It was all walk, trot and gallop on Saturday and Sunday March 9-10 at Makotuku Domain when the quiet village was invaded by members of the New Zealand Carriage Driving Association to compete in the Combined Drive Event.

There were 25 competitors and as many judges and marshals from all over New Zealand, several coming from Auckland and Gisborne.

Karen Kendall of Woodville has Chico going through the obstacle course faultlessly.
Karen Kendall of Woodville has Chico going through the obstacle course faultlessly.

Makotuku is part of a circuit for top equestrians whose passion is carriage driving.

The venues include Tangimoana, Taupo, Foxton, Hamilton and others.

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There were single and double carriages all competing in dressage and cone driving on Saturday (the cones have tennis balls on their tops which if dislodged by an errant driver costs points) and the marathon on Sunday.

The marathon took place most of the day, with competitors travelling over farmland close to 20km each, encountering obstacle courses to be judged and timed.

The competition is separated into sections based on the size of the horse and the experience of the horse and driver.

Karen Kendall of Woodville competed on Chico which had only been broken in to harness for three months.

One of New Zealand's top drivers, Alison Cooper on Grey Way, showed her class and speed in the double carriage while local Makotuku and Dannevirke driver Colleen Constable put up stiff competition on Bart.

One of the more unique horses was Boots — named for his white draught horse-shaped feet.

He is a Gypsy Cob, bred originally by gypsies to pull their caravans and now bred at Sunriver Gypsy stud by Julie Coker from Gisborne.

The sport is becoming extremely technical and sophisticated.

The carriage Julie was riding was imported from England last year and cost $11,000.

Spare a thought for the swinger or groom — the passenger on the carriage — whose job it is to lean out to gain turning accuracy and to hang on for the rest of it.

The drivers and swingers say it is really exhilarating at full pace.