

Required Equipment: Marathon Obstacle and harness suitable for use in a marathon- see below for details. Breeching is required if the vehicle has no brakes. Harness is usually black. Buckled-on traces are preferred but not required. Bridle with noseband, browband, throatlatch, bit, blinkers, and brown or half brown reins. Liverpool bits with a curb chain are customary, but other bits are allowed. Obstacles may have dislodgeable elements as long as they are safe. Obstacles may be natural or artificial, including natural terrain, sharp turns, water, steep hills, gates, trees, low bridges, etc. Obstacles must be marked with a number and have at least one lettered gate with red and white markers. (See the “extra credit” section for more details) AND -

Combined Driving: Marathon harness or sturdy pleasure-type harness with collar, breastcollar, or brollar (combination of collar and breastcollar). Four-wheeled marathon carts (often metal) are suggested for Preliminary Level and above.

Pleasure Marathon: Sturdy pleasure-type harness with collar or breastcollar. Vehicles should be the same types used for dressage or pleasure harness classes but must be sturdy, and may have two or four wheels. Meadowbrook or similar carts are common and antique carriages are allowed.

Optional: All types of protective boots and wraps are allowed. Pads under the breeching, breastcollar, or backpad are acceptable. Combined Driving carts may have short shafts ending in rings so that the harness may be buckled directly to the shafts instead of using tug loops. Pleasure Marathon obstacles may be either the same type as in Combined Driving, or the course may be designed with a smooth track where possible to be gentler on antique vehicles.

Driver: A hat or helmet is required. AND -

Combined Driving: Driver and grooms may wear informal clothing, but not shorts. Helmets and body protectors are highly suggested. Competitor number bibs may be worn. Grooms may stand behind the driver if the cart allows. Whips are optional.

Pleasure Marathon: Clothing is neat and conservative, with a jacket and slacks or suit, or national dress suggested for both men and women. A whip in hand, hat or helmet, apron and gloves are required. Grooms must be attired with the standard dress code. Grooms may not stand behind the driver. A driver without a whip in hand or carrying a whip of incorrect length may be severely penalized. Whips should be long enough to reach the farthest horse’s shoulders with the lash.

Prohibited: Pneumatic tires above Training Level. Check reins of any type (sidechecks allowed in Training Level only). Water obstacles in Training or Preliminary Levels. Bitless bridles. Fine Harness-type carts. Flimsy harness or vehicles. Driving through obstacle gates in the wrong direction without “clearing” them first by driving through in the correct order. AND -

Combined Driving: No fancy pleasure vehicles.

Pleasure Marathon: No bridges or zigzag obstacles in Training level. No combined driving marathon carts. No prolonged canter or gallop. Driver must carry a whip.

Extra Credit: Spares kit. Crocheted ear net. Color schemes carried out with clothing, boots, vehicle and/or pads. Referee sitting next to driver. A groom on the back leaning around corners. Ground or Obstacle Observers. Competitor numbers visible on bridle and/or back of vehicle. “Greased” legs and chest of horse to prevent “hang ups”. Written course illustrations showing hazards and gates. Timing devices at start or finish. Correctly marked obstacles (see below):

  1. Obstacle Number – located on the post of the red flag at the entry of the obstacle. There are 6 to 8 obstacles per course.

  2. Compulsory Gates in an Obstacle – red on the right and white on the left; lettered A, B, C, etc. (3-6 gates per obstacle)

  3. Level Markers – the colors listed are standard; the shapes are suggested but not required. Numbers may be white or black for maximum contrast.

  • Training – White OR Black background – Diamond

  • Preliminary – Green background – Square

  • Intermediate – Red background – Circle

  • Advanced – Blue background - Triangle

  • Very Small Equine (VSE) – Purple background – Hexagonal or Octagonal (if VSE has a separate course, both a purple marker and a division marker as listed above are used)

  1. Other Markers: Course Turning Flags or Gates (red on the right and white on the left; numbered consecutively in each section), Directional Markers (yellow; placed on the right side of the track, with a confirmational arrow after every significant turn), kilometer markers.

Photo Credit:

Combined entry from Joanna Richardson and Bette Thatcher of OF and CM Breyer Indian Pony and Breyer Leopard Ranch Horse. Both ladies made the harness.

Photo Credit:

Western Pleasure Arabian Breed Entry

Close up of the Richardson and Thatcher entry just heading into water hazard.

Photo Credit:

Negotiating a sharp turn through marked gates and poles.

Photo Credit:

A different angle of team, driver and groomsmen negotiating turn into gates. Note the groomsmen bending and changing position on back of vechicle to balnace it's weight and help speed the horse turn the obstacles.

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Updated: January 17, 2013