Archive - Featured Driver
January's Featured Driver
Driver: Sonny Hillier
I have been driving competitively for the last 15 years starting with a single pony doing indoor and club events and progressing up to driving at international level with a single horse. I have also competed with a pony tandem, pony team, horse tandem, horse pair and have now started on my journey with a horse team. I currently have a group of 5 Dutch harness horses and gelderlanders. My current top horse is Wodka a 13 year old gelderlander gelding with whom I will be hoping to be selected to represent Great Britain at the single horse world championships this year. I am currently based close to Maidstone in Kent
1. How old were you when you started driving? I have been driving on and off since I was around 10 years old
2. How did you get involved with Carriage Driving?. I grew up in central London and there was a mews stables behind the house that we lived in which housed mostly driving horses, I spent endless hours stood on top of the garden fence watching the men with the horses and after much persuasion eventually spent every spare minute after school and at weekends helping out there with the horses ! That really sparked my interest in driving !
3. What was the name of the first driving horse?My first driving horse was Pip a 13.2hh grey new forest mare who was given to me as a 3 year old,I broke her myself and she taught me so much and gave me a great start competing she is still going strong and giving much pleasure as a children's riding pony
4. Who has been your inspiration? My biggest inspiration has been Boyd Exell he has achieved so much and is such a talented driver and trainer and has done so much to take the driving sport forward !
5. What is the one driving item you couldn't live without? The driving item I couldn't live without would have to be my harness trolley we have so many sets in the yard it makes it a lot easier to organise and transport for events !
6.What is the best piece of advice you have been given be a fellow driver? The best piece of advice I have been given is that you never stop learning no matter how long you have been driving there is always something new to learn which is part of the fun and the challenge to continually improve !
7. If you could drive at any venue in the world, where would it be? There are so many good shows I would love to drive at and I have also driven at some incredible venues so far but the one that stands out would have to be London Olympia,I would love to compete in the World Cup driving there it's the one event I always went to watch growing up and the atmosphere for the driving is incredible !
8. What do you do to relax away from Carriage Driving? I don't get much time away from driving but when I do get time to relax I love to eat out, and take walks with Beatrice my dachshund I also love the theatre when time and finance allows !
9. Do you have any horsey superstitions prior to a show? I'm not a superstitious person but I don't like to change too much before a show I believe In trying to keep the routine the same
10. Can you tell us about your day job? My day job is also driving related I run a busy yard breaking and training horses and teaching people to drive and I also drive horses commercially for funerals and weddings I love the variation in the job no two days are quite the same and it also gives me the flexibility to get away to compete which is what i love to do . My website is Sonny Hillier
February's Featured Driver
Driver: Linda Swain
1. How old were you when you started driving? I was 22 - it seems like yesterday , never a good sign !
2. How did you get involved with Carriage Driving?.A friend decided she wanted to – I just went along for the ride ( sorry `drive `)
3. What was the name of the first driving horse? My own was a tiny black character, found in trouble when foaled on our local common & was going to be put to sleep. I bought her for £10 & she did everything for me for all her 16 years. Naturally her name was `Trubble`.
4. Who has been your inspiration? Mrs Christine Dick without a doubt . I used to watch her ring craft & try to copy it. After winning my class at the BDS Annual show one year & taking part in the championship along with Christine , I was overcome when she came up to me afterwards to say `well driven`.Little things ……
5. What is the one driving item you couldn't live without? My lovely thick driving apron in the winter as I always try to drive out all year round.
6.What is the best piece of advice you have been given be a fellow driver? `Smile when going around the show ring & look as thought you`re enjoying it, even if you`re not`. I can`t remember who actually said that but it was a long while ago now.
7. If you could drive at any venue in the world, where would it be? I would have loved to have driven at HOYS in the private driving class. Not everyone appreciates how hard it is to achieve that accolade. I suppose that’s a credit to those that make it look so easy.
8. What do you do to relax away from Carriage Driving? I enjoy gardening – my own & other people`s. Walking Millie the dog. Eating out & also having friends round for dinner. Going to the cinema. I always find mucking out the stable very relaxing – always have done.
9. Do you have any horsey superstitions prior to a show? I don`t think so, except for the standard `always put the collar on first` which is very often misunderstood.
10. Can you tell us about your day job? Technically `retired` but playing a big part in the British Driving Society means that I actually spend hours on my laptop these days as well as travelling many miles to meet Area Commissioners who do an amazing job & need support.
May's Featured Driver
Driver: Julie Edwards
My name is Julie Edwards and I am based near Pulborough, West Sussex. I compete at driving trials, mostly indoor as my summer schedule doesn’t allow me much time to compete. I am a member of both Brockham harness club and Windsor. I drive a magnificent 15’2 Cob called Magical Mascot. We have just won the Intermediate single horse at the Indoor driving championships 2016.(We were reserve Novice last year.) I love driving because I can work my horse in a way that I never could when riding because my body would, annoyingly, never do what I wanted it to do!!
