(For the news page of 2010 click here)


(For the news page of 2009 click here)


…….Ooops! Things don’t always go to plan!

Oops! 1Oops! 2Oops! 3


     Oops! 5

Oops! 6Oops! 7

Oops! 8


Does my bum look big … ?

(The editor had full permission to print this photo!)

Somebody was lucky!

We would like to ask members of the public to report anything suspicious to our non-emergency number 0845 090 1234

so that an incident can be created and any enquiries can be followed up, or

contact Melanie Campbell on the number below:

PC 695 Melanie Campbell

Horsewatch Co-ordinator at Gloucestershire Constabulary Gloucester South Police Station - (Quedgeley)


Phone: 0845 090 1234 ext 4182


December 2011

Forest Forum

Forest of Dean Winter Forum – 7 December 2011

This evening meeting was attended by Erica Rye and Kathy Reynolds, representing the FOD Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Assn. Thirty two other people were in attendance representing other interests within the Forest district.  Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor, was the main speaker.

Conservation Proposals:

Consultations are in progress with reference to a trial grazing proposals in Crabtree Hill which it is proposed to return to a heathland site;  Clearwell Meend is a community site and the most controversial and Mosely Green, which would be the easiest site to manage.  The impacts and benefits of these proposals need discussions and agreements would need to be sought with local neighbours and the graziers, HM Verderers and Enclosure  Commissioners  because of proposed fence lines.  The project is moving forward, but a long way to putting up the first fence.  Cattle and ponies have different methods of feeding to sheep and when the land has been cleared the sheep will be returned.  Hardy breeds of animals are needed for this job.  The FC is to inherit 80 long horn cattle, which are to be run as a commercial venture.

The FC wants to work with the commoners to bring in new younger sheep badgers to run sheep and cattle to keep the tradition of grazing in the forest.

Wild Boar Management:

The revised draft plan is in its final stage and is now with HM Verderers for their approval. The target to cull 150 was achieved in September, plus 6 road kill accidents. The cull figure was set in March based on the best survey available, but the FC does not know for sure how many boars are at large within the forest.  Using night vision survey equipment, the first run through has been completed.  The conclusion is that this survey technique system is not working, as only 16 have been detected this way.  Two more surveys are to be completed, but  the scientists say this system is not appropriate for surveying the wild boar! The current estimate is that there is between 300 and 350, although this number is strongly disputed by many and the population can treble every year. The FC is committed to transparency on this issue and an independent observer joined the survey in November.  The results will be made public once the three surveys have been completed.  The FC wants to manage the numbers so that the forest community do not suffer excessively by their presence.

Recreation Strategy:

There are 150 car parking areas in the Forest, but only Mallards Pike, Beechenhurst, Cannock Ponds and Symonds Yat have parking areas to be paid for.  Wenchford will also be added to this list, as toilets are provided and have to be maintained.  There is an urgent need to get people to spend more money in the forest.  There is discussion as to which areas do the FC invest in to employ people to encourage tourism?  The signage at hub sites is to be refreshed as there are benefits of joining up the different marketing brands.   This will be undertaken by the FC design team, thus avoiding expensive consultancy costs.

FC Reorganization:

Reorganization has been necessary to meet the financial challenge the Government has set the FC.  By 2015 the scale, remit and approach has to fit the amount of money the FC have in the future.  Funding has been reduced by 25%.  2010/11 there were 872 full time employees; in 2012/15 this will  be reduced to 661 by reducing management and admin staff.  West England Forest District will be born on 2 April 2012, from Birmingham and Shrewbury to Land’s End.  The main office will be based in Coleford with a sub-office in Exeter. 

Open Forum:

The meeting was then opened to the floor when further discussions took place on the above subjects.

November 2011

Bridleways Petition

The Government is under pressure from riding groups to equal the number of bridleways in the country (currently approx 20,000 miles) up to the same level as footpaths (approx 91,000) miles to help reduce horses on the road/accidents while promoting outdoor activity and safe use of the countryside for all sexes and ages.

