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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.

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By Jane Licht

The room full of  participants who attended the Midwest Distance Driving Association   Classroom Clinic on distance driving all seemed to enjoy themselves while gaining valuable knowledge about competing in this sport.  The audience was attentive to about a dozen MDDA member drivers who also enjoyed sharing their expertise and experiences through a wide range of presentations, demonstrations and personal conversations.  The event was held February 28th at the WEST 20 Ranch and Saddle Company near East Troy, Wisconsin.

MDDA president Wes Licht welcomed everyone to the event and explained that the purpose of the organization was to educate members about distance driving, to promote driving safety, and to have fun with their horses and fellow drivers on the scenic trails throughout the state.

MDDA member Roger Houk explained the rules of the sport, which are posted on the MDDA website –   He indicated the minimum age of horses for distance driving is 48 months and the pace is set between 5 and 8 miles per hour.  The horse must be able to meet the maximum recovery level of 68 beats of the heart (pulse) and 68 breaths (respiration) per minute.  At the end of each drive, the competitors have 10 minutes to present their horse to the vet for checking pulse and respiration (P&R) and a complete final inspection.

Long time distance rider and event organizer Romona Radtke explained the scoring sheet used by the veterinarians at the drives.  A thorough inspection of the horse, including a trot-out, is done to establish a pre-drive baseline of information.  Competitors start with 400 points and then points are deducted on subsequent vet checks for signs of sore muscles, fatigue, attitude, and poor recovery of P&R. The veterinarian is the judge so it is wise to be kind and considerate to the veterinarians at the drive who spend lots of time checking horses.

Wes talked about cart and harness preparation, and necessary equipment to take along.  His list was similar to those used for other carriage events except that items like sponges, collapsible buckets, and electrolytes are encouraged.  Items such as the spares kit, safety helmet, whip, halter and leadline, and quartersheet or blanket are required and must be produced by the driver during a safety check prior to starting the drive.

Veteran drivers Sandy Rudstrom, Connie Gray and Pauline Stollenwerk talked about their conditioning programs.  Sandy said when she initially tried to get her husband Randy interested in distance driving, he said he would never drive a horse.  But now, Sandy and her three daughters do most of the conditioning of their six horses and Randy drives at all the MDDA distance driving events. The Rudstrom women compete in distance riding events on the same weekends so it is really a family event.

Connie Gray gave some practical advice for a conditioning program.  Horses with a lot of Arab blood in them tend to have long, lean muscles and can dissipate heat quickly, but any horse can be conditioned and successful in distance driving.  It just may take a bit longer.  Connie said to start slowly alternating walking and trotting and write down what you do in a diary since you probably won’t remember it.  You gradually add either speed or length to your driving or riding routine with your horse, but don’t add both speed and length at the same time.

Conditioning will improve the horse’s pulse, respiration and endurance in several months but it will take a couple years to improve them structurally.  They will look fit after a few months but it takes much longer to improve their skeletal system – something that is really beneficial to the horse.

Pauline provided an unusual twist to conditioning your horse.  She feels that conditioning should be fun and interesting.  She pulled out items from her pack such as CD’s that she plays on the road for her and her horse Tony’s benefit, as well as a can of liquid refreshment and her cell phone.  Everyone had a good laugh.

Jac Deweese gave an overview of what happens the day of the event.  He used overhead transparencies of photos to illustrate what new participants can expect at their first distance drive.  He recommended arriving early so that your horse can recover from the stress of the trailer hauling.  Competitors should then report to the event organizers, register, and pick up the score sheet necessary for the pre-drive vet check. He suggested hand grazing your horse when you can to help with relaxation and digestion.

Romona Radtke, also gave a presentation on nutrition and electrolytes.  She said it is important to give your horse lots of grass hay and/or good grass pasture.  She suggested using less grain and instead, get your horse used to beet pulp that is soaked in lots of water in order to hydrate them.  You can mix grain in with the beet pulp to get them to learn to like it.  Romona uses hot water with the beet pulp in winter and cool water in the summer.  Because of a selenium deficiency in our soils in the Midwest, it’s important to supplement your feeding program with this mineral but only with recommended amounts since it is toxic in large quantities.

Horses lose electrolytes as they sweat so you should begin giving them extra electrolytes before the drive.  You can use pre-prepared electrolytes or make your own.  You can add them to applesauce or yogurt to make them more appealing to your horse and use either a syringe or syringe type of “gun” to get them in the horse’s mouth.  Always rinse the horse’s mouth with water after giving electrolytes.  During an event, have hay and water in front of you horse at all times.

Romona said that on the distance drive, your horse is using what you fed him the two days before the ride.  She closed by saying that of all equine sports, distance riding and driving is best as far as helping us really getting to know and understand the emotional and physical needs of our horses.

After lunch, the group met in the large horse arena of  WEST 20 Ranch and Saddle Company for a demonstration of pre, mid and post drive vet checks.  Romona led the demonstration simulating a vet check using Gus, a driving horse from the Rudstrom family.  Wes led the demonstration on harnessing and hitching safety, also using Gus and the Rudstrom’s meadowbrook carriage.  Romona, Connie and Sandy assisted all the participants in checking pulse, respiration and gut sounds using three of the Rudstrom horses.

Final questions from the group were answered.  Wes encouraged everyone to attend the MDDA Novice Ride/Drive event to be held April 24th near Lodi, Wisconsin.  For more information, contact Wes at 608-838-8178 or email him – .

2004 Clinic

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Checking the breeching
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Demonstrating how to check pulse
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Randy drives Gus in the arena
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Elinore Tonsor with award
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Randy and Gus demonstrate harnessing
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Sandy holds Gus while Monna demonstrates checking legs
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Marge Gettleman checks pulse and respiration
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Connie Gray and Sandy Rudstrom explain conditioning
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Deb Dixon does scribe duties
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Learning about gut sounds
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Pauline shows her conditioning equipment and spares kit
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Gary Jackson listens to pulse
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Katz Jackson practices listening to pulse
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Marge Gettleman practices taking p/r
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Randy Rudstrom gets award
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Roger Houk explains rules
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Monna talks about hydration
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Sandy heads as Randy prepares to mount cart
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Sandy and Monna explain the vetting process
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Sandy explains as Monna demonstrates taking the pulse
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Wes explains cart balance
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Wes talks about proper breeching adjustment

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