Emily Ham’s driving blog: success for Britain and throttling back the speed indoors

  • With all the excitement of the World Pony Championships at Pau, it’s been very hard to focus on my studies and uni assignments! Team GB had a fantastic result — 5th out of the 9 nations, but also individual silver in the singles and bronze in the pony pairs. The whole event was streamed live on the internet by Hoefnet and I was glued to the computer screen for the 3 days thinking what good television viewing it would make!

    One feature of these World Championships has been the success of the young drivers under 25. Our two single pony team members — Roger Campbell, 24, and Rosanna Walter-Symons, 22 — drove brilliantly to high placings in all 3 phases with especially competitive marathon and cones rounds. Rosanna won the individual silver and Roger finished 5th overall only 3 penalties behind… as this equates to just 1 ball on the cones course, it shows what a nail-bitingly close competition this was!

    Young drivers from other nations also excelled and Anna Grayston, our bronze medal-winner, was herself one of the first to benefit from the Young Drivers Training programme.

    All this shows how much the sport is growing in popularity and how effectively the training we receive as young drivers sets us up for competing on the national and international stage.

    James Broome, a national pairs champion and international competitor who was 2nd in the marathon at the last Pony Worlds in 2011, facebooked:  “Epic. My French is terrible but I think Roger ended in 5th, which is the highest a Brit has been for ages. Maybe we should all try and join the young drivers as they seem to have the winning formula!”

    With Pony Club now offering harness and driving badges, more youngsters are being introduced to driving than ever before. Anyone interested in trying it should get in contact with their local driving group. It’s how I was able to start driving as I was invited to share a turnout by the Campbells at a driving trials camp at Forest Farm. A word of warning — driving is such fun and there are so many facets the whole family could become hooked!

    Heading indoors

    Now the World Championships are over, most carriage drivers are focused again on events at home. While some drivers turn their horses away for the winter, the majority keep them in light work and enjoy pleasure driving locally.

    Many of us switch from outdoor to indoor competition over the winter and enjoy the thrill of 3-phase 1-day events protected from the weather outside. Indoor events take place from October to Easter, when our national championships are held at Keysoe. This fun way to spend a day is fast gaining in popularity after being started up only 15 years ago. Last season there were 113 events staged at the 21 centres round the country and over 2300 entries.

    All ages take part, with special classes at the finals for veterans, as well as extra young juniors under 11 years old. All ages of horse can be found with extra young at rising 5 years to veterans of 25 who can hold their own even at the championships. Like the drivers the horses come in all shapes and sizes, from Shetlands to Shires, and as with outdoor trials there are classes for pairs and multiples.

    Spectators are very welcome and I would recommend looking on the indoor driving website to find the venue nearest to you and the dates of the competitions — it provides a really good day out! Or message me through my facebook page to find out more. 

    Crossfield Glory, aka Mr J, and I just love competing indoors (pictured). Events are very friendly and you get to meet old friends and make new ones. Since I started driving with my 8hh Shetland I have competed every year and only missed one championship — due to being abroad. Mr J and I have always competed in open pony, qualifying from both the Wales and Gloucester region and Mid Wales, though this year I am limited to the Mid Wales events due to work pressures at uni.

    Mr J is a really fun pony to drive but opinionated. Whereas I love driven dressage he prefers the showring to the dressage arena as there he can strut his stuff in endless extended trot! He works in a good outline. but gets bored or excited easily, leading to loss of rhythm and of course in fairness to him we don’t get the opportunity to practise the test in between events. I was therefore very pleased to win the best dressage of the day at the October event .

    He adores the cones and obstacles and is extremely agile and manoeuvrable. We do have to steady ourselves in the cones, which runs to optimum time indoors as we both like to go round as fast as we can! Getting 12 penalties for finishing the course under time at the event was annoying, but I just hadn’t realised we were going so fast. It takes a while to adjust from the national open pony outdoor events where the time allowed is tight and you have to canter a lot of the course. We had a blast around the obstacles though, recording the fastest times of the day and best overall score.

    Tremendous fun!


    Full report on the World Pony Championships in H&H next week, out 14 November. 

    Emily’s first blog for H&H

    Emily’s facebook page

    You may like...