This will only happen if people sign the online petition.

Please go to to sign and help get riders equal rights to walkers/ramblers


July 2011

Backstepper Assessment with Barbara Nadin

This is a subject that has been talked about regularly over the years, but no one has taken on the task of trying to organize a scheme, until now...

Since I have stopped driving competitively, I have had more time observing at events. It is obvious that the subject of backstepping needs addressing. Some drivers don't realize quite how close they are to having accidents. They are busy observing their horses and often backsteppers are left to sort themselves out. Why SHOULD they automatically know what to do?


Some of you may well remember my accident at one of James Broome's evening events. I had a backstepper who had backstepped successfully throughout the indoor season (and my coloured pony Indy was no slouch) only to tip us all over on the first obstacle - she had never driven outdoors. Despite explaining that she should stay on the inside of the carriage whilst turning on the hillside, she thought, as we had slowed down, that she could move over, and over we went literally. Backsteppers are such an important part of the team. I had not given my backstepper enough instruction to be competent on undulating terrain. It was a costly mistake, but one, thank goodness, that didn't cause any permanent damage, (apart from our pride.) That is not always the case.

Anyway, what is this backstepper assessment?

The clubs in the South and South West are trying to ensure that over the next twelve months backsteppers have been assessed for their competence. "NO" you all cry, "we'll never get a backstepper now!" Quite the contrary, backsteppers who have been trained will be more confident and become a greater asset and want to be part of your team.

In the first instance backsteppers will be awarded grandfather rights with regards to their status, and from winter season we would expect new backsteppers to undertake assessment. The gradings will be as follows:

Level One - Competent to backstep in the "Indoor" competitions.
Level Two - Competent to backstep at club level outdoor competitions
Level Three - Competent to backstep at Nationals/on any type of turnout.

We are at present putting together the syllabus for the backstepper clinics and we hope that each club will participate by providing a clinic in their area.

We have the first one organized at Fenix in Somerset on the 17th September 2011. (The day before Mark Broadbents September one-day event.)

Cost: £35 if you come with your own driver and turnout. Otherwise £20 per backstepper.

Even if you feel that you are entitled to grandfather rights, it may be nice to go along to a backsteppers clinic and brush up on your skill set. Successful backsteppers will be given badges to sew onto their marathon gear to show that they have achieved a level of competency, that they are proud to be a BACKSTEPPER.

If you are presently a backstepper, and feel that you have the experience to apply for grandfather rights, you must provide a signed declaration by your club to state that you have successfully completed six events.

Level One - Indoor competitions - (this will include James Broome's events. Even though they are technically outdoors, they are undertaken on a flat surface).
Level two - the same criteria apply, but the six events you must have completed will be outdoor events.
Level three - No one will automatically be awarded this level, but if you believe you have that wealth of experience, please state your case with your declaration.

Please send this declaration to Barbara Nadin, 68 Hilly Park, Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton TA2 6RJ. together with the following information:

What level of certification you are applying for.
Name the driver/drivers you backstep for.
Your name & address.
Telephone number and email address (if you have one)
A cheque for £5 to cover the administration costs.
Cheques made payable to 'IHDT South West/backsteppers'.

Any queries please don't hesitate to contact me, Barbara Nadin on




From the Secretary:

I'll have a go at most things, so it was on Sunday 10 April that I with back-stepper Kathy and horse Ben, joined a small group of people on a training day for carriage dogs at the Speech House in the Forest of Dean. The dog 'handler' Karen and her delightful 2 yo dog Holly, had never been out with a carriage before as Holly usually went out with Karen riding her horse.

The dogs have a vet check at the start and finish of the day. It starts with a test where Holly had to stay behind the carriage in walk and trot and then a set distance with the horse in canter. Also a halt where 'the handler' had to leave the dog sitting whilst she went to the horse's head (Holly didn't do too well at this!).

