Category Archives: Horse driving trials

Sandringham horse driving trials – a double delight

29 June to 1 July

Over 130 competitors and friends celebrated the fact that they could get their lorries, trailers and caravans and tents on the sandy well-drained turf of this scenic Royal Estate in West Norfolk after several weeks of wild wet weather. A breezy week had the advantage of drying the ground here even though the wind showed no mercy to insecure headgear.

There were ups and downs in almost all classes at the well supported national event and the parallel East Anglian Carriage Driving Group’s club competition and this was an important selection event for the horse teams, singles, and para-drivers. An international element was introduced by Australians Mark Peel, driving Boyd Exell’s “commercial” horses (expertly) and Jessica Meredith with her horse pair in the club competition as well as Boyd himself, the reigning World Champion Horse Four-in-hand Driver, and Lorraine Cairns and Elizabeth Lawrence in advanced horse class, and Hungarian Istavan Nyul driving Christine Jamieson’s team in the national.

Two para-drivers joined the club, too, all the way from Scotland, Charlotte Thomson and Graham Smith, with Amanda Saville of Chariots of Fire. Five para-drivers vied in the national event and for selection to the team representing GB at the World Para-Drivers Championship in the Netherlands, 30 August – 2 September.

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Friday was dressage day for the national drivers and Saturday was their marathon day comprising a cross-country course and eight “obstacles”. All the obstacles are solidly purpose-built and offer challenging choices of routes round posts, bridges, water splashes and trees. The club ran its dressage and cones on Saturday and afterwards many people enjoyed watching the national drivers go round the marathon obstacles. Sunday was the national’s nail-bitingly gripping cones competition while the club held its marathon using six of the same obstacles. This facility enables aspiring club drivers to match their times against similar turnouts in the higher level event and encourages them to take the next step.

In the horse four-in-hand class Boyd Exell took two teams round the dressage arena, the second hors concours (“outside the competition”, so the score does not count), seeking the right combination for the World Equestrian Games in Aachen (which he won) the following week. Georgina Hunt’s wheeler caused concern to judge Diana Brownlie and Georgina changed horses and completed the competition hors concours. Wilf Bowman-Ripley overcame his gremlins – a turnover at his “home”, Ashfields, in May – and his typical strong marathon gave the win he needed, Pippa Bassett a close second with “Devil’s Horseman” Daniel Naprous third. Boyd’s storming marathon came unstuck when he missed a gate in the last obstacle and he was eliminated. Mark Peel of Australia drove Boyd’s black and white “commercial” horses smoothly in all phases. They were the only horses he could use and he’d trained them well: weddings and funerals will never be the same.

Twelve-year-old “local” Grace Smith was the only junior in the national and FEI rules meant she drove only three obstacles although last year she drove six and won her class in the club event. She joins the GB squad travelling to the Junior World Championships in Austria.

The smallest ponies taking part were the East Anglian Carriage Driving Group’s Janet Sycamore’s miniature Shetland pair, Sooty and Sweep, and in the national Michael Hodgson gave a polished performance with his team of full-sized Shetlands – attracting royal interest – but missed a cone… Sara Howe was the winner of the pony fours from Susan Skeggs. Joseph Adams took the open pony pairs title and Emma Burge kept ahead of Rita McGregor in the advanced pairs, despite Rita’s speedy marathon.

In the national single horse classes, Matt Were went home to change horses after a minor incident and hauled his piebald out of the field (literally), coming third behind Ellen Littlechild and Sonny Hillier, the winner, in the 11-strong open class. Carole Redgrave and Marisa Pinnock tussled in the novice horse class, Carole victorious this time. Terry Bailey led all the way in the intermediate class, winning by almost 30 penalties. Ben Grose led overnight in the advanced horse class before the cones phase, when Jock McFarlane’s double-clear round put him in front by one penalty: just five penalties lay between Jock and fifth place.

In the advanced horse pairs Barry Capstick, Ireland, was almost 40 penalties ahead. Pat Cooper won the horse tandem class from David Taylor and Fred Pendlebury, the last uncharacteristically eliminated in the cones – as were several more drivers.

