Wicked weather on Friday and Saturday didn't stop the Laurels At Landhope in London Grove combined driving event. Horses and drivers did their best to ignore the mud this weekend, and so did the spectators who came out to watch them and enjoy a variety of drier attractions.

Weather was not a deterrent for spectators like Tara Dougherty of Doylestown, who saw a poster and decided to come to the event in Saturday's rain. This is the first time Dougherty has been to a combined driving event, and she was impressed by the action.

"This area is great for equestrian activities," Dougherty said. "It's really interesting. It's interesting to watch the riders as they cue the horses through the obstacles."

Combined Driving is a three-phase international sport that combines the precision of dressage with cross-country obstacles and a tight turning obstacle course through traffic-style cones set just centimeters wider than the axle of the carriages.

The Laurels at Landhope is a major national competition for the sport, drawing drivers using one, two, or four horses or ponies from across the U.S. and Canada. This year, The Laurels is also a qualifying event for four-in-hand drivers who hope to take their teams of horses to the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky.

Normally, only one or two water obstacles are on The Laurels course. But this year they have been supplemented by puddles and mud. Drivers began the event in the rain Friday with the dressage phase of the competition. A few dropped out of Saturday's cross-country obstacles phase because of muddy conditions, but there was still a good field of entries to tackle the course.

In consideration of the weather and the difficulty the horses had with the mud, the event organizers shortened Saturday's course and allowed more time. They also eliminated two of the obstacles, but kept in the exciting water hazard and bridge that is located near the main spectator's area. Competition finished up Sunday with sunny skies over a muddy obstacle course.

Along with the action of the driving competition, spectators were treated to live music by the Barbone Street Jazz Band, terrier races, a small display of antique cars and shopping. For the youngsters, there were children's games, crafts and face painting.

New to the event this year was a juried art show and sale featuring 80 items by local sporting artists. Most of the two- and three-dimensional works in the show had a decidedly equestrian or rural theme, but the styles ranged from the very traditional to the very modern.

Proceeds from The Laurels at Landhope are donated to the Brandywine Conservancy and Cheshire Hunt Conservancy, which preserve open space and support the Brandywine River Museum, as well as CC2020, The Large Animal Protection Society and New Bolton Center.

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