Then off on the drive through the forest for 10km taking no longer than 1 hr 20 mins. Considering Holly had not been out with a carriage before, she was really good and stayed close, either behind the carriage or at the side of the horse. The day was perfect weather-wise and it was great to be in a different part of the forest to what we are used to, although the going was very rough and stony because a few weeks earlier the RAC rally had been on the same route and taken the surface off the tracks!

Ben behaved perfectly and considering the rough going and carrying three of us, he finished well. His reward was to graze on the lovely fresh grass, which he couldn't eat fast enough! Holly managed to steal my sandwiches, which I had left on the ramp, but had not sealed the lid of the box. She must have been hungry after her long walk so I didn't mind!

The event in June included the water! Hooray, there had been enough rain to actually put water in the pond, which for weeks had been dry.

Really good to see Angela Cherrington back in the driver's seat after her long absence due to ill health; Coco was a little reluctant to go in the water, but did eventually, which put a big smile on Angela's face. Also, new member Miranda Saunder's pony was reluctant to take to the water, but went in with encouragement from Miranda's daughter and groom Suzanne, who got two very wet feet! Again, big smiles from everyone.

These evening events are great for encouraging novice drivers and ponies and for just having fun, in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We are very lucky indeed to be able to use the wonderful facilities at Cricklands, generously provided by the Broome family.

Those of us who attended the summer camp (25 & 26 June), kindly hosted for the third year by John and Wendy Weaver at their farm, enjoyed a really great time. We had a fabulous drive around the Badminton Estate on Saturday afternoon, after practicing cones and obstacles in the morning. The weather being just about right.

Sunday was very warm, so an early'ish start, after a cooked breakfast provided by Sue and Becca. We had another practice around the cones and obstacles, then a drive around John's farm on mown grass tracks (in all covering about 9 miles). My horse thoroughly enjoyed the going and volunteered a canter on several occasions. We were joined by more friends for the BBQ on Saturday evening and Simon took up his now traditional role of chief BBQ chef. THANK YOU John and Wendy for organising the weekend, planning and setting up the courses, providing stabling and making everyone so welcome - it was a lovely weekend.

West Overton Sponsored Drive - Sunday 15 May

13 mile sponsored drive for the Driving for the Disabled in Wiltshire. Roadwork through chocolate box villages, tracks through bluebell forests and gallops up wonderful fields with fantastic views over the Vale of the White Horse, enjoyed by Elizabeth, Zara, Sue & Becca








March 2011

Three Counties Show

Come and enjoy a day out at the Three Counties show Malvern 19/06/11.

The Wolverley and District Driving club on behalf of the BHDTA, are putting on an exciting competition for carriage drivers at the Three Counties show at Malvern on Sunday 19th June.

It is a Club Driver Challenge introduced nationally last year and based on the FEI World Cup Series.

It is run over 2 rounds in an 80m/40m arena with 2 or 3 obstacles with 3 to 5 gates and 8 to 12 cones to negotiate in each round. The fastest overall from both rounds is the class winner.

Entry to the class includes entry to the show ground as well, so a good day out is ensured as there is much to see and do at the show.
Entries are just £8 and made via the Three Counties Show web site or office.

The rules for the competition are on the Wolverley and District Driving Club web site – or by contacting the club secretary Linda Sprosen on 01562 824350.

Do come and have great day out and enter this competition no matter what level your skills, as it is especially designed for all to enjoy and have fun.

Please note that the entries close on 26th April by post and 10th May on line. If required the number to ring at the show ground for an entry form it is 01684 584900.

For any queries do ring Linda Sprosen or Carol Pawson on 01299266790.


World Forestry Day

The Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF) steering committee would like as many different groups of people using the Forest of Dean on Sunday 20th March, to mark World Forestry Day and as a celebration of the recent Government U turn (so far); to show the variety of forest users and their enjoyment of Forest of Dean. Would your members ride out on Sunday 20th to show support? We are fortunate to have such a wonderful area available for such a multitude of uses.