1. How old was I when I started driving?
I was 42 when I started driving. With the introduction of the ‘driving back to sport initiative’, it was suggested that I should ‘have a go’ and learn more. I found myself booked onto a course at Bennington. I learnt so much in those few days, including that I was competitive!! It was great fun and I was definitely hooked.
I remember at the time having aspirations to compete with my own turnout, with my Highland at Hoys!!! Wally decided driving wasn’t his thing and I am still hopeless at cleaning my carriage!!!
2.How did you get involved with carraige driving? I first became aware of carriage driving with an invite to ‘lunch’ at a friends lorry at the Cranleigh show to watch their turnout compete (driven by my backstepper Elaine). This was followed by many more lunches including at the National driving championships and a presentation of their turnout, after a very successful day showing, to the Queen at Smiths lawn. I am so very grateful to them for letting me share in these wonderful experiences
4Who has been your inspiration? The two biggest inspirations to me are
Pippa Bassett. I really admire her determination and successes in competing in a male dominated part of the sport. I also really admire her training methods where the comfort and wellbeing of the horses are paramount. She also believes in me and helps me to believe in myself.
My daughter Jenny has also been a huge inspiration and driving force to me. I really admire the way she is constantly training and striving to improve her performance in mounted games - what ever hurdle comes her way she just keeps working at getting better and improving her technique.
5.What is the one item you couldn’t live without. The one driving item I couldn’t do without is my Bennington - ‘cheesy’ I know. It doesn’t seem right if its not a Bennington !!! Also my ’magic’ gloves. At £2 a pair, they are warm with good grip even when wet. Because they are cheap I have lots of pairs all over the barn, lorry and house - I’m very good at loosing things !! So it works well.
6.What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a fellow driver? The best pieces of advice I have been given were
- Pippa told me to sing through my dressage test to make sure I’m breathing and to help me relax. For some odd reason I settled on ’In and out the dusty bluebells’!! which has stuck to this day. Pippa and Elaine can often be heard saying ’Breath’ or ‘sing’as I enter the dressage ring.
- Sonny Hillier told me to look ahead to the next set of cones as if I was jumping a course of jumps. It stops me looking down and worrying about cones that have been driven. It also helps me to attack the next cones.
- But my favourtie has to be Jenny’s advice as I go to do the obstacles ‘ Just go FAST’!!
Junes - Featured Driver
Driver: Alice Rutherford
My name is Alice Rutherford and I am 15 years old, I drive Helawi Masquerade also known as Rommel. He is a miniature Shetland owned by Fiona Bays-Griffiths but she very kindly lets me drive him. Rommel is an amazing little pony who doesn’t let his size of 29 ½ inches stop him, he lives in his own little world and completely loves his mane. He is also one of the only geldings to look amazing in a pink flowery rug! I never planned to drive him but I was booked to go the British Young Drivers Easter camp in April 2015 with him as my tandem leader. But when the wheeler was unwell and couldn’t go camp, I took just Rommel and drove him as a single. I had so much fun with him that once I had completed my tandem bars last summer I choose to mainly focus on Rommel as a single and have a go at IHDTS. My ambition was to try and qualify for the championship at Keysoe – which I did! I am now planning to continue to improve with him ready for the next driving trials season as well as bringing my own youngster on.
1. How old were you when you started driving? I started driving when I was 11 years old.
2. How did you get involved with carriage driving? I got involved in driving after I fell off my pony and ended up with both my arms in plaster! After this I no longer wanted to ride so decided to have a few driving lessons with Chelsey Bailey and her donkeys. She and Fiona then came up with a plan that I should drive Fiona’s miniature Shetlands. And I haven’t looked back since.
3. What was the name of your first driving horse? The first pony that I began to drive was Monty. He is also Fiona’s. He’s an amazing pony who taught me loads and brought me loads of confidence. He’s a bit lazy and but also great fun. He does however prefer to drive tandem or pair as he is then with his friends. We use a Bennington Mini Magnum.
4. What is the one driving item you couldn’t live without? When I drive single I always make sure I use the same whip because it’s so light and as I have small hands any other whips make my hands ache.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a fellow driver? I have been told by many people my whole life that it doesn’t matter hat happens or where you come when I go out or to shows, as long as you try your best, and you and your pony(ies) are happy, safe and that you enjoy your day it doesn’t matter where you come.
Featured Driver – Rosanna Walters-Symons
My name is Rosanna Walters-Symons and I'm a single pony driver based in Devon. My notable achievements in carriage driving include the individual silver medal at the 2013 FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies, a team bronze medal at the 2015 renewal of the same championships, and the individual bronze medal at the 2012 European Championships for Young Drivers. The pony that I am currently competing is called Hurricain, an 11yo black Dutch sports pony. Until last season I had competed my black Welsh Sec. D, Bailey, for some 10 years, climbing all the way from novice to international level.
