Combined driving was introduced in Finland in 1986 by the owner of Savijärvi Manor, Rolf Simonsén. Combined driving is one of the ten international equestrian sport horse disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). It’s possible to compete with a single horse, a pair or a team of four horses. Except for a horse, driving also requires harnesses, a carriage, a driver and a groom. The competition consist of three phases (dressage, marathon and cones). The scores from all phases are combined to give a final result. In all three phases, scores and times are converted into penalty points and the competitor with the lowest penalty score is the winner. During the competitions the welfare of the horses are controlled by veterinarians.
The dressage test in driving is similar to dressage riding. The test is performed on a grass arena. The horses and drivers are presented in their finest harnesses, carriages, and clothes according to tradition. In dressage all the competitors drive according to a set program. The judge’s scores the driver based on the collaboration between the horse and the driver, suppleness, regularity and lightness on a scale from 0-10. The goal is to make the test look effortless, and an obedient and responsive horse is essential for a good dressage test. Unlike a ridden dressage test, a driven test allows the use of the voice as an aid. The dressage test is the most traditional and restrained phase in the competition.
Marathon is similar to the cross-country phase of eventing and requires speed and endurance. Marathon is driven in two phases. In the first phase they will drive a maximum 8 km track in the field. After that there is a compulsory rest halt and a veterinary check. Then the driver will continue to the next phase that is at maximum a 9 km long track and includes 5-8 obstacle courses. Obstacles may include water, tight twists through trees or man-made obstacles, steep hills, or fences and pens. Drivers are scored on how quickly they can negotiate the obstacle, and must find the fastest route through each. Penalty points are given if too much time is spent in an obstacle, or if the team comes in off the optimum time for the whole course. The marathon is the most thrilling phase to watch, and often draws the largest crowds of viewers.
The cone driving phase is equivalent to the show jumping phase of eventing. The drivers negotiates a course with cones as fast as possible. Each cone have a ball balanced on top and the driver will get penalty points if a ball drops. The cones are only a few centimeters wider than the wheels of the carriage, depending on the level of the class and the type of turnout. Knocking over one or both of a pair of cones adds three penalties to the driver's score. The course may also include obstacles made of raised rails in a U or right angle, and a wooden bridge. The cones section is timed and going over the time set for the driver's class leads to penalties. Circling before an obstacle and refusals are also awarded penalty points. The cones is the last phase of the competition and determinates the winner.