Kevin Flynn recalls his drive at the 1999 European Show Jumping Championships at Hickstead with Wandle Bomber at the head of a seven horse team
When Bomber first came to the brewery in Wandsworth, you could seeright from the start that he was an extravagant mover and would grow into a nice animal.
We started showing him in 1994 in various combinations; Royal Windsor was his second show and he was part of the four-horse team that won the championship. I knew then that I could always rely on him.
He blossomed as a six-year-old and I moved him into the lead. Bomber responds instantly when I say his name – he just seems to love it out there. I’ve put other horses in the lead but none do the job as well.
In 1999 Young’s was invited to take part in the European Show Jumping Championships’ opening ceremony at Hickstead. We had already exhibited a seven-horse team at the London Harness Horse Parade in Battersea, so when our chairman, John Young, suggested we take that to Hickstead, I was delighted. But how would the horses go on grass?
The opening ceremony was on Thursday and we arrived on Tuesday afternoon. There were seven of us; seven men for seven horses may sound a lot,but not with 14 sets of harness and the dray to clean!
By 11 o’clock on Thursday, the horses were plaited and the hard work on their coats had made them shine in the sun.
The next hour and a half flew; Bomber was the last horse to be hitched, so with a final pat on his neck, it was up into the dickie seat and time to go. The men stood the horses up, I gave the nod to tell them to walk on and they all moved off together. Within 50yd, I just knew it was going to be great.
Approaching the ring, there were a few awkwardly parked cars, but with the team bending easily to left and right, Bomber responding to my every command, they were right on track. All I had to do was sit and enjoy the ride.
The reception we got as we went into the ring was tremendous. The sheer size of the team and the noise of the chains as the horses moved certainly made a spectacle. It is at such times, knowing how much it is a team effort, that you feel very privileged to be the one holding the reins.
We drove round the arena, weaving in and out of the jumps, before being called in to stand next to John Parker and his team. Then the show jumpers came in; the music and ceremony made it special – it was lovely to be part of it.
One last circuit and it was over far too quickly. Back at the box, we stood for a few photographs, then unharnessed and loaded up. We were soon on the road back home.
I have been lucky to drive many different horses in different combinations, from singles to eight-horse teams. Often, you wish you could change something; that time everything was just right.
Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (9 January) where Isobell Werth talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the Atlanta Olympics with her fabulous dressage partner Gigolo.
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