Emily Ham’s driving blog: A sport of variety

  • It’s the time of year when you notice just how many different driving activities there are with national championships in so many categories including pleasure, sports driving and showing. It brings home to me that I have missed so much driving this year working hard on my MSc and dissertation right up until a couple of weeks ago.

    As a short break I was able to get to the driving trials national championships which were held at a new venue at Cirencester. Although I qualified with Alfie, I took Mr J as he had performed so well in the World Championship Scurry & Trials the week before. Moreover, Mr J had competed in my new Revolution carriage, which I wanted to showcase at the championships for British Carriagedriving and use for all three phases.

    Emily Ham Mr JI drove my dressage in the early morning mist and was pleased with our performance, especially as it was Mr J’s only dressage test this year. Tony Mould’s lovely test put him well ahead of the field in our open pony class but second to fifth were closely grouped and so lying fifth we were well in touch for the rest of the competition.

    I was feeling very positive about the marathon, the obstacles would suit Mr J well and cones is always our best phase. Imagine my disappointment when I had to withdraw due to problems at home in Wales after the night’s heavy storm. Oh well – it’s all to play for next year when I hope I can really focus on both my ponies through the season and get to lots of driving events.

    The British Driving Society Championships at Addington featured top drivers of the showing scene with traditional vehicles and well-filled exercise classes. Several junior drivers from my local British Driving Society (BDS) area took part. Our most experienced is 17-year-old Rhian Ralph who has had an amazing season driving Anthea Birch’s lovely Section C Merlin (Penclose Wotsit).

    Rhian RalphI have competed with Rhian and Anthea for the past seven years and seen them progress from a 12hh section A ,Toddi, put to a Bellcrown carriage, to private driving classes with a small country vehicle. Over those years Rhian has won numerous junior whip classes culminating in the championship at Smiths Lawn and the presentation by the Queen.

    Since upsizing several years ago, Rhian is a serious force to be reckoned with on the showing circuit in adult classes. It has been exciting being part of their project to get Merlin going well for driven showing. This year they have been very successful with a lovely Norfolk cart with many local championships. It was wonderful to end the season winning the National Junior Championships for 15 -17 year olds and coming second in the country vehicle class at Addington.

    The Welsh Trec Championships are coming up and offer yet another form of driving competition. This is perfect for the day-to-day driver who wants to show practical skills in a less pressurised event than trials, scurry or showing.

    Driven Trec is very popular in Wales and each BDS area holds an event with qualifiers for the annual Welsh championship. For more information on this enjoyable activity please see my blog from 18 April on Trec.

    This year the championships are being held at Pembrey Country Park in South Wales so the drive and orienteering will encompass the wonderful scenery of parkland, lanes and coast with driving on the beach. The skills phase involves some cones and hazards but as it is judged on skill and obedience not speed it is far removed from fast paced action of the two recent scurry championships and scurry and trials. Any type of equine and any driver can enjoy and succeed at Trec.

    Mr J Emily HamBut the excitement of fast competition driving is not over! As some driving ponies are turned away or prepare for a winter season of pleasure driving others, like Alfie and Mr J, are all set for an exciting indoor season of one-day driving trials which has already started!


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