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This October we hosted Camp Black Prong 2021 in partnership with the Florida Whips. Camp Black Prong is a fun and educational carriage driving event where participants watched demonstrations and took part in clinics, lessons, and casual competitions.

Photo by Dan Smith Photography

Alan and Maureen Aulson hosted the first Camp Black Prong in 2011 and each year until 2018, to bring together the local carriage driving community for an educational experience. The Florida Whips, a statewide carriage driving club, has been a partner in this event since its inception. Though Camp was not able to be held in 2019 or 2020, this year we were happy to bring the tradition back. We were excited to welcome the 48 participants, 30 auditors, and several clinicians to Black Prong for the four-day event.

Camp kicked off with a driven dressage demonstration by internationally recognized carriage driver Chester Weber and a welcome party with a wine tasting on Thursday.

Chester Weber Demonstration- by Dan Smith Photography

One of the benefits of attending Camp is that participants have the opportunity to be taught by top driving professionals, also called clinicians, with a wide variety of experience and expertise. Many of the Camp clinicians have been driving since their youth and have been competing internationally for years. Clinicians were selected for their ability to work with drivers of all levels, equines of all sizes, and a variety of different hitches (single, pair, team, tandem, etc.). The clinicians were on-site and available for group clinics and private lessons throughout Camp.

The access to sought-after and well-respected driving professionals makes Camp a truly unique educational opportunity for both novice and experienced drivers. If Camp participants would like one-on-one lessons from the clinicians, they can schedule additional private lessons. For over half of the drivers who attended, Camp Black Prong 2021 was their first organized driving event. Camp Black Prong focuses on education, fun competition, and building relationships within the carriage driving community, making it an excellent experience for a driver looking to become more involved in the sport.

“Camp Black Prong is recommended for any level driver,” said Janet Carswell, of the Florida Whips. “It benefits the non-competitive driver by connecting them with professional trainers to ensure that the driving equipment (equine, harness and cart/carriage) are safe and properly fitted and used. It benefits the competitive and seasoned driver by giving them the opportunity to hone their skills with trainers they might be able to get lessons with outside of camp. Camp brings together new and seasoned drivers – growing the sport of carriage driving!”

Camp Black Prong Clinicians: Scott Adcox, Bob Giles, Gabriele Grasso, Olof Larsson, Charlotte Trentelman, Chester Weber, Boots Wright, and Gary Yeager.

On Friday, participants engaged with clinicians for group and private lessons and participated in a derby class with Bob Giles in the afternoon.

Saturday brought the first friendly competition with a Poker Drive, where participants drove around collecting playing cards out of baskets placed strategically around the black Prong property. A special prize was awarded to the driver with the best hand of cards at the end of the course.

Saturday Poker Drive- by Dan Smith Photography

Sunday morning Camp Black Prong finished out with a friendly Team Derby competition. Driving Derby is a contest of speed where drivers complete patterns through solid marathon obstacle gates and navigate through narrow sets of cone “gates”. The driver must complete the pattern correctly as fast as possible without dislodging the cones. The combined times of each of the team members were used to determine the overall fastest team and winner.

The Black Prong property is designed to accommodate drivers, and participants had the opportunity to venture around the property, and school through marathon obstacles in their free time.

Camp participants were provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and stayed on the property overnight in their own RVs or in the Black Prong cottages, with their horses stabled nearby.

Sunday Team Derby Competition- by Dan Smith Photography

“The feedback that we received during and after Camp was very positive,” Carswell said. “Everyone really enjoyed the newly remodeled Black Prong Equestrian Village (the pool) and said that the camp ran well and smoothly. The drivers and auditors were impressed with the clinicians available at camp and enjoyed the driving demo, Q & A session, wine tasting, and the derby class. I would say, Camp Black Prong 2021 was a huge success!”

If you would like to learn more about carriage driving, check out our blog about Combined Driving, or visit the American Driving Society website. Black Prong Equestrian Village hosts several driving events from November-March, you can find out more on our events page.