Emily Ham’s driving blog: A day off at the driving show

  • Normally I enjoy about six shows a year, including The Royal Welsh, with my Section C Crossfield Glory. But this year with my MSc to work on over the summer, I hadn’t managed to get to any shows at all. I was determined to make a special effort to support the new driving show at Brecon. Organised by the Powys area of the British Driving Society, I trusted Crossfield Glory to rise to the occasion, even though his last event had been the Indoor Driving Championships back in April.

    In the end it was touch and go as to whether we would take part as he lost a shoe playing in the field. Marc Jones, my farrier, saved the day and put the shoe back on so that we could compete.

    I arrived home from Aberystwyth on the Saturday afternoon with all the cleaning to organise — first the carriage, which luckily was not too dirty. The brass work, lamps and hames all needed a good polish and the leather harness another thorough wipe over. As I didn’t have any volunteer to wear the livery outfit, Dad was cajoled into agreeing to be groom as well as transporter. We found his suit and shoes which joined his bowler hat and brown leather gloves in the ‘showing box’. My clothes for the ring were sorted so everything was loaded into the pickup ready to go.

    As the trailer is used to carry and store our straw, it needed a thorough scrub out — bitter experience has taught us that brushing serves only to resettle dust over pony and carriage thereby make the cleaning efforts a total waste of time! Then it was time to bath and prep the pony and settle him in freshly laundered hood and body rug and hope he would keep out of mischief and stay clean for the show.

    As our lorry was being used as HQ and a refuge for the judges and ring stewards, we took it down to the showground first thing in the morning and went back for our trailer, arriving once the first classes were underway. The sun was shining and we got ready for the Style and Performance class in the Lawn Ring.

    There was a great atmosphere in the lorry park with many new faces- some at their very first driving show– so we were easily distracted answering queries and chatting with friends from all over Wales and the borders. Little four year old Fenton Kirkland and his adorable Shetland pony Toffee were the centre of attention. With Grandad on dual reins, they competed in three classes and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the day.

    The show had an amazing selection of classes with plenty for everyone to enjoy plus some generous sponsorship. Vintage Equine gave prizes for the Concours and Baileys Horse Feeds awarded vouchers for the 4 championships. Rosettes ran to 6th place with two specials in every class and 12 Osborne Qualifiers meaning plenty of prizes and souvenirs for everyone to take home.

    I was very pleased with how Mr J (Crossfield Glory) behaved as the horseflies were horrible and aggravated by the heat. This season has seen its fair share of horses kicking out in their carriages due to flies, and just as the organisers were beginning to relax, the show had a runaway! A normally quiet and sensible cob was stung and he transformed into a charger. His driver kept her cool and after exiting the ring and an exciting stretch of gallop on the empty section of the field, calm was soon restored. The St Johns rushed over, keen to assist if needed after their quiet day relaxing by the rings, but all was well.

    Needless to say, being Wales, it rained. The heavens opened as the Private driving got Emily Ham,from Brecon , Reserve Supreme champion  had an excellent showunderway and the poor Concours judge attired in her summer dress was drenched by a monsoon-like deluge. It took four days for my leather harness to dry out!

    Luckily it was dry over the lunch break for the Harness Goat Society display of pack goats and driving goats, as apparently the goats are temperamental celebrities who won’t perform in the rain. It was fascinating to find out from the commentary about the widespread use of goats in harness prior to the 1950’s and the tactics needed to train them as working animals.

    Standards were extremely high in both rings all day and classes and championships were hotly contested. The judges were especially pleased by the number of junior drivers across the classes with experienced Young Driver Rhian Ralph taking top honours in the Junior Championship, driving a beautiful country turnout.

    My wonderful Mr J won the Style & Performance and also the Registered Welsh class. He was second in his other classes, the Concours and Open Private drive, to a fine pair of Friesian’s put to a sporting phaeton with liveried groom. We were Reserve Private Driving Champion and overall Reserve Show Champion behind these so it was a successful and very enjoyable day.


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