Emily Ham’s driving blog: time for an MOT for carriage, ponies and equipment

  • Following on from last week’s blog about selecting events for the 2014 season, the next stage of organisation for me is to check and acquire equipment.

    As I compete in several driving disciplines, I try to organise my equipment in strong clear plastic boxes. Therefore as an example, for private driving (and also for national driving trials dressage and cones phases) I have several specific boxes which I keep stacked together. Crossfield Glory and I are pictured above winning the arena challenge at Three Counties and below right dressed for private driving at the same showEmily Ham and Crossfield Glory, private driving champion and concours d'elegance champion at Three Counties.

    I also find it’s really useful to have an event list of things to remember, including extra equipment for staying away, or specific to an event like a dickey seat for the marathon carriage.

    I have a groom’s box which has the complete clean outfit my usual groom needs so they don’t have to be responsible for sorting it and we know we have it all with us. In the groom’s box will be black polished shoes, pairs of plain black socks, a couple of white shirts, the ties they might use to match driver/vehicle, suit, brown leather gloves and bowler hat. I also have two boxes with my different outfits — browns and creams to match Crossfield Glory and the outfit I use with Alfie — along with brown leather gloves , black driving apron, hairnets and scrunchie.

    I keep the private driving harness wrapped in lightweight fleeces all cleaned and polished ready for a final clean the day before the competition. I have a separate box for the lamps, patent spares kit, patent number holder and, for private driving, my dashboard clock. The holly whip is also kept ready.

    February is a good time to check through all the equipment boxes and make sure everything still fits, give it all a clean and check it is suitable for the intended outings! So leather gloves that might be looking a bit worn can be moved across into the pleasure driving box, new batteries put into marathon stopwatches and possibly extra items bought if they are found at a good price! An extra stopwatch might be worth buying for example — in case one is dropped in competition.

    There are still bargains to be had at equine shop and online sales and it’s a good time to stock up on products for presenting your horse well like mane and tail conditioner, chalk, and other grooming items. Not forgetting car shampoo, brasso and equipment cleaning products!

    Horses may benefit from a new cooler or fleece rug, overreach or competition boots. I use Equilibrium boots and training wraps for both my ponies and find these are excellent.

    Driving studsCheck your stud box to make sure you have plenty of the right studs for the work you intend to do. I find SupaStuds road studs ideal for my driving activities, using them for fast work on grass and round marathon obstacles, yet they are also the right stud for the roads and tracks on the  course. Studies have shown that paired studs are much better than singles and I have paired studs on each shoe on the fores and hinds for driving trials.

    It’s a good time to check over your harnesses for wear and for fit. Ponies change shape a lot over the seasons and from year to year so I have different sized bellybands and full collars and take whatever is best for their size on the day of the event.

    Your equine and carriage both need an “MOT” well before the season begins — so you have time to sort out any problems.

    As well as farriery, it’s well worth having the equine dentist out and getting your horse’s back checked.

    Also, make sure your vaccinations are up to date and meet the requirements of the event. FEI rules are particularly stringent and, as well as your paperwork being in order, take care that products you feed or use on your pony do not contain prohibited substances!

    Carriages, although stored undercover, need careful checking over to make sure nothing has perished, rotted, rusted, seized or worked loose. Brakes may well need attention, especially if they have rusted or been affected by arena sand. Wheel spokes must all be carefully checked and the bearings and amount of “play”, to ensure you don’t lose a wheel!

    It is essential to get your lorry, or trailer and towing vehicle, serviced and ensure that electrics are working, the floor is sound, tyres are not perished with lack of use and tow hitch connection and snatch cable are undamaged.

    Alfie is back at uni all clipped and starting his fitness programme for the 2014 season. As you work on fitness you will probably need to adjust your feeding to meet the increased demands for energy. There is much increased awareness of the problems of ill chosen types and quantities of hard feed and worth remembering that nutritionists at the feed companies are happy to provide personal advice for the cost of a phone call.

    Wishing you all success in your 2014 season


    All Emily’s blogs for H&H

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