“Most surprised and delighted” winner was Inharness reader Linda Hill on winning intermediate pony class: only six penalties separated all four drivers. Tracey Fletcher was eight penalties clear of Katie Eyres in open pony. Sue Mart of Bennington Carriages took the pressure of leading in advanced pony class, Nicola Blandin coming second, but not giving an inch.

“We’ve had such a great time!” said Amanda Saville of Chariots of Fire, who went round with para-drivers Charlotte Thomson and Graham Smith. “This was a big thing for Charlotte and Graham and it was a lot of fun. Charlotte is totally addicted to driving; it’s all she wants to do.”

Five of the para-driving squad drove in the national event contesting for Team GB places at the FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships, Breda, Netherlands, at the end of August. Deborah Daniel topped the class with Mick Ward second, driving Angela Flanagan’s Double Cream. Lucy Barclay, third, is also on the squad. Heather Clark completed but Lindsey Paice (nee Tyas) was unfortunately eliminated in the cones phase, however she will drive as an individual.

Wallace Cameron sponsored the national event and gave generous prizes of first-aid kits. Horse First donated prizes for the marathon.

In a season that has so far been hard hit by the weather and ground conditions, those who enjoyed Sandringham as participants – 130 turnouts – or spectators had a rare treat of a (mostly) dry weekend and exciting sporting entertainment.

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BHDTA National & Points League Champions 2011

It is many a driver’s dream to achieve a National Champion’s title and there are some titles that you can only hold once in a lifetime, such as the National Novice Driver, which makes them all the more precious.

Every title, every ribbon and sash and trophy is hard-won, the result of many years of “blood, sweat and tears”, if not literally then in terms of effort, time, patience, repetition, practice, expense and training, training, training. Every Champion has their Reserve, someone who has worked just as hard, and there are the others in the line-up, ponies, horses, drivers, grooms, family, friends and sponsors, who share in all the ups and downs of sporting achievement and put just as much into competing as the person holding the reins.

Inharness magazine celebrates the Champions of the BHDTA National Championships and of the points leagues of 2011. We are sorry we do not have pictures of everyone yet we hope you will enjoy this gallery.

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Driving Back to Sport – Day 4 – Fenix Carriage Driving Centre

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Kathryn Howard reports on the penultimate day of her training.

“The fourth meeting of the Driving Back to Sport series opened with a beautiful spring morning on the top of the picturesque Blackdown Hills at the Fenix Carriage Driving Centre. Day four concentrated on a third discipline, the marathon phase of horse driving trials.

The morning began with David Brown giving a talk about the theory of the marathon phase. Attendees looked at the marathon carriage in detail, considered the marathon groom’s turnout and discussed preparation for this stage of a horse driving trials competition. David was joined by British team vet Anja Walker who offered invaluable advice on preparation of the horse ahead of this phase, the compulsory halt section and provided informative handouts.

The group walked both a permanent driving trials obstacle and an indoor style obstacle set on the arena. All were then given the chance to backstep for 2008 open single horse UK champion Joanna Broadbent and her world-class horse Alex as both drove the Fenix ‘Castle’ obstacle.  This opportunity allowed the drivers to gain an understanding of how an obstacle feels to a back stepper putting the theory learnt into practice.  After a lunch break in the sun; spent walking the indoor HDT style obstacle, Fenix’s trusty lesson pony Topper and helping pony for that day, Charlie, were brought out to give the group a chance to drive. Unbeknown to the group each drive was timed and with all members driving twice everybody could note their best time; a surprise to all. All were very proud of the significant improvement made.

The day finished with the sun still shining as Mark gave the group an enlightening tour of the carriage building workshops and all had a special sneak preview of the nearly finished restoration of an 1880 Park Drag which will not be seen by the public until Windsor 2012. It made a delightful end to what had been a glorious day attended by enthusiastic new additions to the carriage driving world.