This year is also the UN 'International Year of Forests 2011'. Horses and their riders are an important user of the Forest Of Dean and HOOF are asking if the riders (or horses) could wear a yellow ribbon or yellow clothing to show support for keeping the Forest of Dean publicly owned, managed on their behalf by the Forestry Commission. If the riders could send a photograph of their ride and or comments to the HOOF website at a good selection will be posted on the web. If people would like to look at the HOOF website it is

We hope to make the Forest busy on that day, I hope some of your members will want to take part, thank you and your members for their support.



February 2011

News from the 'Trek to Petra'

Sponsored walk In aid of the Forest of Dean Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) carriage Driving Group.

16th to 23rd October 2010

Early in the year I attended the RDA conference for the South West and Wales region.  Pauline Lane told us about ‘Trek to Petra’ which was a 100km walk in Jordan walking from the Dead Sea to Petra.  My friend and Whip (carriage driver) Julie had been on a couple of cycle rides and horse ride in aid of charity and I had decided I would like to do something similar.  This was ideal for me as the funds raised would go to our local group.

My name is Maggie Saunders and I carriage drive for the above group.  We meet on a Wednesday morning at The Rising Sun, Woolaston.  Our aim is to teach carriage driving to adults from The Forest of Dean Area who are physically and mentally challenged.  It is amazing the reaction, learning and enjoyment they get from driving a horse and cart.

The Challenge
Where do I start; first there was the training, for six months I was walking, cycling, doing weights, hill and stair climbs.  The good side was I lost weight and I did feel much better both mentally and physically.  I was encouraged by the amount of sponsorship and good wishes I received, from Woolaston alone I raised over £900 in sponsorship.

The walk. 

A camp site

Day 1. We arrived in Amman, Jordan at midnight and were taken by coach to our hotel on the Dead Sea, arriving late we were given our room keys.  I was sharing with Susan and both being very tired after all the travelling went straight to bed. 

Day 2. We started by floating in the Dead Sea, then you covered yourself in mud and went back into the sea to wash it off.  You feel great afterwards.

After the briefing it was back on the coaches to our first walk.  At Wadi Khuderia there was a Bedouin tent and a donkey and foal tied to a tree.  Our first look at Bedouin life.  We walked along the narrow wadi.  There was a stream running along the wadi with the rocks high on either side.  It was beautiful; when we got back to the coach it was 40C in the shade.
We were taken to meet the pickup trucks, we all piled in with our cases and off across the desert to our first Bedouin camp.  There was a long tent with blanket type material on three side and top.  The front was open and there were woven rugs on the ground.  The cooking area was divided by a sheet and lights strung along the front.  We had foam mattresses to sleep on.    We chose our mattress and collected our bags.  Dinner was served and it was off to bed at 8pm.

 Day 3 Today was one of the two long days, we had 30km to go.  We walked along small wadis and over ridges keeping the Etom Mountains to our left.   We stopped at an oasis and Bedouin women came with their herds of goats, the goats rushing down the steep tracks to the water.

Day 4 Today was supposed to be easier and it was mostly on the flat. It was supposed to be 20m but we got lost so was a little further. The temperature was 37c and very little shade.  I found this very difficult as I am not good in the sun. We stopped for lunch at an abandoned police station up on a hilltop. Some of the trekkers were having problems with their feet and finding the walking difficult.  The government had built a town here for the Bedouin but being nomadic people refused to live there.

Day 5 This was the real challenge for me.  It was one of the longer days 24km and difficult terrain. ‘Vertigo sufferers will find today challenging at times’, and I did.  We set off a 6am before the sun had risen. I thought we were going to follow the old camel trails, but NO.  We climbed the rock face! Fear of Heights – yes, did I do it - YES.  After the climb of 1023m we then trekked down and up again to reach Mount Quaran, part of the Red Mountain Ridge. We trekked through a beautiful wadi with small trees and shrubs.  We walked into Little Petra and had a view of the old caves and temples.

