Emily Ham’s driving blog: Challenging tests, triumph for Mr J and Halloween fun

  • October is the start of the indoor driving trials season which runs until the championships at Keysoe in the first week of April. Like many drivers I love these one-day events and so do the ponies!

    This year the national organisers responded to the members’ request for a more challenging dressage test for the more experienced drivers and produced two new tests.

    Emily Ham driving Mr J one-handed indoor driving trials

    Driving Mr J one-handed

    Both have the same floor plan including a three loop serpentine, 20 metre circles on each rein and four steps of rein back, but the open test gives the drivers the opportunity to drive one handed for the deviations and show some collected trot as well as extended trot. The novices keep to walk and working trot with some lengthened strides on the diagonal.

    Having an open test in tune with the national championships for the season’s events is so much better. It certainly helps keep my ponies focussed and interested for the dressage phase. It is far more enjoyable to drive at a more challenging level and is also interesting for the spectators and novice competitors as they can see how the dressage training progresses for driven dressage.

    Success for Mr J

    Mr J has started the season brilliantly with wins in both his competitions – the Open Pony at the Wales and Gloucester event held at Cricklands and the Mid Wales event held at Llwynon Saddlery, Trecastle.

    Mr J flying obstacles

    Mr J flying obstacles

    On both occasions he was calm and responsive in his dressage and effortlessly produced his wonderful extended trot. The new Revolution carriage is superb to drive and makes a straight reinback easy. It also holds the ground so well my dad feels a lot happier backstepping for me when I pick up speed in the obstacles.

    At both events Mr J was superb – driving clear in the cones and achieving the fastest times in the obstacles. I was thrilled with his performance and to achieve the best score of the day at both venues in very good company.

    Attracting a crowd

    The popularity of winter driving trials is evident by the fact these venues are filled to capacity. Thirty drivers competed at Cricklands, enjoying the vast all-weather facilities that enable you to move through all three phases without unharnessing. Fifteen drivers were at Llwynon which is a brilliant venue with an amazing indoor arena, although it has limited parking.

    The appeal is to all, with 16 and 17hh horses towering over Shetlands and pony pairs. Competitors span the ages, from primary school children to pensioners, with disabled drivers able to compete on equal terms. The junior drivers certainly keep the adults on their toes – at both venues winning Novice Pony and heading the leader-board in the classes.

    Emily Ham bog: Winners of the Halloween fancy dress for dressage

    Winners of the Halloween fancy dress for dressage

    The sport welcomes helpers and spectators and for many this is an excellent way of enjoying a winter’s day with horses. Be warned – it is addictive and inspirational – many a small outgrown pony is asked to turn a hoof to a new equine adventure by being broken to drive as a result of coming along!

    October being the month of Halloween there was a smattering of fancy dress to add colour and atmosphere. At Mid Wales PCDG club chairman Peter Sidebottom and his wife Janice put on a superb show winning the optional fancy dress category and mesmerising the delighted onlookers.

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