After being turfed out of the offices that have been home to Horse & Hound for the past 30 years on Friday lunchtime in preparation for our move to a new building, I headed off to the indoor driving finals at Keysoe.
Not long after turning up, I spotted James Broome schooling his open pony Fred Bojangles in the outdoor arena. Never one to miss a free ride, I asked James if I could jump on the backstep. He slowed down to a fast walk to let me climb aboard, but I mistimed my jump and ended up falling flat on my face. Fortunately, I emerged physically unscathed, although the same could not be said for my pride as I’d performed my unsuccessful leap in front of about 30 people.
Later on, it became clear I was not going to quickly live my mistake down. I was kneeling on the floor beside an official’s car while helping to measure a cones slalom, when James passed by. He joked from the back of his vehicle: “Oh dear, have you fallen out of the car as well?”
The following day I enjoyed providing some commentary during the cones competition before sitting in with scorer Tom Petitpierre and commentator Phil Nadin during the obstacle phase of the competition.
Having watched Sarah Garnett become the winner of the inaugural veterans’ class and Alan Clarke take the teams division, I spent a few hours catching up with Chariots of Fire Amanda Nisbett, who had tackled one obstacle driving a pair of sheep! Amanda is an amazingly enthusiastic character and helps an army of children, who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance, get involved and compete in driving trials.
Sunday was an early start with a lot of classes to get through. Unfortunately, there was one nasty incident when talented youngster Ollie Dernie, from Amanda’s camp, tipped up in the final open pony obstacle with her pony Prince. As the carriage overturned, Prince’s leg got caught in the shafts and he became trapped while Ollie and her mum, Merlin, who was on the backstep, were thrown from the vehicle.
One of the arena party quickly pinned Prince’s head to the floor to prevent him struggling while fellow competitors rushed to free him from the shafts and harness. Merlin was still on the floor and an ambulance was called. Ollie went with her mum in the ambulance, but I am delighted to report that it was only bruising and mum, daughter and pony are all fine.
During the course of the day I watched James Broome become supreme champion and open pony champion, while Dick Lane finished reserve supreme champion and open horse champion. Lesley Cox claimed the tandems class, Paul Mills took horse pairs with Amanda Nisbett taking the pony equivalent and Dan Wilson was crowned champion young junior. Mark Bell kept his senior junior title, Janet Doe was an ecstatic novice horse winner and Colin Wheeler left as novice pony champion.
The indoor driving crowd are one of the noisiest and friendliest bunches of people you are ever likely to meet, and I left the show with a feeling of excitement for the season to come. The winter season’s over, and Brighton beckons as the start of the summer outdoor national driving trials season.
Read a full report on the indoor driving finals, with photos and further analysis, in Horse & Hound (12 April, ’07)