“Thanks for another fantastic day! I’m hooked,” Georgina Bartlett

“It has been a pleasure to work with all members of my coaching group, it is great to have inspired and improved  skills and I look forward to continuing the extended training they have requested as a group.” said Mark Broadbent, Fenix Carriages.

The next and final event will be held at Fenix Carriages on 18th April when the Driving Back to Sport group will be able to see a morning demonstration of all disciplines by Mark and his own stunning coaching and driving trials team.  The afternoon will be spent taking requests for what group members would like to go over. Harnessing up a popular option. The evening will bring all attendees together for a celebratory drink and talk from Sport England.

Find out more or register your interest in becoming a ‘Sport Maker’ from Lucy Cooper at Instinctive PR, 01403 712552, lucy@instinctivepr.co.uk

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Ashfields 9 April – Shortened marathon no bar to para-drivers

The first selection event for the 2012 Para-Drivers World Championships took place at the East Anglia Carriage Driving Group’s one-day event at Ashfields, Essex. Keen to make their mark with selectors, Lindsey Tyas, Mick Ward and Deborah Daniel were undaunted by torrential rain that meant their marathon section was shortened and obstacles reduced from six to three.

With all three drivers competing with new horses Lindsey struck up an early lead in the dressage, scoring 42.84. Mick also achieved a sub-50 mark (49.79) while Deborah had a bit of catching up to do on the leader with a mark of 55.14.

However, she and her own Valeside Galaxy – a seven-year-old grey Welsh Section C pony – went better in the cones section, having just one down at the expense of 6.34 time penalties and then pulled out all the stops to record the fastest obstacle times of the class (42.56). Despite her efforts this still left her in arrears as Lindsey, driving Angela Flanagan’s Charlie Cash, retained her lead after the first two phases and had enough in hand in the obstacles (45.74) to stay in front.

Mick, driving another of Angela’s horses, Double Cream, stayed in second place throughout. The para-drivers were closely watched by Team Trainer Sarah Howe, Chef d’Equipe Rachel Belliere-Wilson and Assistant Chef Chris Van Reen who all helped during the preceding two-day training camp.

The next selection event takes place at the Midlands Driving Trials Group-organised Tutbury two-day competition on 12 and 13 May, followed by Sandringham on 29-30 June and 1 July. The 2012 Para-Drivers World Championships will be held at Breda, Netherlands, from 31 August to 2 September.

Press release issued on behalf of Carriage Driving Sports Group for disabled drivers by Kingswood Associates

Contact Wendy Peckham Tel: 01205 480190 Mob: 07973 218834

Email: kingswood.associates@btconnect.com

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Photos to follow shortly…

Twenty drivers vied for the ribbons at the Indoor Horse Driving Trials Championship Qualifier at Wix EC, 19 February. The frosty sunshine encouraged everyone to keep moving briskly on and, despite numbers being lower than usual, competitive new faces kept us guessing.

Minta Winn backstepped for Carol Heading driving Buster. Saddler Martin Wilkinson did the same for Rosemary Neale, National Reserve Champion Veteran. Terri Malyon drove at her first event with David Taylor’s immaculately behaved Welsh D Alfie. Terri was in the lead in novice horse class after dressage and cones (although David didn’t tell her), coming second overall to Goldie Francis with Eclipse, one of backstepper Boyd Coote’s “rides”. Points league leader Emma Clayden, backstepper Megan Carruthers, was not on her usual form and came third with KWPN Ziggy. Boyd Coote also went round on the back of open horse driver Jill Wood’s carriage and her Appaloosa Kas Endevour, sparkling in dressage on a seriously low score of 18, but Diana Irwin’s superbly driven double-clear cones score put her ahead, with her regular groom Chris Priestley and elegant grey Ulisha. Jill gave herself 20 penalties in obstacle  two and thudded down to third. Professional Ben Grose of Ashfields drove a friend’s Welsh cob (for its first competition) very sweetly, coming second. Intermediate driver Chris Patrick’s cones score let him down and he came fourth in front of Caroline Parkin in a thrilling contest.

Natalie Bradford and Welsh Ronnie the Rocket lived up to his name and beat newcomer Carol Heading’s Buster in the novice pony class in a close contest.

