Management and Care of Scurry Driving Equine Teams

Scurry Driving, as seen in Figure 1, is a fast-paced equestrian event where a pair of dual- harnessed ponies pull a pair of drivers around a course or track on a small buggy or carriage to compete for the fastest time. The general age of an animal to compete varies by how training progresses. Since it is a driving pair, they are usually around the same age. The average age of competing equines is around 10 years old, while some of the youngest pairs are 4 and 5 years old; the oldest pairs are still competing around 16 years of age. Younger horses tend to perform better in the sport.

In the United States, scurry driving is not as popular as it is in the United Kingdom. The competitions in the U.S. are usually governed by the Scurry Driver’s Association, which hosts the “California Scurry Challenge'' for U.S. drivers to get some points. In the United States, scurry driving events are normally done for fun at the end of a “Horse of the Year'' show and other events. The California Scurry is 3 separate dates in May, June, and July that drivers can enter to compete in any of the six scurries on those days. Sargent Equestrian Center (2016)

Scurry Driving Championship
Figure 1: Scurry Driving, Chatsworth County Fair 2018, Chatsworth House, Edensor, Derbyshire, UK

In Great Britain and Northern Europe, it is a highly skilled and competitive event governed by the British Horse Driving Trials Association, with the European Championship being the main goal event for most teams to compete in. A usual course setup is a track created with 10 to 14 obstacle cones that the drivers must go between while attempting to get the fastest time. The cones, which are usually about 170 centimeters apart, have balls on top of them that the drivers must avoid knocking off, otherwise they will be given a time penalty should they knock a ball off. Topend Sports, Science, Training and Nutrition (2017).

A unique quality about the sport is that Ponies are usually put in fun naming pairs. An example of these is “Rip & Tear”, “Salt & Pepper”, or even “Fire & Ice”. Additionally, there are 2 classes based on the height of the horses or ponies. These height classes are measured as first class being Under 12 hands high, and the second class being Above 12 hands high but Under 14.2 hands high. In addition to that, scurry driving is also done on smaller buggies that have four wheels instead of two. The speed of each scurry team is variable based on height and experience, but most all courses are run at a gallop and expected to maintain that gallop. Novice scurry driving teams may be a bit slower as they are new to the event. To improve novice scurry driving teams, this paper will cover the goals, requirements, and assessments needed to make a quality scurry driving team.

Scurry Driving Poles
Figure 2: Nicola McGregor with horse Buddy competing at the 2014 Bororen Pony Club Gymkhana.

A way to ensure that the equine pair can manage the tight twists and turns of the scurry course is the proper groundwork. Assuming the horse has had some prior driving, experience and is already fit for work as a scurry pony, we need to build off the skills they have already been taught. Before beginning the warm-up of your scurry pair, proper grooming is a must as it helps relax the equine. This includes checking their soundness as well as stretching the leg muscles as their hooves are checked and cleaned. The warm-up should include a light lunging session to help stretch the tendons and muscles to prepare for more strenuous exercise. The main component of the exercise can be achieved by working on the timing at full gallops as the scurry pair becomes more experienced. Orchard Scurry Team (2011)

When beginning extensive training for the season, many drivers and owners will achieve the canters and gallops necessary for competition by either using a treadmill or ground driving at a trot and canter with a small weight attached to simulate the cart. This allows the scurry driving pair to build their stamina in steady increments to lend a better performance and time during competition. A way to measure the increase in stamina is to check their cardiac and respiratory rate before, during, and after exercise. As the scurry driving pair progresses in their training, their cardiac and respiratory rate should take less time to reach its peak(s) then plateau during the heaviest part of the exercise; during cooldown each rate should lower to normal levels gradually.

The next part of training is working into full practice sessions with the buggy and a mock course. The goal of this training is to maximize the speed of the ponies to finish the course between one and three minutes as the rate of completion of the mock course increases. This allows the scurry driving team to be more adjusted to the speed, maneuverability, and flexibility required for a competition course. To test how the scurry driving team is doing in training would be to set up a course that they have not galloped on and time the scurry driving team as they complete the course. After regular training exercises and test exercises, a proper cooldown can be achieved with light ground driving, or the use of hot walkers to allow for relaxation of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments used during the training exercise.

To pair with the proper exercise regimen, a proper nutrition program is crucial for a quality scurry driving team. This diet should promote the availability of glycogen and glucose in the muscle, as well as maintain optimal hydration for the competition. A diet like this is best fed to the team four or more hours before exercise. In order to do this, a feed that is higher in energy like those pre-formulated for performance horses fit all the requirements and rarely drive a need to add supplements. The diet ration fed to the animal should also account for the forage needs of the horse. An alfalfa and grass hay mix or full alfalfa, fed to the equivalent of two percent of the horse’s body weight, is sufficient with the added grain feed.

Scurry Driving
Figure 3: Scurry Driving

This type of Eventing is an alternative to the more common horse racing, jumping, and dressage. With scurry driving, figure 3, it is about teamwork between the equines and between the drivers. Scurry driving is a high impact exercise that needs more care and familiarization of the traditional program. The starting point for these equines is best done if they are retired from other programs such as gymkhana or children’s riding ponies, as this allows them to be more familiar with the maneuverability, speed, and attention required of the equine team.

Works Cited

  1. California Scurry Challenge. Sargent Equestrian Center, Sargent Equestrian. 2016.
  2. Caring for Driving Horses. The Horse, 21 Oct. 2019.
  3. The Fast & Furious Sport of Double Harness Scurry Racing.Orchard Scurry Team. Plas Equestrian, 25 Feb. 2011..
  4. Hickstead - Balanced Horse Feeds Scurry Team.Autistic Anecdotes and Photography, 1 Aug. 2019.
  5. Jones. Weekend of Horse Riding Events Capped off by Gymkhana. Observer. 2 June 2014.
  6. Phillips, Carol. Getting Started in Scurry Driving. Horse & Hound, 7 May 2015.
  7. Scurry Driving. Topend Sports, Science, Training and Nutrition, Topend Sports, 2017.

By Chyenne Cihak, Jenna Vergauwen, and Peggy Auwerda.
The report is a project for ANS313 Exercise Physiology of Animals