June 22, 2014 – The CAI 2* is a three-day event combining dressage, marathon (cross-country), and obstacles, and is a qualifier for North Americans for the World Championships. Events such as these keep the traditions and disciplines of the horse-and-carriage alive.
Day 3, the day of the grand finale – The Cones! The name in itself doesn’t sound very intimidating, but in reality it is the most difficult of the three events. Horse, driver and carriage must negotiate twenty gates in the right order and with the fastest time. The cones, each topped with a tennis-ball, are set specifically for the size of competing carriage to leave only a few inches of lee-way on either side. A dislodged tennis-ball brings a penalty of three faults; too many faults and the competitor is eliminated from the competition. Speed is also of the essence; too slow and the competitor is eliminated from the competition. So, picture riding at break-neck speed, steering with a surgeon’s precision, heart pounding, eyes wide, and all senses on high alert, and you might get an idea of the tension involved in this event.
Don’t let the Sunday finery fool you, the team of horse-and-driver are as fearless and focused as Formula One drivers zipping through the streets of Monaco.
Four-wheel carriages demand a “guest” aboard to lean into the turns to prevent the carriage from tipping over.
Skidding and fish-tailing, sometimes on two wheels, sometimes even on one, are the norm.
Traditional horse-drawn carriages are not built of high-tech alloys, but of good old-fashioned wood and metal. The creaking of hinges and the groaning of spokes could be heard throughout the arena. We held our breaths a few times in anticipation of a dislodged wheel spinning off into the distance. As a qualifier for the imminent World Championships in Normandy, France, perhaps this team will want to tighten their bolts, so to speak, just in case.
I was reminded of the chariot-race scene from the movie, Ben Hur, the clattering of wheels, the snorts of effort, the sheer determination of horse-and-driver with one common goal in mind – the finish line. But without, thank goodness, any bloodshed.
In the end, there were no losers; all had competed like champions. Various ribbons, from amateur to 4-horse team were awarded, but the spectators’ cheers gave testament to the spirit, drive and amazing energy of all of the competing teams.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bromont Equestrian Park for giving me the opportunity to cover this event from inside the ropes. If you would like to learn more about them, visit their website at www.parcequestrebromont.org. And the next time you’re thinking about a get-away, come visit Bromont, Quebec. I guarantee that you will return home with the thought: “je me souviens”!
In closing… the smallest horse and the biggest smile…
Tvkapherr, Bromont, Quebec, Canada