WRITTEN FOR IN HARNESS MAGAZINE – 2011
Having ridden horses all my life, I decided to try carriage driving and where better than in Wales where there are plenty of opportunities and great facilities, whether you want to compete, venture round the lanes, or explore the Brecons. As I was visiting Wales for the summer, I joined the Powys Carriage Driving Group (PCDG) whose members took me under their wing and taught me the basics of steering, hold the reins, “mount” and “dismount” and tack up.
My very first experience of driving, however, was with a Fell Pony and a Welsh Section C gelding down Kirkwall High Street on Orkney, complements of the Orkney Carriage Driving Group – what a great introduction to a new sport! I was taught to sit correctly and was amazed how obedient the ponies were. Given that there was lots of traffic and things to spook at the ponies walked and trotted stoically on with a novice at the reins as though nothing strange was happening, and Suki Linnitt sitting beside me giving advice and guidance. I was hooked. The thing which struck me most was the lack of contact with the horse, this being only through his mouth rather than control with both hands and legs. I was then given a lesson with a single pony at the Merry Men of Mey Carriage Driving centre in Caithness, north Scotland. The pony was slightly more forward going but again the instruction was excellent and we navigated the lanes around the Castle of Mey without mishap.
Tina backstepping Emily Ham at Cricklewood 2011.
Backstepping Emily Ham of the Powys Carriage Driving Group (PCDG) at the David Broome Centre in May was my next challenge, and most enjoyable. At the next event, also in May, Emily introduced the group to arena challenges, a course of cones with balls on the top and a couple of obstacles. It was very entertaining and a great way to learn, as I had to learn accuracy from the first effort and judging where the wheels were in relation to the cones is quite an art. There often is not much leeway! Andrew Bevan showed me the way at the normal speed of fast trot and canter with his lovely horse, Jack. What an experience and what fun. I really began to appreciate how the horse can negotiate through obstacles and bend and cross his legs in a way I had never considered before. After having twisted and turned through the course driving Jack myself under the tutelage of Andrew, I really began to have fun. This was heightened at an event at Llynon Saddlery at another arena event, with more opportunities for long reining, a precursor to learning to drive. It is important to ensure that the horse goes in the direction you want him to, and this is a great way to learn. Two miniature Shetlands, Spots and Teds, provided me with driving and long reining opportunities, and their owner, Sally Lloyd, was my tutor on this occasion. I am now totally hooked and my two year old filly is already long reining well and pulling a tyre! Both my Welsh cobs will be backed for driving at the appropriate time and I am looking forward to years of fun driving.
Many thanks to PCDG for making me feel so welcome and for getting me started on the basics of the thrills (so far no spills!) of carriage driving.
In Harness magazine 2011