Lowther Horse Driving Trials

Highly anticipated, the Lowther Horse Driving Trials has finally arrived; welcoming new courses, new competitors, excellent grounds and a weekend full of fast, sporting action.

Long associated with Lowther itself, the Lowther Show would not be complete without its headline showcase. Boasting a 40-year history, Horse Driving at Lowther has always been a crowd pleaser, a favourite with locals and within the Royal household too; with the Duke of Edinburgh often having madean appearance to compete.

Take a look at the information below, we’ve put together your comprehensive guide to Horse Driving and everything you need to know about the sport, the courses and what this weekend has in store.

 Lowther Castle, Penrith

 9th – 11th August 2019

 By Kind Permission of the Rt. Hon Jim Lowther

 Show President: The Earl of Lonsdale


2019 Timetable of Events:


Friday 9th August – Driven Dressage*
Saturday 10th August – Cross Country Marathon and eight obstacles for Horses and The Lowther Derby in the Arena for Ponies.
Sunday 11th August – Cross Country Marathon and eight obstacle for Ponies and The Lowther Derby in the Arena for Horses.
*Please note the Driven Dressage takes place on the 9th August, and does not form part of the Lowther Show. 


Horse Driving Trials Explained

The History

Horse Driving Trials came into being in the 1970’s. At this time HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was the President of the International Equestrian Federation. With his guidance the first set of rules were drawn up, much along the lines of ridden three day events. The first national event held at Lowther was in April 1973 and it has been held almost continually ever since. This event has always played an important part in the Horse Driving Trials calendar and is considered one of the premier national venues and events.

The Competition Format

There are three parts to the competition. The first phase takes place on Friday, when each competitor drives an individual dressage test. On Saturday at Lowther about half of the competitors will enjoy the challenge of the fast and furious obstacles which are the final section of the cross country course called the marathon. The Lowther Derby concludes the event on Sunday for these drivers. The other half of the competitors will drive their Lowther Derby course on Saturday and conclude with their marathon course on Sunday. Penalty points are awarded for each phase of the competition and the competitor in each class completing the weekend with the fewest total penalties is the winner of that class.

For more information about the sport, starting to drive or compete, and volunteering to assist at events, please visit the Carriage Driving Information Tent near obstacles 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the showground.


This phase requires the competitor to present their horse(s) at their best. With traditional carriages or modern carriages built on traditional lines, shining harness and immaculately turned out drivers and grooms this counts towards a score for presentation.

Modelled on ridden dressage tests, these tests are designed to show the skill of the driver, together with the obedience and paces of the horse(s). Set movements such as circles, serpentines and straight lines at different paces are all demanded together with halts and rein backs. The dressage phase is often likened to compulsory figures in ice skating. Three experienced judges award a score for each movement in the test and these scores are converted into a penalty score for each competitor.


The marathon route winds its way around the Lowther Estate, a test of stamina for both the driver and animals. For this section the drivers have a purpose built marathon vehicle which is more robust than the Dressage carriage, with the wheels set closer together and the competitor and grooms wearing their “marathon colours”. Divided into three sections, which are each timed, the driver must maintain a pace which will not tire their animals whilst achieving the time allowed. There are penalty points for both being under or over the set time. The third section contains the obstacles – these too are individually timed gathering yet more penalty points. An obstacle consists of up to six lettered gates, A – F, which must be driven in alphabetical order, not doing so incurs more penalties. Some of the obstacles will also have a “knock down” or dislodgeable element to them – more potential penalties. The grooms or “back steppers” perform a vital role in balancing the carriage to ensure that it remains upright in tight turns and also assisting the driver’s memory of the best route to take through each obstacle. To further assist the driver, the grooms keep careful note of times taken between kilometre markers on the course to ensure that no time penalties are scored.

The Lowther Derby

A challenging mix of cone driving with two marathon style obstacles. The cones are numbered from 1 to approximately 10 with the marathon style obstacles as part of this course. At Lowther, for this phase, the competitors use their marathon carriage to give them greater stability and manoeuvrability thus allowing for greater speed and excitement. The cones are set a little wider than the width of the carriage wheels. Each cone has a ball mounted on top of it and each ball knocked to the ground incurs penalties. Further penalties are incurred for time taken. The driver with the fewest penalties overall is of course the winner.