23 December 2011

The eagerly anticipated ?Extreme Driving? competition, held for the first time at this year?s Olympia, The London International Horse Show was a huge success. Despite British-based Australian Boyd Exell having to give best to his arch rival, IJsbrand Chardon, the showcase event had spectators gasping and cheering throughout the four rounds held over two days in the indoor arena.

Some 15,000 spectators witnessed the skill and expertise of horse team driving at its most daring; Pippa Bassett ? the least experienced of the four taking part and the only one using an ?outdoor? team ? kept on improving, knocking nearly 30 seconds off her third round time to finish on 115.04, albeit with two knockdowns.

Third placed Koos de Ronde, another great rival of Boyd, also rued knockdowns which added to his score but the real competition was between Boyd ? who has dominated the FEI World Cup series this winter ? and IJsbrand. Boyd?s missed gate on the Thursday evening cost him dear and was eventually left some 14 penalties off the winner.

It is hoped that Olympia will become a permanent fixture in the FEI calendar with the potential for British drivers to compete. According to a quote in Horse & Hound (22 December 2011), Boyd claims a sponsor has already come forward and pledged for 2012.

The second ?win? of the evening was the success of the new BHDTA Marketing Committee?s initiative ? a TEXT message service set up for spectators to show interest in having a carriage driving lesson. An invitation to have a first lesson was flashed up on the big screen over the arena and 100 members of the audience responded by submitting their post codes; these, and their mobile numbers, were forwarded to the nearest appropriate UKcc coach. The coaches responded within 48 hours to set up a lesson and, in some cases, a unique driving experience just for the occasion.

Chairman of the BHDTA Marketing Committee, James Broome ? who originated the idea ? said: ?This has been an excellent response and we will be monitoring the take-up. While we accept some people will ?drop out? we will encourage others to carry on and become future driving trials competitors. The whole event at Olympia was very exciting and a huge boost for our sport. The majority of spectators had never watched driving trials so this was a whole new concept for them to enjoy.

?We are very grateful to the show?s organisers for all their help and support in putting this initiative together; Olympia provided us with the most incredible platform to show off the excitement and skill of driving trials.?

For more information on how to get involved in carriage driving, visit: