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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Australian carriage drivers secure another set of ashes

ABOVE: Anton H driven by Martyn Minns with Sandra Shaw on the backstep. Picture: LINDA MACE

THE Carriage Driving Ashes – a collaboration between the UK and Australia, with identical competitions held over identical courses in NSW and Wales – has been won by Australia, with five wins to Britain’s three.

The event was the brainchild of British driver Julia Liles, who said “sometimes you just have to go a bit maverick to see what happens”.

And that’s what she did, pulling off a great international competition between carriage drivers competing on opposite sides of the world.

“Following in this summer's tradition, like our cricketing counterparts we were pipped by the Aussies in the ashes challenge,” she said.

“And so the little urn is off to Oz, but we're not whinging Poms as all the contested classes were closely fought and we look forward to revenge in 2024.”

The host events for the ashes challenge were the Short Format National Carriage Driving Championships held at the Southern Highland Harness Club in Bundanoon NSW and the David Broome Event Centre at Cricklands, Wales.

It was a very different format for the Australians and aimed at grass-roots drivers in three phases.

The event consisted of compulsory figures (dressage) in a 30 x 60m arena (not the 100 x 40m Australians are used to), a cones course with 15 cones to test precision and finally four obstacles of increasing difficulty.

There were a huge variety of classes catering for horses of all sizes, from mini ponies to heavy horses.

ABOVE: Gail Bain and the internationally travelled Shepherds Hill Michael cantering through the cones for a win in the open horse class. Picture: LINDA MACE

In Australia, competitors came from not only all around the Southern Highlands (Bywong, Braidwood and Canberra) but from Victoria, Sydney, Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Blayney, Queensland and even New Zealand.

There was great camaraderie amongst competitors.

“We had to wait for a nail-biting 24 hours to know the results because of the time differences,”one of the Australian organisers, Jenny Martin, said.

“We were finished our competition and the UK hadn’t even started.

“The points were accrued by each winner of corresponding classes and Australia was victorious.”

In a first for carriage driving, the events were streamed online so the classes in both countries could be watched.

The awards podium was a WWI goods and services wagon driven by Graham Brown of Exeter with a pair of Standardbreds.

The wagon was escorted by three Light Horse members, two of whom carried the Australian and British flags.

The teams were led by two equestrian legends; the British team by multiple European and World Champion and Olympian David Broome and Australia by multiple World Champion and World Cup Champion Boyd Exell.

ABOVE: Brayden Sonter drove his pony Sienna Just Dun exceptionally well in the junior driver class to place second. His groom/navigator was his Dad, Silas. Picture: LINDA MACE
ABOVE: Winner of the junior driver class was third generation driver Zoe Collier of the Bungendore Carriage Driving Club, driving Dalpura Parasol. Picture: LINDA MACE
ABOVE: Graham Brown arrived in the rain driving a WWI goods and services wagon he purchased in ruins and restored. His granddaughter Bella Sonter is dressed as a WWI nurse in the back. Picture: LINDA MACE
ABOVE: Danni Katon from Bringelly her former show pony Arcadian Allegro Jazz. Picture: LINDA MACE
ABOVE: Amanda Blakeley and the Blakeley Family's Percheron, Peg, competing in Australia.
ABOVE: Geraldine Pearson-Green with friends in the UK.

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