Day 6 Today was an easy day 13km. We walk from Little Petra to the famous Red Rose City of Petra, built more than 2,000 years ago. The valley is enclosed by sandstone cliffs veined with shades of red, purple and pink, out of which the city’s monuments and temples were hewn.  Here we had a guided tour of Petra. We stayed in a hotel in Petra, and went to the Turkish bath for a much needed sauna, body scrub and massage.

Day 7 Today we took the Toyota 4x4 trucks to Wadi Rum.  We walked along the wadi and saw the graffiti of thousands of years ago.  We returned to Jalab Rum Camp for a traditional Bedouin lunch.   In the evening we had a celebration dinner.

Day 8 After a good night’s sleep we took the coach to Amman for our flight home.

We walked a 117km.  Did I enjoy it, yes but it was a far more difficult challenge than I thought it was going to be. Would I do it again? NO, (now I have been home for a few weeks maybe).

Unfortunately I got severe Gastroenteritis and on arriving back in the UK spent 10 days in bed and another month recovering.  I hope to have raised at least £1,600 for our RDA group once I have collected all the sponsorship and gift aid.  

I did this walk in memory of Julie Foulks who died earlier this year.  She gave me the inspiration and the confidence to say ‘Yes I can do this’ and Julie I did do it.

We made it!

Maggie Saunders


February 2011

Forest reprieve

We are delighted with the announcement that the consultation on the future management of the Public Forest Estate has been halted and all forestry clauses in the Public Bodies Bill will be removed.

As you know we were concerned that the proposals to sell off the public forest estate contained no details as to how the permissive access that equestrians enjoy in many of our forests would be preserved in the event of sales going ahead.

Mark Weston, Director of Access, Safety and Welfare,BHS said: “The announcement will be a great relief to all equestrians. This has been a significant lobbying victory for equestrians and other interested parties."

“However, we now need to make sure that the Government lives up to its various pronouncements that it wants to see improved access for equestrians in our forests. The Forestry Commission should now dedicate rights of access for equestrians in our forests pursuant to section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, so that our access is never put in danger again.”

January 2011

BBC Countryfile filming

January 29th - Countryfile filming

"Countryfile producers have decided not to run our film on access as they feel the Government announcement this week undermines the message of the filming and they do not have time to redo". 

January 27th - Future of the public forest estate

Defra has today issued this consultation to its website.  Everyone (horse riders, carriage drivers, cyclists) who has an interest in maintaing / improving access to the forests must please respond.  You can respond on line or down load the consultation document.

DEFRA Consultation: Future of the public forest estate

Ref: 01/11

Issued: 2011-01-27
Consultation start: 2011-01-27
Consultation end: 2011-04-21

Please note that the Right of Open Access on foot was conferred to the public by the CROW Act 2000 and excluded all other users.  However, the Government could dedicate spatial or linear higher rights (riding, cycling, carriage driving) for other users in all the forests, forever by relaxing schedule 2 of the Act and this is what we should all be fighting for.



 On Tuesday, 18th January 2011, the film crew from the Countryfile television programme came to the Forest of Dean to film a local carriage driver in the woods. They were accompanied on the drive by Jenny Carling, Chair of the Forest of Dean and District Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Association who was interviewed by John Craven on the subject of the possible sell-off of Forestry Commission land.

In response to John's question of how it might affect horse riders and carriage drivers Jenny said "If land is sold off then under current legislation we would have no rights of access unlike walkers whose rights are protected by law" She went on to say "Any loss of public safe off-road riding and carriage driving in the forests could be disastrous". Jenny went on to explain to John that the Association had developed a potential coherent network of routes from Dymock in the north of the District to Bream in the south. The routes are called "The Forest of Dean Greenways Project" and the work is supported by funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. This network, with all its associated benefits of healthy exercise for walkers and cyclists, as well as equestrians, together with economic development opportunities for local businesses, could be severely damaged by any sell off as around 60-70% of the route goes over FC land.

