Carriage drivers test their skills

Richard Logan
Richard Logan

A number of NICDA members made the trip to the beautiful 6,500 acre Hopetoun House Estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh at the end of May to take part in the National horse driving trials and FEI International classes and experience top level competition.

For those in the National classes, it was an opportunity to get the season off to a start and also try to qualify for the British National Championships held in Cirencester in September and for the FEI competitors, it was one of two events in the UK this season where they could gain a qualifying score for the World Championships next year.

Jeffrey Lyons

Jeffrey Lyons

In the National classes, Edwin Bryson from Poyntzpass drove his chestnut Hackney gelding “Nunsbridge Blazer” in the Open Horse class and started the competition with a win in the dressage phase with a score of 54.61 penalties. Another good performance on the marathon saw him go into the final cone driving phase as the overnight leader.

An open flowing course awaited the drivers but with many cones offset and at tricky angles, there were only three double clear rounds across all the classes. Edwin had a good round with only two cones down and a few time faults to hold onto the lead and win convincingly.

This has now qualified him for the British Championships later in the year where he finished reserve champion last year, and follows on from two wins at the prestigious Lowther event and Raehills in Scotland at the end of last season, so hopefully Edwin can build on these great results to go on and finish one better at the National Championships this year.

In the Pony Four in hand class, Richard Logan from Randalstown drove his team of skewbald ponies to a straight victory in all three phases driving one of his best dressage tests to give him a good lead going into the marathon. Despite a few tricky moments on the course, Richard steered the ponies to first place and started the cone driving phase as overnight leader. He drove a very impressive cones round to have just two cones down and be less than half a second over the time to take the class win very comfortably from his second placed rival. He too has now qualified for the National Championships in Cirencester in early September.

Alex Bryson

Alex Bryson

In the FEI Single Horse class, Jeffrey Lyons from Donaghcloney and Alex Bryson from Loughbrickland were among a very strong field of drivers all of whom were hoping to achieve a qualifying score to be considered for selection for the World Single Horse Championships in Horst, Netherlands in August 2018.

Jeffrey driving his black roan Dutch Hackney horse “Zablesko” was taking part in their first FEI competition as a combination and drove a pleasing test on their first attempt to gain a score of 57.87 to finish in fourth place and importantly achieving the elusive score of less than 65 penalties which is required for qualification.

Alex drove a blistering marathon with his bay Hackney horse “Borthwood Helluvafella” to win the phase and move up to fourth place going into the final cone driving phase, and Jeffrey with his third place position moved him up to third after day two.

Jeffrey and Alex both completed good cones rounds with four cones down each to hold onto their third and fourth place positions respectively at their first FEI level competition of the season.

Two Horse Sport Ireland Carriage Driving members also made the journey to Hopetoun. Don Walsh was taking part in his first National event in the Novice Horse class with his bay Welsh Cob “Arthur”. He drove a good dressage test to be placed second and improved on this position with an impressive drive around the marathon to win this phase and go into the cone driving in first place.

Unfortunately he had four cones down but with a good time, although regrettably this dropped Don down to second place overall. Ger Hennessy from Co. Kilkenny drove his experienced pair of Welsh Cobs in the Open Horse Pairs class to a third place in dressage and marathon and with six cones down in the final phase, finished in overall second place.

A number of family, friends and supporters made the trip across to Hopetoun to cheer on the NICDA members. There is no doubt that there was plenty of vocal encouragement, especially around the marathon course on Saturday, and all who were there to witness a great weekend’s fun and competition were justifiably very proud of the performances and results achieved by the four NICDA members who took part. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a fantastic year’s competition for all the members.

For further information about NICDA, visit www.ni-carriagedrivingassociation.com.

The next outdoor competition takes place in Waringstown on Saturday, June 10.