Meet the Horses
Liza ** Grazing in Heaven**
Liza was an amazing mare. She was an honest 17.3 h.h. She was a branded Holsteiner (warmblood). Because of the brand, I was able to trace her history. Therefore, I discovered she had been the 1994 National Champion Combined Driving Event horse!
Combined Driving is a sport patterned after Combined Training, aka “Eventing”. The scores from all three phases – dressage, cross-country, and stadium – are tallied, and a single winner is pronounced over all, based on the least number of penalty points and time faults. For driving, the dressage ring is wider, to accommodate the turning radius of carriages. And the obstacles, rather than being jumps (because wouldn’t that be more than a trifle amusing, having a carriage going over jumps?) are “hazards”. In the cross country phase, these are stout panels or timbers or hedges, set at awkward angles, around which tight turns must be made, sometimes crossing also through water. In stadium, there is a timed pattern around and through narrowly-spaced plastic orange traffic-control cones, with tennis balls perched atop of them, so that if the carriage wheels touch the cones’ bases, the balls will fall, signifying to the judges (sitting at some distance) a penalty must be made.
Having learned of her past, I immediately set about finding a harness and carriage to purchase. I was lucky in this endeavor. Although Liza was already 24 years of age, I put her to, and she drove off as if she had last been hitched just yesterday.
The amazing thing about this story is what happened when I reached the end of the road. The carriage I had purchased was a used one. It was of doctor’s buggy design, with roller bars instead of undercuts. That is, when doing a sharp U-turn, the back edge of the front wheel will come up against the side of the box, which would act as an abrupt braking mechanism if it weren’t for the roller bar affixed at the point where the wheel hits, which turns so that the wheel can keep on turning. Unfortunately, on my used carriage, the roller bar had rusted in place, so didn’t turn.
Being up on carriage springs as I was, the driver’s seat yawed hard, and I would have been pitched out sideways onto the road had not Liza felt what was going on behind her, and automatically, and all of her own accord, switched direction to widen the radius of the turn before swinging back in carefully, at a lesser angle, to complete it. Clearly, while competing, her whip must have misjudged more than once, and hit a hazard or two!