In the driv­ing seat

Fancy try­ing your hand at some­thing new? Liz Har­combe en­cour­ages you to have a go at car­riage driv­ing

EADT Suffolk - - Out & About -

WITH a nod at tra­di­tion, a dash of adren­a­line and a huge amount of fun and team­work, car­riage driv­ing in East Anglia has some­thing for any­one who en­joys eques­trian events. There are many kinds of driv­ing events, apart from the pleas­ant pas­time of trot­ting along quiet coun­try lanes, per­haps paus­ing at a pub for re­fresh­ment.

The sport of horse driv­ing tri­als was the brain­child of HRH The Duke of Ed­in­burgh in the late 1960s. It’s based on the three-day event­ing for­mat, com­bin­ing dres­sage, cross coun­try, and a course of cones, set nar­rowly apart, and against the clock. The sport suits any type of horse or pony and East Anglia boasts some of the coun­try’s top venues. The East Anglian Car­riage Driv­ing Group en­cour­ages driv­ers of all lev­els to com­pete in re­gional events some of which qual­ify for the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships. Those with a pen­chant for win­ter sports can com­pete at in­door venues in a short­ened for­mat of the tri­als, which is per­fect for spec­ta­tors – in woolly hats, of course.

Syn­thetic easy-clean har­ness and pur­pose built car­riages with low cen­tre of gravity, disc brakes, metal wheels and clever hy­draulic steer­ing sys­tems are the choice of the tri­als driver. For the tra­di­tion­al­ist there are many show­ing classes to ex­hibit old car­riages and leather har­ness. The Suf­folk County Show draws driv­ers from the re­gion to show off the move­ment of their horses in har­ness, and the cor­rect­ness of the car­riage, har­ness and driver’s out­fits to the judges’ sat­is­fac­tion. Some of the car­riages have a won­der­ful prove­nance, up to 150 years old, re­stored to mint con­di­tion and car­ry­ing au­then­tic and orig­i­nal ac­cou­trements such as lamps, clocks and um­brella bas­kets.

A per­fect hy­brid of tri­als and show­ing is the rel­a­tively new sport of At­te­lage De Tra­di­tion. De­rived in France, this el­e­gant and friendly week­end of ex­hibit­ing tra­di­tional car­riages and per­form­ing ‘dif­fi­cul­ties’ for points, draws huge crowds on the con­ti­nent and is in­creas­ing the value of older ve­hi­cles. There are four UK venues and two are in East Anglia, San­dring­ham and Eus­ton, held in July and Au­gust. This is a gen­teel and stylish spec­ta­tor event akin to Hen­ley re­gatta or Good­wood.

Spec­tat­ing is al­ways free, and vol­un­teer­ing as a stew­ard at an event is en­ter­tain­ing and in­ter­est­ing. Car­riage driv­ers are a friendly bunch, and if you go to any event you will in­vari­ably find peo­ple will­ing to spend time talk­ing about their an­i­mals, the his­tory of their car­riages, of­fer­ing ad­vice or even a ride on the car­riage. Find out more at or in­do­or­driv­


If you fancy a go at tak­ing the reins there are op­por­tu­ni­ties in Suf­folk, Es­sex and Nor­folk to drive well-man­nered ponies and get a feel for the sport. World Horse Wel­fare, near Snet­ter­ton, runs oc­ca­sional car­riage driv­ing taster days, and re­homes res­cued and re­ha­bil­i­tated ponies suit­able for driv­ing (call Max­ine on 07900802192).

Val­ley Farm near Wood­bridge has a se­lec­tion of ponies for driv­ing days. Near So­ham there is Snail­river Horse Drawn Car­riage Com­pany, which spe­cialises in all as­pects of driv­ing, from wed­dings and fu­ner­als to train­ing, and lessons for all lev­els of driver. Near Need­ham Mar­ket contact Liz Har­combe for a car­riage driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and meet World Horse Wel­fare Yogi, the res­cue pony who has sur­passed all ex­pec­ta­tions and turned his hoof to many styles of event with suc­cess (07516958787). Ash­fields Car­riage and Polo Club is at Great Can­field in Es­sex and is home to one of the world’s top four in hand driv­ers, Wilf Bow­man-Ri­p­ley. There you can visit events and an exhibition and shop for any­thing you might need to get started (01371 875792).


One Satur­day, a group of mem­bers and friends from Suf­folk Rid­ing Club en­joyed a day with Liz Har­combe, learn­ing all about car­riage driv­ing. Most of us had lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence of this sport and it was truly fas­ci­nat­ing. Liz had also in­vited Lorna In­gram from the East Anglian Car­riage Driv­ing Group and Amy Last, an equine den­tist and ex­pe­ri­enced car­riage driver, to show us what can be achieved with lots of ded­i­ca­tion, work and love for the sport. We spent the day learn­ing about the har­ness, break­ing the ponies to har­ness and car­riage, the car­riages them­selves, and about a sport which of­fers a lot of ex­cite­ment. What re­ally shone through was how slowly and gen­tly Liz trains her ponies with kind­ness and un­der­stand­ing. Her ‘su­per­star’ pony, Yogi, is from World Horse Wel­fare. To see him work­ing and en­joy­ing ev­ery minute was fan­tas­tic. It shows how smaller ponies can have a whole new life, and a one in which they will not be out­grown. We were all of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to have a go, with close su­per­vi­sion, thank­fully. It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. For those of us who don’t ride any­more, for var­i­ous rea­sons, it’s given us food for thought for the fu­ture.

El­e­gant and en­thralling, car­riage driv­ing in Suf­folk

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