Elegance, skill, and teamwork are words that come to mind when watching members of the Prairie Carriage Driving Club participating in one of their events. Carriage driving is growing in popularity among horse owners and there are clubs in many provinces across Canada.
“You have to love horses and you have to enjoy driving. It’s a lost art in many ways,” says Bill Humeny, one of the club’s founding members.
Several equine enthusiasts interested in driving founded the Saskatoon-based club in 1999. As well as helping new members get started, Humeny says the organization stresses the importance of safety — the proper use of animals as well as training and educating drivers. “We’re focused on helping people learn to drive safely. Even basic things like how to properly harness a horse and adjusting the harness to the hitch are important because if you don’t do it right, it can cause problems,” he said.
There are currently about 25 members in the club; about half are women. “Some people who used to be riders switch to driving because it’s a little less physically demanding on the body. We also have young people in the club who enjoy the activity. It’s a good combination of a driving club and a social club and we have potlucks at nearly all our get-togethers. It’s a compatible group that works well together and we all help each other out,” Humeny said.
Members participate in recreational driving and some have been involved in competitive driving which includes Pleasure Driving and Combined Driving.
Pleasure Driving involves show ring competition for horses or ponies in various classes. The emphasis is on the horse’s grooming, appearance and performance as well as the driver’s skill.
Combined Driving has three events: dressage, cross-country marathon and obstacle cone driving. In the dressage, drivers perform a set of movements like circles, figure eights, trots, canters, turns and halts. “In the cross-country marathons there are about five or six hazards built into the course that you have to work your way through, requiring a well-trained and well-conditioned horse and a lot of communication between horse and driver. In the cones course, drivers have to go through an obstacle course of 20 cones with limited clearance within a set time,” said Humeny.
The club has several organized driving events every year, one of them being a fundraiser for cancer. “This year we raised almost $4,000 which was donated to the Saskatoon Cancer Centre for patient comfort,” Humeny said.
The club conducts regular seminars and clinics throughout the year to assist members to acquire better driving techniques. “The clinicians we bring in are very well-qualified instructors,” said Humeny, who has been raising registered Canadian horses since he moved out to his farm near Saskatoon in 1994.
For more information about the Prairie Carriage Driving Club go to www.drivesask.ca.