Junior Nadia Hughes, 13, and Dandy, aunt Simone Dhanjal backstepping, pipped rival 11-year-old Grace Smith to first place, Grace and Pickle gaining 20 penalties on the Mike Watts’ designed obstacles, father Chris backstepping: another close competition.

The single pony drivers enjoyed the challenge from the new Bedfordshire event organiser Rosemary Neale, who won the dressage, 27.5, and cones. However Welsh C Sebastian was overtaken in the obstacle phase by speedy Harriet Bradford and Welsh A Capi, father Tim hanging on the back. Harriet won the “driver of the day” with just 171.5 penalties. Tim joined in with Harriet’s pony Templedruid Ginga. Sammy Moncur and “gypsy cob” Patsy were third, mum Donna active on the back. Alone in Club class, Maria Keady drove Shetland Pot ‘oss and her new Sycamore two-wheeler. Multiples were all horses: Chris Smith’s and Brian Burton’s pairs and David Taylor’s tandem. Chris, the reigning National Horse Pairs Indoor Champion, won speedily on 199.2, Brian navigated his 16.2 grey Gelderlanders neatly round and David Taylor showed us how to drive two horses in line: it’s not easy!

See www.indoordriving.co.uk for full results. Call 01473 735732 to find out more.

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Driving back to sport

Driving on the marathon - the Ashfields water splash

Anne Clarke, project manager for the British Horse Driving Trials Association’s scheme to get more people involved in horse driving trials, reported a very good response by the closing date, 11 January.

“Ashfields Carriage Driving Centre’s places are full in Essex and there are betweem eight and 14 places still remaining at the other three centres, Bennington Carriages at Newark, Adlington in Cheshire and Mark Broadbent’s Fenix Carriages centre in Devon.”

This new initiative was made possible by the then Marketing Director of the BHDTA Chris Hillman and a £30,000 grant from Sport England. 200 people over 18 will be selected, 50 at each regional centre, after a day of free introductory training. They will have the benefit of four more days of training over the following weeks costing £74 in total. Top UK drivers who wil be delivering the courses include Wilf Bowman-Ripley at Ashfields, Fenix Carriages’ Mark Broadbent and Sue Mart of Bennington Carriages supported by other UKcc coaches.

You can find out more from lucy@instinctivepr.co.uk

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Indoor driving update – East Anglia area

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The horse driving trials indoor season has begun with strong support at Wix EC, near Manningtree, with drivers from 8 to 83 years young and all sizes of turnout enjoying the fun of this three-phase competition. This is the eleventh season and standards are high for in our midst is Chris Smith of Little Bromley, reigning National Indoor Horse Pairs Champion, driving new horses, and his 11-year-old daughter Grace, a Junior National Champion. Also competing is young Joshua Twitchen, eight, with one of his mother Danielle’s ponies, while Danielle showed us all how to drive four ponies smoothly round the course when she puts her team together. Husband Dan grooms – on the backstep of the carriage – as does father-in-law Barry, making it a real family occasion. Danielle is current Reserve Champion Pony Four-in-hand Driver indoors. Jenifer Barker-Simson of Braintree is our sporting octogenarian with the sparky Welsh D Leswick Lil.
Wix holds six events between October and March, five of them qualifiers for the National Indoor Finals at Keysoe, Beds, 30 March – 1 April. The 31 December event was a fun “world cup”, modelled on the popular continental four-in-hand competition with a course of cones and two obstacles together, which requires skill and speed. “World Champion” was 13-year-old Nadia Hughes, Clacton, with her new New Forest pony Dandy, winning the junior class and beating open pony winner Fiona Powell with Cheverellfield National Secret by 30 seconds. National Reserve Indoor Champion Novice Horse Driver Chris Patrick and dashing grey Lusitano Salvador drove the fastest round but one ball down meant he conceded victory. Brian Burton’s 16-hand grey horses Cloudy and Jimmy won the multiples class against Tod Alexander’s pair. Janet Sycamore claimed the Small Pony prize with miniature Shetland Sydney.
Our next events are at Wix, 28 January, 19 February, 10 March. Please see http://www.indoordriving.co.uk for more details and the announcements forum for times or call 01473 735732.
Fiona Powell
East Anglia regional organiser, Indoor Horse Driving Trials Club

