The Driver Proficiency Program covers a wide range of subjects surrounding, but not limited to carriage driving. At the most basic level, the program covers harness identification and fit, safe driving practices, and basic horsemanship. As we continue through the levels, the depth, and detail of knowledge increases. There are sections on driving pairs, tandems and fours, as well as Coaching and competition driving.
The program is divided into three ascending levels of proficiency in carriage driving and horsemanship. The skills and detail required for the most basic level are quite easy to accomplish for most recreational drivers. As the levels rise, experience and detail orientation become more crucial, with higher expectations of knowledge and reciprocal skills.
Level 1 is the most elemental level. Most current carriage drivers can achieve their level one certificate with a little help from a qualified CAA instructor for Level 1 or above. This level covers basic horsemanship from grooming and feeding to safe horsekeeping practices. It also requires knowledge of basic harness care and carriage maintenance.
The driving requirements for Unit 1 of Level 1 are quite straight forward. Candidates explain the harnessing and hitching process, then drive in an arena. Any style of rein handling is allowed. There are a few basic figures and a salute. After the drive, the horse is returned to the stable, and the unhitching process is reviewed, as well as typical after-drive care for the horse.
More often than not, the road assessment is given at the same time as Unit 1 of Level 1. The driver is taken over public roads and is observed using effective communication with motorists while handling their horse and carriage appropriately. The Road Assessment isn’t required to receive a Level 1 certificate, but it is required to move on to Level 2.
Earning your Level 1 certificate only takes a little more than an hour for the entire evaluation. It can be done at clinics, organized drives, or just about any location you agree upon with an evaluator.
Level 2 goes into greater depth of detail on many subjects in carriage driving and horse care. This level has a total of 9 complete units, but there is some flexibility built in. To earn a level 2 certificate, you have to complete 4 required units, plus choose one of the 4 optional units for a total of 5 units of study.
The required units cover subjects such as driving a horse and carriage that are new to you. There’s a short dressage test in which the reins must be handled from the left hand such as the Achenbach, Coachman’s, or Hungarian position. Equine safety and stable management are also covered.
The optional units in this level really shows the diversity of the program. While there is one unit specifically devoted to driving pairs, the rest are about your experience as a driver. Credit is given for experience as driver and volunteer at recreational and competitive driving events as well as driving for the disabled programs.
Being such a thorough program, Level 2 isn’t something that is accomplished in an afternoon such as Level 1. One can expect to take anywhere from 6-24 months to work through all of the sections in Level 2.
The prerequisites for this level are successful completion of Level 1 and the Road Driving Assessment. Candidates for Level 2 must be a member of The Carriage Association of America.
Level 3 is the highest level of achievement in the Driver Proficiency Program as a driver. This level recognizes those who have devoted their study of equestrianism and carriage driving to the level one would expect from a professional Coachman.
Level 3 is comprised of 8 units total, 4 of them required, plus one optional unit. The required units are more challenging than those in the previous levels. The driver must demonstrate the ability to train horses for driving, with evidence of having started at least two horses in carriage driving that had not been driven before.
The dressage requirements are at higher level than that at Level 2, and they have to share their own evaluation of their performance. Their knowledge of carriages and harness must be through, being able to not only identify different types but discuss their construction and uses.
The optional units include pair, tandem, and four-in-hand driving. These are no simple drives in the park. They must be driven from a left-handed position, and require a knowledge of training horses for being driven in those configurations. The dressage and obstacle driving requirements are also much more demanding than in previous levels.
Typically, those taking a Level 3 evaluation are professionals. However, there are recreational drivers who’ve accomplished this level as well. The prerequisites for this level are successful completion of Level 1, including the Road Driving Assessment, and Level 2, including the unit on driving a pair. Candidates for Level 2 must be a member of The Carriage Association of America.