We’re glad you stopped by to visit our website on distance driving. Perhaps you’ve just discovered MDDA and want to learn more about just what we do. Perhaps you’ve come to check the schedule to see when and where competitive drives are being held or check the results of past drives. Or perhaps you are just interested in looking at some photographs of our horses and drivers at the various competitions. Whatever the reason, thanks for browsing and drop us a line if we can answer any questions or be of service to you.

Fun Day

Fun Day  2003 Grand Champion – John Gurtner with 882 points

Reserve – Mary Ruth Marks with 846 points

6 Mile Drivers
1st – Fay Van Camp & Missy (Standardbred) 391
2nd – John Gurtner & Farrazzy (Arab) 384
3rd – Jac DeWeese & Nora (Morgan)
4th – Larry Schultz & Mikki (Arab) 379
5th – Sara Licht & Bailiwick Nightshade (Sport pony) 376
6th – Duane Rose – Blaze & Beauty (draft cross) Average 375
1st – Mary Ruth Marks & Memphis (Half Arab)
2nd – Cathy Thomas & Adelade (Warmblood)
3rd – Larry Schultz
4th – John Gurtner
5th – Jac DeWeese
6th – Derrick Dupler & Rhia (Morgan)
1st – John Gurtner
2nd – Phillip Odden & Smedsmo Graen (Fjord)
3rd – Mary Ruth Marks
4th – Sara Licht
5th – Cathy Thomas
6th – Fay Van Camp
Gambler’s Choice
1st – John Gurtner
2nd – Mary Ruth Marks
3rd – Larry Schultz
4th – Phillip Odden
5th – Cathy Thomas
6th – Jac DeWeese

By Jane Licht

So who put the FUN in the MDDA “Competitive Fun Day with Driving Horses?”  The answer is just about everyone involved – the organizers, host, and participants.   Even the weather seemed to be playing games with us but only provided a few minor showers while powerful winds and storms hit communities south of the Lodi area where the event was held.  Once again, Richard Loeb graciously hosted another MDDA event and he enthusiastically joined in assisting with the various activities.

Fourteen drivers signed up for our first annual FUN DAY.  This was the brainstorm of MDDA member Romona Radtke, a long-time distance rider and endurance expert, who thought it would be fun to combine elements of the combined driving event (CDE) and carriage driving shows with distance driving.  She was right.

After registration and vet checks, the drivers where taken to hazards one and two, conveniently located along the 6-mile trail the drivers would use.  MDDA members Wes Licht and Jac Deweese had worked with Gary Allen, who chairs the American Heritage CDE, to make certain that this trail would be different from the trail and hazards to be used later in the month by the CDE.  One driver who is fairly new to the sport asked if the purpose of the hazards was to scare the horse.  Actually, no, it is to see if the horse is well-trained and has the confidence in himself and his driver to drive through potentially “dangerous” gates with weird looking cut-outs stapled here and there.  The drivers were encouraged to walk through the routes they would use with their horses.

This writer along with able volunteers Don and Judy Hayes, stationed ourselves at Hazard #1.  Judy and I timed while Don closely observed the pattern each driver used to make certain he or she drove the hazard correctly.  Some of the participants drove through the gates as fast as any top level marathon driver, but most used a slower speed since it was the first time for either driver or horse (and sometimes both) to experience hazard driving.  The first hazard was a bit tricky in that when you came out of gate A and swung around to the right, you could not see where B was located.  A few overshot B and found themselves face to face with C.  Good hazard drivers have good memories.

I tried to take a photo of each participant as they approached the hazard.  However, my first priority was to start the stop watch as they entered the hazard and I did not get a good photo of every participant.  But most of the photos were pretty good and I even got a couple good ones of folks trying to make a sharp turn in the middle of the hazard.  Don, Judy and I stood there silently praying that each driver and horse could make it successfully through this new challenge.  One young horse bolted through the last gate, causing the cart to get caught on a small tree, but the competent driver patiently backed up the horse and then headed out cleanly through the gate.

As the drivers returned they unharnessed and had pulse and respiration checks done.  Most drivers arrived at the finish line within their correct window of time and we were especially pleased to see the good P&R results – a sign that people are conditioning their horses.  All horses finished and finished with respectable distance scores.  Hooray!

It seems that at every event, Romona reminds all of us in no uncertain terms that water and hay should be in front of our horses at all times.  She did so again as a couple folks did not have water and hay available for their horses fast enough to suit her.  And she is absolutely correct.  We are responsible for our domesticated animals who rely on us for their basic needs.  Water and hay for all horses, and ESPECIALLY for distance horses who are doing major work for us.

The interesting morning activities were followed by an exceptional pot-luck lunch, which is fast becoming an MDDA tradition.  A bit of rain caused us to move the buffet tables into Richard’s arena but by then, most people were finished with their meal.

We waited for the rain to subside and then moved the tents down to the cones and gambler’s choice courses.  Drivers could report to either area at will and sign up for the courses.  Judy Hayes and I assisted Wes with his gambler’s choice course while John Freiburger and his assistants, Gerry Millard and Melinda Smith, handled the cones course.  The drivers and horses were all quite successful in the cones course, though it was a bit more of a challenge for Duane Rose because he used a pair and all the other drivers had single horses.

The gambler’s choice obstacles proved to be more difficult for most drivers and horses.  However, John Gurtner, Mary Ruth Marks and Larry Schultz made it look simple as they flew through the course and their horses complied with their every request – over the noisy bridge, through the blue tarp “water,” and backing in the “T” and driving out again without disturbing any tennis balls.  Phil Odden and Cathy Thomas were not far behind and also had good runs.

At the awards ceremony, everyone got a completion award.  We also gave ribbons to the top competitors of the 6 mile drive, with Fay Van Camp and her Standardbred, Missy, winning that category with an astounding 391 out of a possible 400 points.  The hazards winner was Mary Ruth Marks.  The cones course winner was John Gurtner and he also took first in gambler’s choice.  John’s total points for this Fun Day was 882, making him Grand Champion of the Fun Day event, and Mark Ruth Marks was Reserve Champion with 846 points.

We were especially pleased to see competitors with horses not normally known for distance driving, such as Linda Kerr and Phillip Odden with their sturdy but elegant Fjord ponies, Duane Rose with his draft crosses, and Wayne White with his beautiful Paint horse called “Sandy Boy” who was fit and sound throughout the event.

So drivers, be on the look-out for next year’s MDDA FUN DAY so you can be part of this low key fun.  And by the way, no one bothered to polish brass and no one cared!