It all began around 3 years ago when I responded to an advert where someone was looking for company and assistance whilst out exercising their Shetlands around the local lanes and villages. Although having been around horses and riding for most of my life, I had no experience of carriage driving other than the odd trip round a tourist city whilst on holiday as a child.
Since my initial response to the advert we have become good friends and I soon became a groom on her carriage whilst at shows all over the country. I have learnt so much (but still have loads to learn) and thoroughly enjoyed myself and as a result became especially fond of Shetland Ponies.
Well as a result I was thoroughly bitten by ‘the driving bug’ and was therefore encouraged to bring my friends elderly grey standard Shetland Sam (aka Easton Hill Mandarin) back to fitness. We went for lovely drives throughout the week where I worked on my rein handling and getting the hang of driving and then was encouraged to go out and have a go competing with him. Being an older Shetland (25 at the time) my the aim was to get out, gain experience and confidence and overall have fun.
Well what a first season we had in 2010 …… not only have we had fun, Sam also seemed to be thriving on all the exciting outings. On our first outing we gained an Osborne qualifier for Towerlands, won 2 classes at Cadnam and gained reserve Champion. We thought we would also enter the pleasure driving and exercise vehicle classes at Windsor just for the experience of being at such a beautiful show and I was over the moon to be placed 4th and 5th in decent sized classes and to top if off got to drive in front of the Queen.
We have also recently competed at the Shetland Pony Performance Show at Malvern and also had an incredible time at the International Shetland Pony Show at Hickstead where we were placed 1st in the Novice Class and 2nd in the Exercise Vehicle Class against Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France and Austria.
Our final show of 2010 was at Towerlands in Essex where we gained 5th out of 10 in the Osbourne Refrigerators National 4 wheeled exercise vehicle championship as well as being placed in a couple of other classes.
As well as competing, I love taking Sam out for drives around the village and myself and our team of grooms entered the fancy dress class at the International Shetland Pony Show to give the crowd a treat and we spent months working on our outfit. Sam became a Pit Pony and we became miners; with help of a kind neighbour who made an amazing coal cart to attach to the carriage, we collected miners lamps, pick axes and even a friend made us a canary from scratch.
Lastly to top off having such a wonderful year with Sam in 2010, we attended the dinner in Stoke on Trent for the Shetland Pony Driven Performance Awards. Here drivers of registered Shetland Ponies across the UK record their results for activities and shows they take part in throughout the year in order to celebrate the diversity of the Shetland Pony. This was our first year in the scheme and we were over the moon to gain 1st for Exercise Vehicle, 1st for Veteran Pony, 3rd for Intermediate Whip and 4th for Pleasure Driving.
I now own my own driving Shetland Leo who is an absolute gem and a joy to take out and about. We have been to a couple of local shows this year but will now have to limit competing until after our first child (a little girl – I already have visions of pigtails and ponies) is born at the end of July.
I am by no means an expert and have only been driving for just over a year so have so much still to learn, but I hope this website will help to encourage others to drive their Shetlands, share advice and stories and be a central communication point for those with a shared love and interest in Driving Shetland Ponies.