The British Horse Driving Trials Association has announced that it has secured sponsorship from Craghoppers at the 2004 National Carriage Driving Championships for the second year running.

The championships are a permanent fixture in Windsor’s equestrian calendar, and take place in the Great Park against the impressive backdrop of the Windsor Castle from 10 – 12 September.

Craghoppers produce high quality technical outdoor clothing. Their substantial sponsorship of the event will enable the BHDTA to promote the championships, and attract a larger and more varied audience to the sport of carriage driving.

Nigel Dipple, of the British Horse Driving Trials Association says: “We are trying to make it an exciting, action-filled three days. We want to attract families, and those people who could perhaps be encouraged to drive if they realised that it is not an elite and exclusive sport.”

Modern horse driving trials came into existence in 1968, when Prince Philip, who is, fittingly, patron of the championships, initiated the formulation of new rules for the sport.

The sport consists of three different phases. First is the dressage, driven in an arena nearly twice the size of that used for ridden dressage, and a series of movements including circles, half-circles and serpentines are expected to be driven at different speeds and paces.

The marathon, on the second day, consists of five timed sections, the final one of which includes ‘hazards’, designed to test the driver’s speed, accuracy and ability to manoeuvre their vehicles in tight spots.

The third and final phase is cone driving. Cones forming ‘gates’, as they are known, are set only 20 cm wider than the width of the vehicle. Penalties are incurred if the balls on top of the cones are dislodged, or for exceeding the time limit.

Former European champion Georgina Frith makes the transition from pony teams to horse teams this season. Other British drivers who are likely to be competing at the championships include Karen Bassett, David Matthews, Di Hayes, Liz Rowe, and the Duke of Edinburgh himself.