Arrgghhhhh whats it all mean????


A few people have asked me to describe what they are, the difference between and, I guess the ‘progression’ process from POD’s, to OHCDE’s, and onto CDE’s. So here’s my attempt at explaining such things, my take on the events, and a few handy hints and tips.


POD – Precision Obstacle Driving.

This event comprises of a dressage test, a cones course, and 4 marathon obstacles.  The format usually results in you doing your dressage, followed by your cones. There could be a break, or you could go straight on with marathon obstacles. It depends on the organisers.  You wear marathon dress and a approved safety helmet for all phases, and your pony can wear boots for dressage. A groom is not required for singles, but must be carried for multiples. If you start a phase with a groom, you must complete that phase with a groom. The dressage test for PODs for the 2014/15 season is the ‘North Island POD Novice Dressage Test’.  


The cone course is judged slightly different to usual. There is a calculated time (dependent on the distance of the cone course) and the aim of the game is to come closest to that time. You get penalties for coming under the time or over the time, and for having cones down. Generally, a good working trot is the pace that you want to maintain to achieve the time. I say this as smaller ponies will naturally be able to take a shorter course, making up the difference between their working trot and a horses working trot.

There may be two or four obstacles set up, and you may drive two twice. It is really up to the organisers. If you are unsure about the ins and the outs of marathon obstacles, walk them with an experienced driver, or get the organisers to help explain things to you. You will usually find that the course designer is only too happy to help you out and explain the rules to you.


OHCDE’s – One Hour Combined Drive Events.

This event comprises of a dressage test, a short marathon course of up to 6kms and 4 marathons obstacles, and a cone course.  The format means that you do your dressage, then you do your marathon (including obstacles) and then you complete the event with your cone course. You will generally have a briefing and/or a course viewing at the start of the day, and you will be given an opportunity to walk the obstacles before the first competitor starts. You wear marathon dress for all stages, and your horse or pony is allowed to wear boots in the dressage.  The dressage test for the 2014/15 season is the same as the POD dressage test (see link above).

For the marathon you will be given a pair of times that you are required to complete the course in. These relate to speeds. For example, if you are doing 12km/h, this is 5 minutes per km. If the course if 6km in distance, your times will be;

  • Allowed time: 30.00min

  • Minimum time: 27.00min

This means that you need to finish the course between 27 and 30 minutes to not be awarded any time penalties. Remember to make sure that you have your stopwatch/s with you when you start your dressage as you won’t have time to go back and get them between finishing your dressage and starting your marathon.

As my advice for marathon obstacles for PODs, if you are unsure of the marathon obstacles, ask someone. You will find that most people are only more than happy to help you out.

The cone course is based on penalties as well. You get penalties for cones down or going over the allowed time. The allowed time is worked out on the distance of the course, and uses a standard speed of 220m/min.  Again, a good working trot will generally see you coming in under the time. Unlike POD’s there is no penalty for coming under time.


CDE’s –Combined Drive Events

Held over two or three days, Combined Drive Events are NZCDS affiliated and are run under FEI (international) rules with NZ differences. If you are interested in competing at CDE’s, I seriously recommend purchasing or downloading the NZCDS rulebook. This is available on the NZCDS website.



Have a read through this and you will get a really good idea of the general rules. You don’t have to know the rulebook off by heart, inside out, but, knowing that you have a copy on hand is reassuring. One of the best ways to get familiar with CDE’s is to steward, and to groom for an experienced driver.  I really do recommend you groom for someone experienced at least once before competing yourself. You will be amazed at how much you learn from grooming for someone experienced.


A combined drive consists of a dressage test, a cones course and a three phase marathon of up to 18km, with up to eight marathon obstacles. When held over two days, the format us typically, dressage and cones Saturday morning, marathon course viewing and obstacle walking Saturday afternoon, a social night Saturday night, and Marathon Sunday morning.  When held over three days (typically just the Championship event) the Dressage is held on the morning of the first day, the marathon is the second day, and the cones are held on the third day). The below will focus on a two day event.


Dressage tests vary depending on the class that you are entering. These are set for the season, and are listed on the NZCDS website where you can download copies of the test. For the 2014/15 season they are:

Open Class: ADS Intermediate 3

Intermediate Class: ADS Preliminary 2

Novice Class: ADS Training 2

Training Class: ADS Training 2


For an explanation of the classes check out the NZCDS rulebook, in brief though, the training class is for Non NZCDS members, or drivers that are training young horses.  The novice class is for new, inexperienced drivers. You can remain in the Novice class until you earn enough points from competitions to graduate out of the class, or earlier if you choose to. You can then move up to the intermediate, which is like a ‘stepping stone’ to the open class, or you can choose to go directly to the open class. More information about the classes is found in the NZCDS rulebook.

For combined drives you are required to carry a groom unless you are driving a single pony up to 128cm. (Tiny Pony and Small Pony Classes), where it is optional. Remember, the groom cannot speak or assist in the dressage and cones.

For the dressage and cones you are required to wear an apron, hat and gloves. This is typically similar to showing attire – for example I would expect you to be wearing a jacket, tidy footwear, either a black safety helmet, or a smart hat, brown or black gloves, a skirt or pants to complement your jacket, and an apron. The apron is traditionally worn over top of you jacket, but it is slowly becoming more acceptable to wear your jacket over your apron in less formal or less traditional attires or situations.


