MDDA CLASSROOM CLINIC
By Jane Licht
The Midwest Distance Driving Association (MDDA) Classroom Clinic was held this year at DiVall Arabians just outside of Waunakee, Wisconsin. The facility has a spacious lounge area and kitchen, plus a heated small arena and a large, unheated arena. Those of us who organized the event used all of these areas to conduct our clinic. We were very grateful to Gary and Sunny DiVall for their wonderful hospitality.
This year our president, Wes Licht, was suffering from laryngitis and so vice-president Jac Deweese took over for him. Jac welcomed all the participants and our members who volunteered their time for this event. Roger Houk explained distance driving rules, which are a combination of distance riding rules from the Upper Midwest Endurance and Competitive Rides Association (UMECRA) and the American Driving Society (ADS) rules. Roger said that these rules are posted on our MDDA website.
Elinore Tonsor showed the distance driving score sheet, which is the same score sheet used for distance riding. She explained how the veterinarian, who is essentially the “judge” of the event, uses the score sheet to document a horse’s pre-drive and post-drive physical and emotional conditions. Elinore said it is important to understand how the score was calculated and to check the math at the awards ceremony to make sure it is correct. Everyone begins with a score of 400 and can lose points for increases in pulse and respiration, any nicks picked up during the drive, any leg filling, and issues with energy, attitude, and manners.
Sandy Rudstrom and Connie Gray gave their suggestions on how to condition your horse. Both ladies have conditioned their horses very successfully. Connie suggested that observing your horse and keeping records of your conditioning program are very important. She said it is good to start small (such as 3 miles 3 times a week) and increase either the length or the speed/intensity (one or the other but not both) each week. Either driving or riding or a combination works well. If you notice that your horse seems a bit “off” stop your conditioning and let your horse rest while you figure out what the problem is, or call your vet for assistance.
Elinore Tonsor talked on the subject of feeding and electrolytes, before, during and after a competition. Elinore recommended sticking with grass hay rather than rich alfalfa, and easy on the grain since horses cannot handle high-protein diets. It is too hard on their livers. Keeping your horse hydrated is very important. Make sure they are drinking well. For short drives, giving them electrolytes is probably not necessary but for longer drives, giving them electrolytes (salts) to replace what their bodies lose during long workouts is necessary for good health. You can purchase electrolytes and mix with applesauce or yogurt to make them more palatable, and you can use a large syringe and squirt it into the horse’s mouth to make sure of the dosage they are getting. Elinore said many distance riders and drivers like to prepare slurries by soaking shredded beat pulp with lots of water and top dressing with grain and chunks of apples and carrots. This gets water into them and helps get their guts moving. The slurry is usually given a day or two before, shortly before and then after the drive, the same as with the electrolytes. Be sure to keep fresh water and hay in front of your horse whenever he is tied to a trailer at a drive.
Jac Deweese explained what happens the day of the distance drive and used colored transparencies of photographs from drives to illustrate his points. Jac explained that the other participants and volunteers will be very helpful but be sure to ask questions. After you arrive and get your horse set up with hay and water, you should register. You will be given a score sheet and told to present yourself (with your score sheet in hand) and your horse for the pre-drive vet check.
After the vet check you will have a certain amount of time before the drivers’ meeting where questions are answered and drive start times are given. You hitch and present your turnout for the safety check at least 15 minutes before your start time. When your start time arrives, you get to start driving on the trail, five minutes after the preceding driver. For short drives there will be no mid-point vet check, only the vet check at the end of your drive. Jac explained that there are often pot-luck meals involved and always the awards ceremony. If you finish and your horse has acceptable metabolics, you win a completion award because in this sport, to finish is to win.
Gary and Katz Jackson had tried the sport last summer and they gave information about their experiences. They really enjoyed themselves and look forward to participating this year.
Marguerite Deweese and Dana Houk organized an excellent luncheon of hot chili, relish trays and yummy desserts. After lunch was over, Deb Dixon and Paul Wasielewski held the drawing of door prizes. There were lots of good prizes, including the new MDDA Distance Driving Manual written and compiled by Jac Deweese. Gary DiVall was presented with an embroidered MDDA hat to thank him for the use of his fine facility.
After lunch, Elinore presided over the vetting-in demonstration, using Jac’s pony named Ashes. Roger acted as scribe and wrote down the readings for Elinore. Next, Jac demonstrated harnessing Ashes and then hitching him to his cart. Jac’s daughter, Becki Deweese, acted as Jac’s groom. The two of them donned safety helmets and got in the cart. Jac drove Ashes around the large arena several times and then stopped and unhitched him. Elinore vetted Ashes again as though it were the end of his distance drive.
Then one of DiVall’s Arabian horses was brought in so that the participants could practice checking the pulse and respiration for both horses.
After the Clinic ended, MDDA members cleaned up the facility and conducted a board meeting. They planned for the Iron Oak Clinic, Novice Ride/Drive and Competitive Ride to be held on April 23 at the Loeb Farm near Poynette. The members reviewed the long list of drives offered in 2005, some of which have distance drives on both Saturday and Sunday. Because of the number of distance driving opportunities, board members decided not to offer a “Fun Day of Driving” this summer and concentrate on the distance drives instead. Volunteers will be needed for the Iron Oak Ride/Drive on April 23, the Glacier Trails Ride/Drive on May 14 and 15 and other events throughout the season. For more information, contact Wes Licht at 608-838-8178 or Jac Deweese at 608-429-3697.