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East Anglia goes indoors at Wix EC

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22 October: six new faces at Wix’s first indoor driving event this season had reason to grin at the end of the day. Thirty entries filled the list and the six first-timers ranged from juniors Joshua Twitchen, eight, driving one of his mother’s ponies, and Haydn Hughes, 11, Danni Claydon, 15, and “grown-ups” Kerry Slack, Lorna Ingram and Danny Millard. There were classes to suit everyone, from the club “starter” class to the championship qualifiers, from novice single pony and horse through open to multiples, which was dominated from the start by Danielle Twitchen (Joshua’s mum) with her pony four-in-hand.

Carriage driving is a sport where all the family can join in and there were three Bradfords, two Smiths, and three Hughes driving, sharing carriages, grooms or ponies, other members of the families joining in. “Scheduling can be a nightmare”, said organiser Fiona Powell, “but now most people enter online and note what they are sharing, so I try to give everyone time to change over and warm up. It’s competitive yet very friendly and we’ll all help each other.”

Everyone performs the same dressage test (called Precision and Paces or P&P), which is new each season. Some drivers threw away points with poor cornering and inaccurate figures however there were many pleasing performances. After the dressage test, a course of ten pairs of cones was laid out and all walked it to choose their best line. There were very mixed results here, as the score depends on hitting the optimum time and leaving the cones standing. Only junior Tor Bradford and Diana Irwin scored 1 penalty and rather too many drivers had scores in double figures. When everyone has driven the cones course, two obstacles – like mad roadworks barriers – were laid out and everyone walked them to learn their best routes. Then the obstacles are driven twice against the clock.

The juniors stole the day with Tor Bradford (15) winning their class with Templedruid Ginga and just 142.2 penalties, chased by Grace Smith (11) and Pickle. Chris Patrick and his Lusitano Salvador overtook Jill Wood’s Appaloosa Kaz to win the open horse class (159.6). In the open pony class, Sammy Moncur and coloured cob Patsy chased eventual winner Harriet Bradford (162.7) rather too hard, and ended second. Novice horse driver Goldie Francis kept us on the edge of our seats as she and young contender Emma Clayden spun round the obstacles but Emma took the red rosette by 0.7 penalties (178.8). Kerry Slack driving Amanda Wells’ pony Jazz took the club class first time out with 197.2 penalties. Danielle’s team was a joy to watch, smoothly flowing and astonishingly accurate in all three phases and she won the multiples turnout on 180.4 against Nina Snow’s pony pair and two horse pairs in a thrilling finish. Rosettes, kindly sponsored by Tay-Dal Surfacing Ltd, were presented at the end along with vouchers from Kingdon Chiropractic to the class winners. Joshua Twitchen summed up his day as “…better than birthday and Christmas presents.”

Our next event is Sunday, 11 December, from 9 am. It’s free to watch: there’s a nice warm café and a good animal feed cash and carry shop on site so why not drop in and see what it’s all about?

See www.indoordriving.co.uk for more details or call 01473 735732.

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Sandringham horse driving trials – “over 120 turnouts”

As he was leaving Sandringham Horse Driving Trials, one of the newest club drivers, Chris Patrick, said, “It’s taken me ten years to get here and now I’ve achieved my dream!”

East Anglian Carriage Driving Group holds its club event on the weekend of the three-day national competition, by kind permission of Her Majesty the Queen. Who knows, next year he could be driving at the national himself.

