Emily Ham’s driving blog: opening doors for the next generation

  • Carriage driving as a sport offers tremendous training opportunities for young participants.

    Those interested in traditional driving are supported by initiatives run by the British Driving Society (BDS) and for those keen on driving trials and sports driving, British Carriagedriving welcomes all youngsters into BYDS ( British Young Drivers).

    As a young driver who competes equally with both organisations, I would thoroughly recommend participating in as much training as you can — you will find both organisations provide amazing value.

    The activities offered include residential camps with excellent training and, coming up shortly is one no young driver will want to miss — the well established and popular Easter camp held at the Unicorn Trust, near Stow on the Wold.

    It’s worth noting you can benefit from BYD training up to the age of 30 — although most are aged under 25. Due to the popularity and success of BYD training camps, many young drivers now compete in driving trials nationally and internationally.

    Of course, others are just starting out and developing skills at club level with the greatest support and encouragement.

    8.  BDS Show Young drivers class

    BDS Show Young drivers class

    Everyone enjoys amazing facilities — the use of the outdoor and huge indoor arena where training sessions are run by top national coaches. The horses have first class accommodation in the immaculate stables, while the young drivers and their back-up crews are pampered with cooked meals.

    As well as driving sessions, there are discussions and driving talks on key aspects of horse care, sports psychology and preparing for competition.

    Camp is very friendly and a great way to meet up with young drivers from all over the country. There is even a “buddy system” where a young driver volunteers to share their turnout — thus enabling someone to drive even if they don’t have a horse of their own.

    Youngsters who are not yet driving, but are keen to find out what it’s all about are welcome and pay a lower “on-foot” rate.

    Camp training is subsidised heavily by Baileys Horse Feeds, which keeps costs as low as possible, while membership to BYDS is free. BYDS has a further camp during the summer holidays — normally at Ashfields Driving Centre with its wonderful national outdoor facilities and marathon obstacle course including a big water obstacle (pictured below).

    Alfie & I in the water at Ashfields photo Sara Jane Hayes

    Alfie & I in the water at Ashfields. Photo by Sara Jane Hayes

    Exciting training opportunities

    This year there are further exciting developments within BYDS with the Boyd Exell talent programme, offering training for advanced young drivers. I have been lucky enough to be invited to take my pony to the first training weekend at The Unicorn Trust. I am incredibly excited about this and the prospect of coaching from the world indoor and outdoor champion. This will definitely be the subject of one of my next blogs!

    BYD camp early training

    BYD camp early training

    The driving groups are always looking for ways to encourage youngsters into their sport. This year for the first time at a national driving trial organised by British Carriagedriving, there will be a special class for young drivers who have not competed above novice level at a regional or national driving trial.

    The spring event at Catton Park (8-10 May) will give the less experienced BYDS the opportunity to compete on the national course alongside the adult competitors for the cones, but with a different dressage test and only section B of the marathon. The steep hill obstacle is omitted for all competitors as it is early in the season.

    The young driver class competition will run as a two-day event with dressage and marathon on Saturday and cones on Sunday for all. There is a very special discounted rate for them and special commemorative rosettes to all competing in the class, with the 12-14 age group earning extra recognition.

    Drivers like myself, taking part in the national class, will be very happy to help the young drivers with course walking and settling into the big event. It’s a great initiative and will hopefully be well supported to encourage other organisers to run similar classes.

    Plenty up for grabs

    The BDS also has national schemes in place to support young drivers up to the age of 18. Osborne qualifiers for young drivers in two age categories (10-14 years and 15-18 years) offer young drivers keen on showing the opportunity to compete in either exercise or traditional vehicles and qualify for the national championships in designated young driver classes.

    Shows are also encouraged to put on junior classes and to award best junior rosettes in open classes. The society also provides a smart rosette for the best junior driver at any affiliated show, whether a local or county level outing.

    BDS schemes run annually to reward youngsters for taking part in the full range of driving activities and the National Brian Sims Award provides generous bursaries for those who are exceptional in their traditional driving skills and knowledge.

    5 BYD Team in Austria won the Junior World Trophy

    BYD Team in Austria won the Junior World Trophy

    Membership of the BDS is amazing value at just £15 a year.

    Training is offered within the individual BDS areas as well as at national BDS camps for the regions — Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    As the newly appointed BDS commissioner for young drivers, I am very keen to develop the network for young drivers within the organisation — especially with regard to regular training opportunities and to ensure these are well publicised. There are some exciting developments in the pipeline.

    Adult drivers can be forgiven for envying the youngsters with all these fabulous opportunities!

    For the young at heart, but less young in body, there are also excellent training and camps available — a future blog will look into these.


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