National Driving Trials
by Julia Crockford
James Broome’s inaugural national event at the Cricklands equestrian centre was hailed a monumental
success by all present over the weekend.
Competitors arrived on site to a lovely parking area with all horses and ponies provided with stables as part of their entry fee. As a result, the lorry park was certainly a lot quieter overnight.
Dressage for all classes was driven in the most beautiful surroundings, a very smart and huge sand school in the centre of the venue, it felt more like being at an international event rather than a windy Wales.
With the raised pavilion and spectator viewing stands, and many of the competitors relishing the chance to drive in the main arena.
Barry Capstick’s new pair of Advanced Horses set the standard with a score of 41.91, very closely followed by Fred Pendlebury in the Open Horse pairs class on 42.53, Dick Lane and his Horse Fours scoring 45.84, and only a smidgen behind was Joanna Broadbent with her Pony Fours at 44.85.
The marathon route was a series of circles around a smaller acreage than our competitors usually experience at National events, so this event had more of a European feel with all the circles coming back into the one big field for six of the seven obstacles.
Competitors and grooms having to be very vigilant about which compulsory flags they needed to drive for each obstacle, plenty of walking and checking beforehand and good navigating on the day kept them on track with only two competitors missing flags, one of which was Pippa Bassett with her Horse Fours. Although the missed flag caused her elimination, she was delighted with her team’s performance.
Sadly, Rachel Moast, who was driving Nicola Blandin’s pony for the first time and setting some brilliant times in the obstacles, drove compulsory flags out of order and although she corrected the error, the rule book confirmed her elimination.
The event was excellent for spectator viewing with something going on at almost every obstacle simultaneously, although at times very nerve wracking for the obstacle stewards, when three or four competitors followed each other through the railway tunnel and into the obstacle field, one after the other, only to split through the various flags to their appropriate obstacles.
Manning the exit of the obstacle field there was a myriad of smiling happy faces, six times round for the competitors as they counted down their loops, Karen Scott-Barrett having two horses in the competition went past me 12 times, smiling just as widely the first time as she did on the last circuit.
The general opinion was that everyone loved the new style of event and were not phased in the slightest to not be out in the countryside, counting down the km markers, just going round and round only having to be very careful and vigilant in the obstacle field.
The seven beautiful new obstacles were stunning, each having it's own theme and different challenges.
From the ups and downs at obstacle one, where speed and exuberance caught out Chris Smith when he overshot a gate and had to back-up his pair to make the turn and Geoff Brown, who also nearly came to grief in the same place when one of his pair slipped and fell.
The water obstacle also had plenty of excitement with many horses unsure about entering the murky water and Grace Smith’s new horse being quick enough to do a U turn rather than get a hoof wet!
The record breaking huge puissance wall looked amazing at obstacle five, the rugby challenge at six and the Derby bank at seven.
Frank Campbell put up the fastest marathon of the day with a score of 79.50 in the Advanced Horse class, closely followed by David Whitfield in the Open Horse class on 87.62 and Geoff Brown in the Open Horse Pairs class, despite his little mishap in Obstacle 1 to finish on 88.16.
All to play for in the final day of the competition it was back to the sand school for the cones course, where a bridge awaited the competitors which, if used, made the route considerably shorter with several narrow cones along the way.
By day three in the obstacle cone driving, many of the classes were very close and cones penalties or time faults meant the pressure was truly on. Several refused to put a hoof on the bridge and some competitors did not even attempt it, preferring to keep moving rather than risk problems.
Rachel Moast was the first competitor into the arena on her eliminated score and drove the most superb double clear round, closely followed by both Emma Golding and Isobel Wesbroom-Warr who comfortably won the Novice Pony class.
Emily Ham, Nicola Blandin and Linda Hill all drove lovely double clear rounds in the Open Pony class, Linda Hill winning the class with the second best overall score of the weekend.
Three more double clear rounds followed in the Advanced Horse class: Sara Clough, Lynda Christian and the winner of the class, Frank Campbell, who completed the competition on the best overall score of the weekend on 137.48 - only narrowly beating David Whitfield who had one cone down in his class taking his score to 137.55.
The biggest smile of the weekend had to be on the last competitor of the weekend, Dick Lane as his Horse Fours completed the cones to win the class, on a brilliant final score of 155.36, although I still haven’t forgiven him for plastering me in mud the six times he galloped past me at the exit of the obstacle field !
James Broome and the team at Crick should be congratulated on all their efforts and hard work to pull this exciting event at a new venue together and I for one cannot wait to return next year. I think this venue will aspire to great things very quickly. Well done James.
Geoff Brown at the water obstacle.