6 April 2007

Ready, Willing and Able

The Para Equestrian World Championship campaign got off to a galloping start at the Unicorn Trust in Stow in the Wold on 29 and 30 March.

Once again, Unicorn proved the perfect base; even though it was a long drive for some, the comfortable stabling and outstanding outdoor and indoor facilities, with spectator gallery and excellent catering ensured that all team members were able to maximise their two days of training, through sun, wind, rain and frost!

Every single team hopeful attended the two day training session, demonstrating that this small but hugely important division of our sport lives on with more passion, enthusiasm and determination than ever before.

Thanks to funding from the BEF, the organisers of this group have finally been able to provide content and infrastructure which we are duty bound to invest in if we are to continue to push forward and win medals in the only colour we are interested in - gold.

The two day intensive programme encompassed observation and coaching across all three disciplines. Each driver and horse/pony has made so much improvement over the past year, they are all a credit to our sport ? and the selectors will have an extremely tough job on their hands.

A very full schedule of ? - 1 hour sessions, morning and afternoon over the two days, was set out. When drivers weren?t engaged in driving, veterinary sessions or sports psychology sessions, they were all actively involved in listening, learning and feeding back on each other?s training sessions.

Team Coaches

The team has been extremely fortunate to secure Lin Winder as team coach. She and Rachel Stevens worked throughout the two days with every driver across flat work, cones and obstacle driving sessions.

Sports Psychology

 We were extremely privileged and thrilled to welcome Sports Psychologist, Jennie Kililea, as another new face to the team. Jennie works with many of the World Class Equestrian disciplines, including Para Equestrian Dressage. Her approach with the group was simply awesome ? injecting professional energy, focus and fun into all she touched. Each driver had individual sessions with Jennie on the Saturday, and again on the Sunday.

In addition, she provided a totally inspirational interactive talk with the group. The team has been really lucky to be able to secure Jennie for every training session, selection event and for the World Championships in June. She will be an invaluable resource to each team hopeful in the build-up, and to the selected team in their final preparation and at the event.

These are very exciting times for all involved.

No Horse, no Event

Just as vital to our horses, ponies and drivers is our team vet, Vicki Edmondson, BVSc MRCVS, who has also committed to supporting the team through the entire campaign up to and including the World Championships. Vicki spent the two days tirelessly working with each driver to evaluate, to advise and to provide support and treatment assisting in improvement of each horse/pony?s way of going.

The professional support she provided on the first day was already reaping rewards on the second day. Vicki also gave a very enlightening discussion during the evening on preparing your horse for a World Championships, which had each driver and their support team hanging on every word!

Professional Video Playback

Jackie Herd and her partner, Tim, from Fairview Studios captured the entire two days, including talks in the evening, on video. They will be supporting the team in their selection events to provide video and playback. Our huge thanks go out to Fairview Studios who are providing their time and expertise so generously to the group - and worked without break from dawn until dusk during both days.

Unsung Heroes

As with any campaign of this nature, but even more so when working with athletes with physical challenges, the unsung heroes are those who are always there for us and, frankly, without whom this type of event would not be possible:

Margaret Brockie, Faith Billington, Jenny Harris, Mark Winder, David Hodgson, Paul Tyas.

They provide support in assisting the drivers to pack and unpack, move carriages, sweep up, clean stables, assemble cones courses and obstacles, mark out 1KM walks, and (very importantly) make tea for the coaches - the list goes on.

The group would like to extend enormous thanks to each of these unsung heroes; to Sydney Smith and to the BHDTA and BEF for their support.

Also worthy of mention is Chris Van Reen who will be taking up the Assistant Chef d?Equipe role. Her position has been welcomed with a big cheer by the team.

What Next

Ashfields will host the next training session on Thursday and Friday 17 and 18 April, followed by a two-day selection event on 19 and 20 April.

The campaign then move to Ripley for a similar set up over 1 ? 4 May.

Based on training and performance at these two competitions, the team will be selected.

Two training camps for the selected team will then be held on 30, 31 May/ 1 June and 14-15 June.

The World Championships takes place in Greven from 28 ? 30 June 2008.

Accessibility for All

As always, our training and social programmes welcome all, whatever level of experience, knowledge or disability challenge.

Our session at Stow provided training for RDA associates and also welcomed some impromptu spectators.


The team is wholly reliant on self funding. Each team hopeful is actively involved in fundraising for the Championship campaign. If you are interested in providing practical support, or would like to make a donation please contact:

Judi Ralls (01252 850330)

Lindsey Tyas (07721 833730)

For further information, visit our Carriage Driving Sports Group website

Photos by Lindsey Tyas (from top): Judi Ralls driving Glenmead Flashman, Margaret Lupton driving Ilar Barry, Heather Clark driving Barney, Elaine Schaschke driving Templedruid Sauvignon, Squad photo.