For 2013 the British Carriagedriving National Championships moved from their previous venue, Windsor Park, to Ashfields in Essex. It was a long drive, but Team Warford arrived on the Wednesday ready to give their all! Mike tells us all about it…
The build up to the Championships wasn’t, great with interruptions due to injuries and illnesses, but we did manage to fit in a lesson with Emily Bennett the week before which really helped me focus on my dressage. We arrived at Ashfields on the Wednesday and set up camp before exercising the ponies in the evening. Unlike last year’s Championships where we experienced a beautiful indian summer, this year the rain was well and truly set in and we had muddy ponies, muddy harness, muddy people and a muddy Corky to contend with as well as the usual trials and tribulations of competition preparation! However, on Thursday I worked the ponies individually in the morning and then as a team in the afternoon. They went really well and we put them to bed with fingers crossed!
Our dressage time wasn’t until late in the afternoon so we spent the morning walking the obstacles. The ponies worked in really well and gave me their best dressage mark of the season with 58.03. They really gave their all, especially when it came to extending, and I was very pleased with them. Unfortunately our best wasn’t quite good enough this time, and left me in 4th place, 7 penalties behind Sara Howe.
There were rumours that the already-wet weather was going to worsen, and sure enough by Saturday the venue was starting to resemble a quagmire. The obstacle course was deep in clay mud after 2 days of torrential rain, and Section A and the walk were particularly hard going for the ponies. They really tried 110% and although I could feel them tiring in the last couple of obstacles they gave it their all until the finish. With a couple of driving errors I ended in 3rd position, once again behind Sara Howe and overall in 4th place but only 5 penalties between myself and Susan Skeggs and Gary Power in 2nd and 3rd place.
Sunday was yet another wet and windy day and we had to wait until 2pm until our class. Going in reverse order I had to put the pressure on the others with a double clear. The ponies were up for it and didn’t feel any worse for their tiring marathon the previous day. I drove as fast as I dared and crossed the finishing line 16 seconds inside the time, however this time I managed to leave every ball up for the first double-clear of the class! Gary followed and with no balls down I thought he had done enough to stay ahead of me but with time penalties added it was sufficient to drop him behind me by 0.19 penalties. Then we had to watch Susan drive a clear round and again it came down to time penalties, this time sufficient to drop her 0.07 penalties behind me!
For once luck appeared to be on my side and I moved up from 4th place up to Reserve National Champion! I couldn’t be more proud of the small ponies and they deserved the result on their final outing as a team!!! Everyone commented on how well they had worked together as a unit throughout the competition, and looking back I can see how lucky I have been to end up with four ponies who have worked so well together, and in all three phases. Many team drivers have five or six ponies to make up their driven four, and can swap and change depending on each pony’s strengths. This also means that a tired pony can be swapped out for a fresher one, whereas our four have always competed in every phase, a testament to their stamina and Linda’s fittening techniques!!!
2013 has been a great season and I would like to thank all those who have helped me become Pony Team Reserve National Champion – Special thanks to Linda and Mum for all their support over the years and to Anna and Jack for their help at events. Many thanks to Linda Rose, Heather Hulme and Uta Schettler for allowing me to drive four fantastic ponies, they are all little stars. And finally a huge thank you to my sponsor Abbey England Ltd. for their continued support!
National Pony Fours Reserve Champion
Paces & Precision 58.03, Cones 0.00, Total 144.50