1. How old were you when you started driving?
I was 8 years old when I first started driving.
2. How did you get involved with carriage driving?
My mum took up carriage driving after she had to stop eventing because of injuries sustained in a car accident. I started driving at home and then began going to the British Young Drivers camps at the Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre, Gloucestershire.
3.What was the name of your first driving horse?
My first driving pony was a 12hh black Dartmoor pony called Lightning. I drove him for 6 years before moving onto Bailey. Lightning is 25 now and is still being driven by the Saddler family up in Lincolnshire.
4.Who has been your inspiration?
I've been trained by Boyd Exell for many years and I've always been inspired by his consistency and his ability to keep on winning year on year. I've also learned a lot about attention to detail from him
5.What is the one driving item you couldn’t live without?
I couldn't live without my Bennington presentation carriage! I'd wanted one for so many years and was finally able to buy one a couple of years ago. It drives so beautifully and its stability gives me the confidence to drive with speed in the cones phase - it's my pride and joy!
6.What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a fellow driver?
Boyd Exell has always reminded me that Carriage Driving is a three phase competition - you have to be strong in all three and not just one or two. He also taught me to always keep the end goal in mind - each step or show along the way is just a stepping stone.
7.If you could drive at any venue in the world, where would it be?
Definitely Aachen! It's such a huge and prestigious equestrian festival and I would love to drive in the main arena in the Ride & Drive.
8.What do you do to relax away from carriage driving?
I don't have time to relax! I'm currently doing a PhD so when I'm not driving I'm working on that.
9. Do you have any horsey superstitions prior to a show?
I don't really have any horsey superstitions. Hurricain has a four leaf clover that stays in his passport, that's about it.
10.Can you tell us about your school, plans to your education,etc?
As I said above, I'm currently doing a PhD in Sport Psychology at the University of Exeter, undertaking research into vision and attention in golf putting. I also do some teaching of sport psychology to undergraduate students at the university.
Featured Driver - Naidene Byrne
Groom- Chris Ainscough
How did you get involved with carriage driving?
My horse is Tiptoe Hurricane( Bubbles), he is a 35:5" miniature stallion, British Bred Spotted. He is fourteen years old and I have owned him for ten years now. We train with Chris Ainscough and are stabled at Thompson House Equestrian Centre. I bought Bubbles as a project to sell on but as he started to blossom it became evident he was something more special. He has been a very successful show pony and in 2010 I decided to retire him as a prolific winner on the circuit. He was far too good to become a pet/ companion so I decided to make him into a carriage driving pony. I did lots of groundwork then introduced him to Chris who broke him with his fiancé Caz and from that day, we have developed a fantastic driving partnership and both of us have a very happy relationship.
How did you get involved with carriage driving?
I have had horses all my life and have had the opportunity to drive and groom for ponies in the past but I only got really involved over the last eight years.
What was the name of your first driving horse?
My first driving pony was a grey section A Charlie who gave me lots of confidence to learn and develop the taste of carriage driving.
Who has been your inspiration?
Chris Ainscough is a massive inspiration to myself when it comes to horses. He never judges anyone/ horse/ turnout, shows great dedication and never gets stressed or angry with his horses. He has taught me loads. I once drove one of Chris's horses blindfolded through a course of cones to raise money for Sports Driving Unlimited, this took great trust to complete this task but I felt really safe. My husband is also my inspiration as he supports me, encourages me to do well at work and with Bubbles, he supports my emotions and is always there for me when I feel deflated.
What is the one driving item you couldn’t live without?
The one driving item I never go without is my high viz reflective gear, the weather is so changeable in the UK , we must live amongst each other on the roads and safely is paramount to all users.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a fellow driver?
The best advice given to me was by the late Amanda Saville " stop being so hard on yourself and enjoy your driving , this pony drives with his heart for you and wants to please you, back off him and enjoy his company as he just wants to be with you!" This made me realise , actually does it matter if I win? Stop putting pressure on myself and enjoy my hobby.
If you could drive at any venue in the world, where would it be?
I'd love to drive through Chatsworth House
What do you do to relax away from carriage driving?
To relax away from ponies I like to spend time with my dogs and husband. A good four hour walk on the moors followed by a nice gin in a country pub with the dogs is just time out for me.
Can you tell us ablout your day job?
My day job is very stressful as I am a senior Operating Department Practitioner based in Anaesthetics and Recovery with the theatre department of my local hospital. The patients love to hear about my carriage driving and all my work colleagues think it's great. They will swap off duty to cover shows / training for me to ensure I can continue to drive. I also get time off to support Sports Driving Unlimited as I usually have something crazy planned.