A keen driver, Mike spends much of his time spare time driving and training the ponies with Linda. We have discovered that Mike is good at delegation and unfortunately is very rarely wrong.
Mike first climbed on board a pony at the age of four, taking lessons at the local riding school. Along came football and rugby, and horses took a back seat until the Hodgsons bought their family horse Clyde. Suddenly Mike was at the stables every weekend. He joined the Pony Club and discovered an enthusiasm for jumping, where his competitive streak soon became evident in the jump-offs! In years to come his judgement of tight turns at speed would prove to be very useful in the cones and obstacle phases!
Mike started riding Blackie in 2004 and very quickly started accumulating rosettes and trophies in both dressage and showing, this time honing the skills that would aid him in the paces and precision phase. At the 2005 BHS North West Championship Show he was Champion Young Handler and Reserve Champion in Junior Equitation. 2006 saw Mike and Blackie take the Supreme Championship at the Greater Manchester Horse Show, and in 2007 the pair were 7th at the Trailblazers Dressage Finals as well as taking several county and local showing places.
However, although Mike soon started to outgrow the ponies he was in no hurry to move on to horses. Then carriage driving caught his attention. Encouraged all the way by Linda Rose who owns Blackie and Brownie, and following a very short spell as backstepper, Mike took up the reins and hasn’t looked back since. Linda had broken Brownie to harness earlier on, and Mike realised that even though he would one day be too big to ride the ponies, he would always be able to drive them. In 2008 he began driving Brownie under Linda’s tuition, and the rest is history! Mike and Brownie, with Linda backstepping, took their first National Junior Intermediate title later that year, and swiftly followed that up with selection for the England junior squad and a Team Bronze and individual fourth at the Junior World Trophy in Austria.
It soon became apparent that Mike wasn’t going to stop at driving one pony, and in 2009 he decided he would like to learn to drive a tandem as well! With Blackie enlisted as his leader and Brownie in the wheel, Mike had soon mastered this more difficult turnout with the help of renowned tandem driver Lesley Gooden. A National indoor title soon followed, and with it the need for even more ponies as Mike set his sights on driving first a pair and then eventually a team of four!
Alongside his Shetlands, Mike was also driving his large single pony as well, Mister D’Arcy, with whom he was enjoying much success at club and National level. He was selected to represent England again at the 2010 Junior World Trophy in Hungary, but unfortunately shortly before the competition D’Arcy became ill and would be unable to travel. However, the Bradford family very kindly came to the rescue and offered to lend their experienced pony Pippin so that Mike could still compete with the squad. Despite having only driven the pony a handful of times before he went to Hungary, Mike managed a very creditable 4th place!
Whilst in Europe, Mike made contact with the Schettler family, who had a pony that they had outgrown and were looking to put out on loan. Still working on his idea to put together a Shetland team, Mike wasted no time in persuading Linda and Louise that another Shetland was needed, and soon Pumpkin, a German Shetland, had joined the team back in Cheshire. This was to be the start of a fabulous pairs partnership, as Brownie and Pumpkin proceeded to wipe the board at almost every event they entered as a pony pair, both indoors and out. Regularly competing against full up 14.2s, their diminutive height was hardly noticeable as they whizzed through obstacles!
Finally, after a long search and a few false starts, Mike located his fourth Shetland just down the road in Cheshire! The lovely Buttons, owned by Heather Hulme, joined Team Warford in 2012. A pony with lots of experience in multiples, Buttons joined Pumpkin as Mike’s two wheelers, and with Blackie and Brownie up front Mike was ready to go! All his practice driving pairs and tandem had paid off, and when the team was put together there was no stopping Mike – after a few club competitions to test the water, it was soon full steam ahead, travelling around the country to compete at National events and culminating in a National Reserve Champion title in 2013!
Today Mike has numerous national and international titles under his belt with both single and multiple turnouts. He has represented his country at Channel Cup and World Trophy competitions, and has sat on the British Young Drivers committee as representative for the North West. He trains regularly with driver Emily Bennett and dressage rider Jo Wright-Graham as well as attending British Young Drivers clinics several times a year.
In 2014 he took the bronze medal at the FEI Youth Championships in Poland driving Barney, kindly loaned by the Wheeldon family. He was also named Young Driver of the Year by British Carriagedriving, an achievement of which he is especially proud.
Mike is currently bringing on his new team, a string of Welsh ponies purchased unbroken from the Templedruid Stud. Pumpkin has now returned home to the Schettler family in Germany, while Buttons continues to do extremely well on the indoor circuit as a single pony with his new driver. Meanwhile, Blackie and Brownie are helping to educate the new youngsters at home, and Mike is always on the lookout for another few ponies to join the team.