Emily Ham’s driving blog: a helpful boost as I prepare for the indoor driving finals

  • It’s all systems go getting my 2 boys fit for the events in April and beyond. Mr J is off to the British Indoor Carriage Driving Championships at Keysoe in open pony and I am keen to do the Midlands Group club event at Catton at Easter. After this the outdoor nationals start with the novice qualifier at Escrick and for the other classes Ashfields is the first weekend of May and Hopetoun at the end of the month.

    Emily Ham and Mr J doing indoor dressageWith the weather so wet leading up to the last indoor qualifier on 9 March, Mr J had done very little fitness work, but pulled out all the stops for me by being responsive and focused in the dressage (right). I was very pleased with his test on 24pen and joint 2nd best score of the day, just 0.5 behind the leader. I was very annoyed with myself as I lost him marks with an error of course right at the end by coming straight up the centre line instead of doglegging at the FXG markers.

    The cones was set up to be a technical course like the finals at Keysoe and included the wooden bridge. To be fair to all the competitors, the horses could be led over in-hand during the course walk.

    Emily Ham and Mr J at indoor driving trialsI was thrilled to be one of only 2 clear rounds of the day with just 6pen for being too fast. How I wish the indoor trials cones courses were scored like outdoors, with a time to come in under rather than an optimum time to hit exactly! I usually find I’m too fast rather than too slow.

    The other clear round was driven by John Shutt, a newcomer to driving trials with his novice Exmoor pony. John deserves a special mention as he generously volunteers to backstep for me in the obstacles — knowing I like to go as fast as possible. He is not only capable but brave!

    John Shutt driving cones at an indoor driving trialsIt’s wonderful to see how John (right) has progressed in driving over the season and at this event he achieved the 3rd highest score of the day in very good company. This is a tribute to his focus and enthusiasm to learn. He will go far in the sport as he listens and watches keenly, asking advice and acting on it.

    With John on board backstepping, Mr J was quick and agile through the obstacles and we really enjoyed the mixture of barrels and L shapes with the bridge to be driven twice. By going for smooth lines and keeping the route flowing, we were the quickest in the obstacles.

    It was a great end to the season winning open pony, with the best score of the day overall as well. I was thrilled that Mr J kept up his unblemished record with 3 out of 3 wins — each time with the best overall score.

    Of course the open pony class at the championships is extremely competitive, which is why I need to improve his fitness and practise driving the modified dressage test. Normally I can’t drive between events as he is in Brecon and I am away all the time at Aberystwyth busy with my university course. As I hold their sports bursary for my driving trials, the university have allowed me to bring Mr J to join Alfie in the run up to the finals. For once I will have the chance to drive my pony and practise a bit before the indoor championships!

    I understand the AGM for indoor carriage driving will be held on the Friday at the Keysoe finals to enable competitors to attend. I hope that many will come along so that they can offer their opinions of new proposals and thank the organisers for another great indoor season!


    Emily’s H&H blogs

    The British Indoor Carriage Driving Championships will be reported in H&H, in the issue out 17 April.

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