Scurry driving is a fast-paced and exciting carriage-driving equestrian sport in which two ponies harnessed to a carriage race to complete the course in the fastest time. Scurry driving is generally a shorter name for Double Harness Scurry Driving.
Carriage driving began as a necessary means of travel and dates backs hundreds of years. Competitive carriage driving dates back to the 1950s. Many trace scurry driving back to chuck wagon racing and barrel racing. In the United Sates, chuck wagon racing began to rise in popularity, emulating the wagons of the westward expansion. Additionally, barrel racing was a fast-paced sport of agility around the barrels. The sports spread to Britain where they were modified for two ponies and a lightweight carriage.
Scurry Race Structure
Scurry racing is a sport involving two people and two horses. Two horses are harnessed to a carriage with a groom in the back and a driver in the front. The carriage race competition is divided into three parts: cones, slalom and a final obstacle.
The horses gallop through a course with 10 to 14 pairs of cones. Each cone has a ball balancing on top. The carriage must pass through the sets of cones without knocking over the balls. Cones are positioned 170cm wide, while the carriage width must be 130cm wide. Drivers must steer the horses through the narrow cones at high speeds.
After the cones, four cones make up a slalom course. In the slalom course, the cones are lined up in a straight line and the carriage must weave in and out of the cones. Horses cut left and right through the narrow cones. The final obstacle is shaped like U, L or Z, outlined with more cones. These sections have 180 degree cuts and sharp turns.
The fastest team to cross the finish line is the winner, barring any penalties. Penalties are added for mistakes made along the course. If the carriage or horses dislodge the cone hazard, or the ball falls, four seconds are added to the finishing time. If the driver leaves the vehicle, 20 seconds are added. The penalty for the groom leaving the carriage is 8 seconds for the first time, and disqualification for the second.
If the horse, carriage or rider dislodge any part of a complex hazard besides the ball and cone, no penalty is added the first time but the second dislodging will result in qualification. If the timers or flags are disturbed, the team will be disqualified. Teams that start before the starting bell are given penalties on a case-by-case basis as decided by the judge, and can result in disqualification. If the team does not pass through the start line or finish line, the team is disqualified. Additionally, teams can be disqualified for failing to follow substitution rules and passing through hazards out of order or backwards. If a team dislodges a hazard that has not yet been attempted, eight seconds are added while dislodging cones on prior hazards results in a four second penalty.
Scurry Driving Ponies
Scurry driving competitions are divided into two categories based upon the pony size. The ponies that stand 12 hands high and under are generally referred to as “smalls.” The horses between 12hh and 14.2hh are called the “larges.” Different varieties of ponies can be used in scurry driving, though most prefer the Welsh Mountain Pony.
Welsh Mountain Ponies descend from the wild ponies in the moorlands of Wales. Welsh ponies are sturdy and tough. They are able to survive difficult climates. Many of the Welsh ponies narrowly escaped extinction when, in 1535, the Breed of Horses Act called for death of horses under 15hh, because they were living natively on the mountainside. Welsh ponies were later domesticated to do farm work. Farmers and miners alike began to realize the usefulness of harnessing the strong ponies.
Welsh ponies have a short cannon and straight legs. The horses have small backs but their compact bodies are sturdy and strong. The rear of the pony’s body is strong and the ponies run quite fast. The ponies have excellent endurance and a calm, even temperament. Most scurry driving ponies race between the ages of four and ten years old.
Scurry Driving Equipment
The carriage is a very important aspect of scurry driving. Carriages have four wheels and are made of light-weight driving materials. Many carriages are made of a combination of old-fashioned and modern equipment. Stainless steel rims are combined with wooden trim for classic style and modern speed and agility. Scurry carriages do not incorporate spokes with wires or pneumatic tires. The horses are harnessed to carriage using a double harness.
The carriage has two seats, one for the driver and one for the groom. The driver holds the whip and controls the reins. The groom steadies the cart by shifting his/her weight. As the carriage takes the narrow turns, the groom leans in to the turns so that the wheels narrowly miss the cones.
Scurry driving differs from other driving sports in the speed component. Carriage driving, either for pleasure or competition, is generally at a slower pace, in contrast to the galloping, break-neck speed of scurry racing. While many driving competitions have a cones competition, the horses travel at the speed of a trot. The horses in carriage driving also perform dressage movements, and in horse showing, the carriage driving serves to show the soundness and good form of the horses. Scurry driving is the most exciting carriage sport because its purpose is solely to create an exciting, timed race.
Riders position their bodies slightly differently in scurry driving. The driving leans forward in a crouching position, holding a rein in each hand. Some scurry drivers prefer a schooling whip to a driving whip due to the length and increased control level. Many other aspects of scurry driving are similar to all carriage driving. Scurry racing is an exciting sport for any spectator or participant. It is invigorating and fast-paced. The ponies are fast and strong, hauling the carriages and riders despite their small stature. The cones are narrow and angles awkward, making this game a challenge and a wonder.