Short History of the American Driving Society
Natasha Grigg, July 14, 2006
The sport of carriage driving is thriving in our country. It is not a
large sport like the Hunters or the Reining Horses, but has been steadily
growing, especially since the inception of the American Driving Society,
which came into being in 1974.
Actually, there are two carriage driving organizations in the U.S. –
the Carriage Association of America,
known as the CAA and the American Driving Society, the ADS.
The CAA was the first carriage association in this country, founded in
1960 by twelve people. The main interest of this group was and is the
preservation, restoration and exhibition of antique carriages, as well
as historical data on the origins of particular vehicles and the history
of horse drawn vehicles.
The first Carriage Journal was published in 1963,
with Paul Downing as editor. After Tom Ryder became editor, he encouraged
more interest in horses as well.
In the early seventies, a number of members of the CAA wished for better
guidelines and consistency in the judging of pleasure shows. A meeting
was held at the Greenbriar in North Carolina in conjunction with a CAA
meeting to discuss this. There was no real interest at that time on
the part of the CAA in the driving horse, so a group got together in
1974 at the Stonybrook, Long Island driving show to form an organization –
the ADS – patterned after the BDS (the British Driving Society).
Interested people were invited to join – they were the Founding
Members – and they contributed money to start the Society. About
35 people did so. A sportswriter for a Connecticut newspaper, Charles
Kellogg, became the volunteer editor of the WHIP, the official publication
of the ADS. This journal was the glue that kept the fledgling membership
together and growing. The WHIP is now edited by Abbie Trexler. The
WHIP has won numerous awards in multiple categories. In fact, there
are 12 publications annually: four WHIPS and eight WHEELHORSES, the
WHEELHORSE being the newsletter, is a tip of the hat to our Canadian
brethren, being the name of the former newsletter of the Canadian
These Founding Members devised Pleasure Driving rules that created “working
classes” which emphasize the horse, and “reinsmanship classes”
with emphasis on the good driver, so that not only the most expensive
harness and antique turnout would always win. Driving Patterns, precursors
of the driven dressage tests were developed. There were guidelines to
driving in the AHSA (now USEF) rulebook, but they largely pertained to
show ring breed driving, so an ADS committee was formed to revise these
these rules and to submit them to the AHSA for their 1975/76 rule book.
A Licensed Officials Committee was established to help make judging more
uniform, a handbook was published to spell out some of the requirements
for a fair competition. And thus the seeds for competitive driving in
this country took root and began to grow.
More and more pleasure shows sprung up around the country, mainly in the
Northeast. Some like Walnut Hill and Lorenzo still take place and have
grown into destinations. Many other wonderful ones have ceased to exist.
There are also now some superb newer shows in Pennsylvania, Tennessee
and other points South as well as in the Midwest and California.
In the early seventies, Phillip Hofmann, CEO of Johnson and Johnson,
bought a four-in-hand and went to Europe. There he met HRH Prince Philip,
who was giving up polo for driving and was helping create a new sport,
Combined Driving, using rules based on Combined Training (Eventing). Mr.
Hofmann was quite taken with all of this, came home, and organized the
first Combined Driving Event (CDE) in the United States in Johnson Park
in Bedminster, N.J. He was to become the first president of the ADS. Soon
after that, Victor Shone, a Welshman, living and training horses in Millbrook,
N.Y., started a CDE there as well, and it continued for many years. Deirdre
Pirie and Holly Pulsifer who were pleasure driving singles, pairs and
fours of ponies, went to England at about this time and there they met
George Bowman, the English 4-in-hand champion. George took them to a CDE
and they came home to organize the first Myopia Driving Event in 1975
in conjunction with Ledyard, a combined training event in Wenham, Massachusetts,
to which Princess Anne had come to compete, attracting much attention
to both the riding and driving competitions. The Myopia Driving Event
continued for another 25 years, still holding the record for the longest
CDE under the same management in our country.
The ADS trains and licenses its own officials and is the conduit to the
national federation driving license for people who wish to achieve the
highest national licensing level which is required to officiate at advanced
level CDEs and to continue onward to become a candidate at the international
level with the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale).
The first ADS rulebook (the Handbook) pertained only to pleasure driving.
Combined driving rules were published in prize lists and varied to some
degree. By 1980 or so, combined driving rules as regulated by the FEI
were printed in the ADS handbook as well. The ADS recognizes numerous
pleasure shows and combined driving events. These come in many formats,
offering opportunities to all – from the beginning neophyte to the
seasoned competitor with international aspirations. We are also a Society
of local clubs and regional representation. We have numerous committees,
seeing to the various disciplines and interests of the Society and people
on the board of directors and committee members from all over the country.
We are a member organization, with the membership having the opportunity
to vote for candidates of their choice and the possibility of addressing
the Society directly during its meetings as well as through its office.
The ADS is a non-profit corporation with 501c3 status allowing donations to be deducted from Federal Income Taxes to the extent allowed by law.