Older people looking to improve their fitness are being urged to try the fast and furious sport of carriage driving.

And no previous experience of horses is required.

As part of Sport England’s Olympics legacy programme – aimed at getting more people into sport – the British Horse Driving Trials Association (BHDTA) has been given £30,000 to introduce 200 older people to carriage driving.

Half of the money came from a sponsor, the rest in the form of a grant from Sport England.

Chris Hillman of the BHDTA said: “Very few sports cater for the more mature adult.

Driving horses is perfect as it requires no physical fitness to start the sport,” he added.

Participants will be sought from the south-east, Midlands, east of England and north-east through an advertising campaign in local media.

They will be taught by accredited coaches, such as Minta Winn.”Driving has tremendous physical benefits,” she told H&H.

“Although you are sitting down, you are keeping your hand-eye coordination working. You can also go in at lots of different levels, depending on your fitness.”

She cites her pupil Carol Heading as a great advertisement for the sport.

Miss Heading, 65, took up carriage driving five years ago after working for a number of years on the Red Cross ambulance at Farleigh House Carriage Driving Trials “watching and wishing I could do it”.

She is now preparing for her first competition.

Miss Heading told H&H: “I have been hooked since the first time. It’s the bond with the animal and the fact that I can improve – and learning dressage tests has done wonders for my memory.

“I really look forward to the next lesson and don’t mind driving miles to get there.”

To apply for driving lessons, email bhdta@horsedrivingtrials.co.uk or tel: 0845 6432116.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 October, 2011)