Where else can you see over 120 carriages and over 200 horses and ponies – singles, pairs, teams and tandems, from Shetlands to Gelderlanders? Drivers to spot included World Champion Boyd Exell, former national champions Georgina Hunt, Wilf Bowman-Ripley, Pippa and Karen Bassett, George Bowman, Anna Grayston, Alan Clarke and others rising through the ranks like locals Harriet Bradford, Charlotte Snow and Amy Last. This was a selection event for September’s World Combined Pony Championships in Slovenia so every point counted for the pony drivers involved and there were some exciting hair’s-breadth wins. Best harness and carriages sparkled for the dressage on Friday, while everyone drove a scenic cross-country route and whizzed round the eight obstacles in Saturday’s marathon. These “obstacles” are permanent post-and rails arrangements through which drivers are timed. Routes can be sweeping and easier or tight and technical, the drivers and their grooms/navigators having to memorise the “gates”, labelled A to F, and drive through them in the correct order and as fast as possible. Sunday’s cones driving competition followed which, as in a three-day ridden event, proves flexibility, obedience, speed and accuracy after the physical challenge of the marathon.

Driving his horses as if on silken reins, Boyd Exell was the overall national event champion with one of only two clear rounds in the cones, the other going to novice pony driver Kim Usher.

EACDG drivers performed their dressage and cones on Saturday and drove six obstacles on Sunday. Club drivers can test themselves against the national drivers in the obstacles: was I faster than Boyd? How quick was I compared with national drivers in my class? Sandringham’s a stepping stone for those wishing to move up to national level and is a satisfying experience, given favourable weather, for everyone involved.

It’s free for spectators. Put next year’s Sandringham event in your diary – 22-24 June 2012. Meanwhile visit the EACDG Championships at Ashfields, near Dunmow, 17-18 September 2011, and see our thrilling obstacle driving on Sunday. See www.eacdg.co.uk or call 01473 735732 to find out more.

A few of the drivers – and helpers

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EACDG Elveden one-day event

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It got hotter and hotter – the sun, the heat, the competition, the mustard in the stewards’ delicious Elveden sandwiches… Lord and Lady Iveagh kindly invited us to use the facilities at Elveden Estate on Saturday for training with Wilf Bowman-Ripley and Sarah-Jane Williams and for a one-day, three-phase competition on Sunday. I don’t know what the arrangement is at Elveden but so far the weather gods have looked on us favourably and the sandy sloping grassland is hoof-friendly and not too hilly for our first outing en plein air this season. Such a huge entry meant that we’d changed the schedule from three obstacles driven twice to four different obstacles (driven once), but I heard not one squeak of complaint. We hate turning people away – but early entries make life a lot easier for us (hint!).

Harry Luff, Technical Delegate,and the staff of Elveden had been working hard to set up road signs, lay out the arenas and dress the obstacles for many days before and it was bliss to turn up and find the marquee up and everything beautifully prepared. David Taylor set out the cones course and Harry Luff found the club’s lovely big numbers and laid those out, too, so even I could see where I was going. It all looked Very Professional.

About half the entry (out of 47, yes, 47!) have been competing indoors so ponies and horses were generally pretty fit and everyone was keen. The night was cold for those who stayed over (especially those who left a window open) and the gas for the catering urn froze but the frost soon disappeared and the day warmed while a persistent breeze kept the horses cool.

John Attenborough and Heather Davenport, Micheal Cooper and Rachel Gallyon judged the dressage, which we limited (almost) to just two tests, 1a and pre-novice, to keep the event simple to organise. We ran two dressage arenas and people went straight to the cones course after dressage. Harry gave a short technical briefing at 1 o’clock and the action-packed afternoon began at 2, with a 7.2kms-section E.

Diana Irwin and her sparkling new dapple grey mare Bella scored the best dressage, 43.6, Amy Last and Cardi 45.6, and Ben Grose 47.6, open horse, open pony and open horse classes respectively. Double-clear cones rounds went to Deirdre Luff, Ginny White (open pony), Diana Irwin, Chris Patrick (pre-novice horse class, in his first event outdoors – but don’t be fooled, Chris is National Reserve Champion in the novice horse class indoors) and a delighted Graham Cooper.

The obstacles had been flagged quite simply and drove sweetly. They were only 200m from the stable field so we all walked them lots of times and enjoyed a good view.

