In April my friend Minh Duan and I traveled to Pinehurst, NC to visit my high school chum Eileen Gilbert and explore her world of horses. Eileen is a trainer and judge in Hunter, Jumper, and Equitation competitions. King and Eileen live in Ontario, Canada, with her husband Larry, but they winter near the Carolina Horse Park. King is too old for competition now. Fortunately for us he still can enjoy a light workout.
If you think his head is way too big in this picture, I agree. I wanted him to be the subject here because of their long relationship. We also thought his lower eyelashes were cool.
There were many opportunities to photograph horses in and near this famous equine center because we arrived during the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event (SPCDE, an annual competition, but more about that later) . Outside of the SPCDE activities, a neighbor staged a week day dressage short school/evaluation in her corral and Eileen introduced us.
Eileen also sent us to the early morning trotter workouts on the Horse Park race course, a year-round activity. The drivers are a mix of owners, trainers, and enthusiasts preparing for Harness racing in Sulkies. Yes, it is common for the younger horses to run with a coarse cloth covering their eyes. Does anyone remember the 80’s slang “Bag Your Face” ?
A Combined Driving Event always involves a driver sitting in a carriage pulled by a horse or pony and is sometimes called horse driving trials. The typical main events are dressage, obstacle driving, and a cross-country marathon. We missed that last one completely.
If you are new to dressage, like Minh and I are, you will be surprised to see the carriage, driver, and horse(s) are fresh from a styling salon and totally in costume (apparently every detail is vastly important: that’s the tender-foot in me speaking).
CDE divisions in the US are Preliminary, Intermediate, and Advanced. In each division the classes are Single Horse, Pair Horses, Four-in-Hand and Six-in-Hand teams. We were told pair names are commonly given to teams (think Dasher & Dancer, Donner & Blitzen).
That is about the total of my horse knowledge at this point. I try hard to stay on my side of the fence and look for the wonderful action created in a CDE. The dressage events can be great for pan motion techniques because the contestants are moving relatively slowly to predictable points in their routines. It’s orderly and tightly choreographed.
The choreography is still strict here but the pace is faster, wetter, dustier and LOUDER.
They also drive through the forest and the fields.
Thanks to Eileen and her friends we learned a lot about horses and the CDE.
We counted all the legs and we know she'll be driving 6 white horses when she comes.