Meet Boyd Exell

  • At only 27 years old, Boyd has already demonstrated his natural ability and versatility by becoming the first driver in the history of competitive carriage driving to compete in three different World Championships – horse singles (at Ebbs, Austria, in 1998), horse pairs (Reisenbeck, Germany, in 1997 and Kecskemet, Hungary, in 1999) and horse teams (Rome WEG in 1998).

    “I see it simply as taking your opportunities and making the most of them,” explains Boyd, who works as a professional horseman, trainer and carriage driving instructor. “To me, the most important thing is showing off the horses to the best of my ability in the short time I have them.”

    Currently based at Tony Pidgeley’s yard in Windsor, Boyd is increasingly in demand as a trainer and travels the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland giving clinics.

    And, after helping Georgina Frith secure two individual gold medals in consecutive European Championships (1997, 1998), Boyd was asked to train the British team for last year¨s European Pony Team Championships at Saumur in France. Georgina triumphed again with a third individual gold and the British team secured the silver medal.

    “Georgina really wanted the team to do well,” says Boyd. “And you can see the results of training together as a team.” “Boyd contributed greatly to our success,” says Georgina. “He improved each member¨s individual performance and helped us work together as a team.”

    “Carriage driving is very much a team sport, with horses and people working together – that’s what is so appealing about it,” explains Boyd. “I enjoy teaching and it’s rewarding when people are keen to learn. I particularly enjoy the challenge of encouraging people to exceed their own expectations.”

    Brought up in rural Bega, New South Wales, Boyd¨s talent for training horses was not inherited.

    “My family was extremely sporty – we went sailing, surfing and waterskiing – but not at all horsey,” he says. “I was always interested in equestrian sports and wanted to buy horses. I used to look at old coaching prints and think it would be fun to try driving.”

    His mother introduced him to friends who had carriage horses and Boyd went to work for Hackney enthusiast Max Pears in his engineering business and learned to drive his horses.

    “We used to show his Hackney ponies and horses,” remembers Boyd. “The Hackneys were bred from the Hurstwood bloodlines produced by Cynthia Haydon and it was a real pleasure to meet her when she came over to judge at shows.”

    An accomplished driver as well as a Hackney breeder, Cynthia Haydon was a big influence on young Boyd, who became interested in horse driving trials after watching her and other top drivers, such as George Bowman, in action.

    “Prince Philip came overfor a bicentennial event in 1988 and drove Max¨s team,” says Boyd. “I also learned a lot from watching double World Champion Tjeerd Velstra of Holland at his training clinics.”

    A trip with Max to the USA to watch the World Horse Pair Driving Championships at Gladstone, New Jersey in 1993 led to a meeting with Richard Stevenson and British driver, Alwyn Holder. Boyd then spent an enjoyable nine months working at Richard’s Tudor Oaks Stud in Illinois, before moving to Surrey to work with Alwyn’s team of Welsh Cobs.

    A former British champion, Alwyn was selected for WEG in The Hague (1994) and Boyd got his first taste of the Formula One grand prix of driving trials – the World Four-in-hand Championships.

    “It was a lot of hard work,” says Boyd, “but a fantastic experience.”With a growing reputation as a coachman, Boyd went to Stig Gorrel¨s driving yard in the New Forest to help put together a team of young chesnut Swedish Warmbloods.

    But his overriding ambition was to compete in hisown right and he began looking for horses of his own to train. A move back to Surrey, to pony team national champion Georgina Frith¨s yard, marked a turning point in his career.

    Boyd set about building his own team based around his first horse Baron, a chesnut Irish Thoroughbred bought as a hunter. Keen to experience every aspect of the traditional British equestrian scene, Boyd hunted with the Surrey Union twice a week and, with the help of Ian Smith, made his debut in coaching classes, driving acoach and four.

    Competitive outings at national driving trials with Baron and another chesnut, Viscount, led to his first appearance in the World Horse Pair Championships in Reisenbeck, Germany, where he impressed everyone with his performance and a well-deserved top-10 finish.

    The following season, Boyd represented Australia in the first World Championship for single horse drivers at Ebbs in Austria with Diplomat and was placed second in dressage.

    “Diplomat¨s a talented horse,” says Boyd. “We were disappointed to be vetted-out on the marathon, but I’m hoping to drive again in the world singles at Gladstone in October.”

    The same year, 1998, Boyd also made his debut in the World Four-in-hand Championships at the WEG in Rome with Baron, Viscount, Diplomat and Arizona.

    “Driving four-in-hand and competing in international events has been unbelievable,” says Boyd, whose boundless enthusiasm is matched by his occasionally misinterpreted, natural confidence. “I really enjoy events abroad where there are so many teams and the standard is so high. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of support from different people and particularly from the Australian Driving Society.”

    However, driving does not completely fulfillBoyd’s equestrian ambition. He has been playing polo for fun and would like to try ridden dressage one day.

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