Your pony or horse may NOT wear boots or bandages in the dressage, and should be presented to a high standard. You are judged on presentation as part of your dressage test. Once you have finished your dressage you make your way to the cones course. The cone course is judged the same as that for the OHCDE’s, where there is an allowed time, and you get penalties for going over the time allowed and for having cones down. To start your cones you present to the judge and salute (at a halt, facing the judge), then wait for the bell. This is the way that the judge knows that you are ready to start, and the bell is their notice to you that the course is ready for you. Once you have finished the cones, I  generally come back and salute the judge the same way that I started. I’m not 100% sure if this is totally correct but I find it polite and sometimes the judge will let you know if you had any cones down.


That’s it as far as competitions go for the Saturday. Check with the organisers as to when your marathon viewing is, and if you have plenty of time, head out and start walking obstacles. If you can, find an experienced driver or groom to help you through them at first if you are unsure. I will generally return to obstacles at least twice and depending on the obstacle, I will spend up to half an hour at each obstacle each time. For a national level competition, I might return to an obstacle 5 or 6 times, making sure I know every turn, every angle, every option for ‘in case’, like the back of my hand. If you have a groom, make sure you walk the obstacles together. You both need to be on the same page, both need to be expecting the same turn, and the same challenges. It’s a team effort.

The course viewing with typically take you around the entire course, that is, Section A, Section D and Section E. It is normal not to stop at the Marathon Obstacles during the course viewing.

Section A is any pace, Section D is walk only, (then there’s the 10min rest and vet check) and Section E is any pace, and includes the marathon obstacles. Following the last obstacle there is a section of course marked by cones (usually approx. 500m) where you can not deviate and you can only walk or trot, you cannot weave, canter or halt. Make sure your timing is on track before the last obstacle, as there is very limited opportunities to fix it after the last obstacle. When you are on your course viewing look out for Km markers, compulsory gates, and make sure you know what course you are following if there  is a long and a short course. I also make sure that I know exactly where the finish of each section is. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have another 500m or so, coming around the corner and being faced with the end of the section.


On Saturday afternoon or evening, your section times will be made available. Again, if you’re unsure what they mean, ask an experienced driver to help you out, and show you how to figure out your km times.


On Sunday, the marathon kicks off, usually the open horses are first out. You need to present to the steward at the start of Section A approximately 5 to 10 minutes prior to your start time to collect your time card, and complete a gear check. Then your off on Section A. At the end of Section A you need to give your time card to the steward, and then again to the steward at the Start of Section D etc. At the end of section D, there is a 10 min rest and vet check. The vet will take your horse or ponies heart rate on arrival. The heart rate needs to drop 64 beats per minute within 10 minutes to proceed, so your pony or horse does need to have appropriate fitness levels. Once you are cleared by the vet to proceed, you can present yourself to the steward at the start of section E.


Once you have completed Section E, and if there is no 30min vet check following the completion of the marathon (you will be told during the briefing if there is) the steward at the end of section E will retain your time card. You are no free to go and unharness and wash your pony down etc. If there is a 30 minute vet check following the end of the marathon, you need to retain your time card. Once you cross the finish line for section E, I recommend stopping and restarting your stopwatch, as you now only have 30 minutes to unharness, wash your horse or pony down, and present to the vet or the vets steward for your vet check. It is critical that you check in with the vet or the vets steward in under 30 minutes, which is why I recommend stopping and restarting your stopwatch as you cross the finish line of Section E.

After this, your done. Now its just a waiting game until the results are posted. You generally get 30minutes to review the results, and lodge a protest if required. This is a good time to team up with an experienced driver to explain the scores to you. In brief, the lower the score the better, and lowest score wins.


Progression through PODs OHCDEs and CDEs.

I would suggest that there is almost a natural progression from starting out at POD’s, then having a go at OHCDEs and then tackling a CDE. A POD allows you to watch others compete, and allows plenty of time for you to view marathon obstacles and watch others have a go at them. Generally these are fairly low key and attract locals so there is always plenty of time to chat to experienced drivers and get a basic understanding of everything. This type of competition is also great for very small ponies as there isn’t  a great deal of distance to cover. After having a go at a POD I would recommend having a go at a OHCDE. It’s a bit of a step up, but not as daunting as a full CDE. Again there is generally plenty of time to chat and learn. Quite often a club with host a POD and a OHCDE over a weekend, along with an All Harness Show or similar. I would really encourage people to consider this type of weekend, you will be amazed at what you can learn, and how much fun  you will have.


Once you have completed a few OHCDEs or PODs, maybe groomed at a CDE, and got your horse and pony fit enough you’ll be ready and well equipped to tackle a CDE. Entering the training or the Novice class will mean that you do a slightly shorter marathon then the open class (ponies under 108am always do the shortened course, even those in the open class), and remember, there are always people there that are only too happy to help you out with any question.


If your club is interested in hosting a POD, a OHCDE or a CDE, and are in need of help, I am only too happy to help out. Please, feel free to contact me at jen.c.carew@gmail.com with any question or request. I am passionate about the sport throughout New Zealand, and want to see the sport grow from strength to strength. I love the way that PODs OHCDEs and CDEs have strengthened our driving community over the years, and believe that they will continue to do so.  I truly believe that these events offer something for everyone, from those that are passionate about dressage, to those that enjoy the thrill of the marathon.  And, in my own personal experience, I’ve made some pretty special friends, had some amazing experiences, and had a lot of fun, which, when it all comes to it, is the main point of it all, isn’t it?

Jennifer Carew.