Spectacular carriage driving at Makotuku
Makotuku was the centre of the North Island Carriage Driving world over the weekend March 7-8 when 30 drivers and their horsecarriage combinations came from all over to compete in the annual Combined Drive.
This combines the three disciplines:
■ Precision Drive where the combination goes between road cones with the aim not to knock off tennis balls,
■ Dressage featuring etiquette and appearance as well as rapport between horse and driver
■ Marathon — 16 km crosscountry challenge in three parts.
Makotuku is also popular with the drivers because it is the only true rural course, the longest in the North Island and combines varying relief and obstacles. One driver said the willingness of local farmers to open up their land for the cross-country is wonderful.
There are about 40 drivers in the North Island and they meet regularly at different urban venues during the season. They are all good friends and look forward to the weekend away, with transport big enough to provide accommodation and cartage for horse and carriage.
Most popular is the fourhorse team of Malcolm Baker from Hastings. Malcolm was keen to try out his new combination with two new inexperienced horses as he will be demonstrating the team at the Horse of the Year in Hastings this week for the first time in a decade.
There were other wellknown combinations including Team Boots — Julie Cooker and Leanne Gunson of Gisborne with Boots, a gypsy cob stallion.
Others are just beginners with ponies but the remarkable thing about the sport is the number of father/son and mother/ daughter combinations. It is not always the younger one being the groom (who hangs on for dear life and helps angle the carriage around the bends) either. Oliver Behrens at 14 has graduated to driver with dad on the back.
Carriages vary dramatically from pretty spartan to the best costing $5000 or more.
Local enthusiast Colleen Constable said the support from local sponsors in Dannevirke particularly make all the difference to the success of the weekend and she is most grateful.