Quickest marathon belonged to open pony driver Amy Last, 28.06 in a class of 10 and Amy ended on 74.19, the day’s overall winner. Louise Garget was very pleased with Kirsty’s third place in the 11-strong open pony class, Anna Goodrum returning to her place on Louise’s Bennington’s backstep. Deirdre Luff ended second and Ginny White fourth. Liz Harcombe, newly promoted from novice class, was unfortunately eliminated and, sadly, had some time faults in the cones as friend Amy had not mentioned the course speed… Jenifer Barker-Simson, icon of East Anglian driving, enjoyed the marathon only with Leyeswick Lil and new friend Boyd Coote backstepping. It was good to see new and new-ish ponies out with Roger and Jackie Driver, Sandra Cook and Janet and Derek Seaman.

Although alone in her class, Barbara Kingsley-Monks had a lovely time with her pony pair while Linda Hill’s Shetland’s just kept in front of Veronica Zwetsloot’s Section A’s in the small pony class.

Among the novice pony drivers Katy Garrett topped Alison Tyas – just – with only 0.15 penalties between them in the marathon, but Katy’s better dressage kept Ziggy ahead. Cathy Gilbert followed then Caroline De Rienzo, Rachel Horton and a delighted Carolyn Bartlett, a welcome “returner”. Margaret Wooding had an unlucky accident in the stable before the event started and withdrew: our best wishes for a speedy recovery go to her.

Another mighty battle was between 2010 pre-novice points league winner Lorna Ingram with Stig and Dean Shelton with new pony Sonic, Jo Shelton grooming, Dean’s mere 6 penalties in the cones keeping Sonic’s nose in front.

Just 3.14 penalties behind open horse winner Diana Irwin was speedy Jill Wood and even speedier Lyn Price was third. Then came the Midlands club regular Jan Grimble then Kelly Jeffery, Steph Richards with her “almost new” horse Tom and a happy Jane and Ben Smith (who are selling a beautifully re-sprayed and re-furbished 7.5 tonne lorry, if you are looking). Clare Iveagh’s HGV horsebox is also for sale: Annette Bond found scoring in there very convenient and strongly recommends its comforts.

Chris Patrick and Jess Hine are hooked, I hope, on outdoor competing as well as indoor, having had such a nice time. I hope that Caroline Parkin, also a keen indoor driver, will be able to join them this season as she had to withdraw this time.

Six novice horse drivers swapped their placings around until Graham Cooper topped the list, closely followed by Fiona Gordon-Clarke of Carriagehouse Insurance and Ian Clarke with ex-trotter Korsa. Unusually, Zoe Napier’s cones score let her down but it was tight at the top. Wendy and Brian Embleton came a companionable fourth and fifth and Yvonne Farmer was, sadly, shown the big E.

Pony tandem class was won by the colourful turnout of Tabitha and Steve King, with a new chestnut wheeler, and second was Martin Yemm and Christopher Bond with a flaxen-pointed new leader. Lone horse tandem driver David Taylor came in safely as did the two-and-a-half horse pairs Martin Wilson and Jacqui Clarke – and Daniel Naprous for obstacle 4.

Wilf Bowman-Ripley and Daniel Naprous of the Devil’s Horsemen took their teams round (most of) the course. Dressage began conventionally enough, then cones were no trouble, however Daniel re-engineered the front of his carriage on a post at obstacle three and was generously allowed to finish the course driving only his wheelers as his leaders were taken home for an early bath. No horses or people were damaged, fortunately. Clare Iveagh took her pony four-in-hand round the dressage and cones but decided to opt out of the obstacles.

The TD Harry Luff, course designer David Taylor, steward organiser Hilary Ray and her band of stewards and volunteers, the schedulers and paperwork organisers, the scorer – Annette Bond using Mike Watts’ new and improved driving trials scoring software – and score-collector Bill Page, paramedic Jon Nice, our judges and writers and the cones party as well as the staff at Elveden, Janet Sycamore for arranging the catering and the restaurant for providing sandwiches will, I hope, all glow with satisfaction at having contributed to making a memorable opening event for so many people at Elveden for our 2011 season. Thank you all!

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