Hello Again! I am so glad you came back today to read the second part of my post about Paralympian Dale Dedrick. Today Dale will tell us more about what she is doing now .
Dale you have not been deterred by a serious heart condition that prevents you from riding horses but you have chosen to take up carriage driving. And not pleasure driving but competition in combined driving! What is Combined Driving?
Combined driving involves 3 phases: a dressage test, a cross country obstacle or “Marathon” course and a cones course to represent show jumping. Like eventing, you lose points for errors, time penalties, poorly performed movements, and ultimately the person with the fewest lost points at the completion of all 3 phases, wins.
What do you wear for the different phases? And can you tell us a bit about the carriage?
For the dressage and cones phases you are dressed in formal looking attire with gleaming carriage and elegant braided horse. Marathon phase requires safety helmets and vests on driver and groom. Clothing can be any color or style. Other than the dressage phase, the rest of the driving is done at speed. Modern carriages have modern shock absorbers and disc brakes (motorcycle type) and use a hydraulic system for foot pedal brake control by the driver to slow the carriage down to make the horses job easier. In addition, modern carriages have a fifth-wheel which is parallel to the ground and allows a modern 4 wheel carriage to bend laterally to corner tightly. This carriage bending, can be slowed and largely halted by using a fifth-wheel brake which the driver or sometimes the groom can control. This can be useful navigating a narrow opening.
How do you manage to do these difficult high speed courses with your physical limitations?
Traveling in a cart across fields at speed is bumpy and drivers stay seated by bracing themselves in the seat. As a para, I can use a lap type belt, anchored by my groom Sara, that is released during an accident. Drivers must carry a whip to help with steering the horse, but I have trouble just holding the reins so Sara is allowed to carry the whip. She keeps me in my seat, helps me turn the horse and makes sure I don’t miss any required turns while monitoring our speed to avoid time penalties. The groom/navigator position is a critical one for all drivers on marathon, but particularly important for a para driver like myself.
So you have not given up horses and in fact you are now taking on other challenges with them as a carriage driver!
Driving has been an unlikely switch for me, but it keeps me involved with horses and their training as well as the wonderful group of people who love them.
And now here is a video of Dale driving Chip on the water obstacle course with Sara assisting . Take a look! You will be amazed.