The team from the BBC were also interested in learning about the good relationship that exists between local management of the FC and the Association in developing equestrian access. Not least they were impressed by the fund raising that had taken place to pay for clearance of The Pylons track on behalf of all users by the Association. The filming that took place during the drive and of the interview will form part of a larger item on the "Countryfile" programme to be broadcast on 30 January.

It was a beautiful day and Erica drove the carriage into the woods to meet the crew. Ben, the horse, got somewhat agitated at the hold up caused by the BBC parked cars on the track to start with but settled down as we got moving. We went into the forest for about half a mile then John Craven took position on the back step of the carriage alongside Jenny Carling, Chair of the Association, who was to do an interview with him.

Ben, the horse, stood patiently during the interview although he could not quite understand why he was not allowed to trot on! The film crew, consisting of five members, were all very efficient and friendly. After the interview with John Craven, the cameraman mounted the back step of the carriage to film as it was driven along the forest track. The whole process took about 2 hours and we drove the carriage back home very pleased with Ben’s performance!


(More information from  and support the cause by signing the petition on







From the Secretary

Cones Training at Tan House Farm on the 13th October was well attended and all greatly benefited from Barbara Nadin's advice and
experience. Many thanks to her for making the journey from Devon and to Janet for once again providing her facilities, also to Janet's mum
for providing cake! Unfortunately,

Sue Johnson didn't make it as the clutch on her vehicle decided to 'give up' on the hill going out of Chepstow, which must have been a nightmare! Fortunately, David Broome happened to be passing this unhappy scene and very kindly towed them back to Ballan Manor with a Police escort. Several hours later Toby was returned home with a very frustrated and tired Sue and groom Sarah.

I live in the Forest of Dean and up to a year or so ago, it has been a great pleasure to enjoy many miles of off road riding and carriage
driving. ….Until the introduction of the wild boar! They can have two litters of about 9 piglets a year so you can imagine the numbers now
churning up the tracks and frightening people, dogs and horses! They are supposed to be nocturnal, but many have been seen during the
day. My horse doesn't need to see them, if he senses they are about and smells them, I'm in trouble!! These animals are now well out of
control and the Forestry Commission say we just have to learn to live with them! ….Nice!

To desensitise my horse, I thought I would introduce some pigs! The theory being that if the horses have to live with them, they would get used to them. The arrival of two, year old Kune Kune pigs into their fenced off piece of the paddock caused havoc and the horses absolutely freaked! They fled to the furthest corner of the paddock and just stared and snorted and wouldn't move or eat the hay put out for them. My horse crashed through a fence! Getting them in past the pig house to the stables on the first few days was a major problem! ….Had I done the right thing? Or had I permanently scrambled the minds of the horses?

I was seriously worried. However, these pictures were taken after 10 days and the horses just ignore them now. The pigs (or eating machines) are hilarious, very friendly and quite little characters! They eat the acorns which is good as I have several oak trees surrounding the property, as well as any fruit and veg the neighbours save for them.


The things we do! My husband suggested that it might have been a lot easier to give up horses! ….Not ready for that just yet!

Cones Training Day at Tan House Farm, Berkeley

I had taken the day off work so I could enjoy the benefit of the cones training day at Janet's in Berkeley. Then fate stepped in!!! Sarah was going to back step for me and she was late turning up which was a good job really as things turned out.

Toby loaded well and we started on our journey. My vehicle started having problems with the clutch slipping... then as we tried to drive up the hill in Chepstow on the A48 the clutch died. We were stuck half way up the hill with no chance of moving and blocking the A48!!! The police arrived and asked how long our recovery would be and when I told him that it was going to be at least an hour the PC nearly had a fit. We had a laugh when he realised that we had three different constabularies there and all we could do was pretend to be workman and lean on the vehicle and chat whist we waited for recovery. It also turned out that the PCs wife had MS like I have so he was very supportive.

I offered him the option that he could shut the road completely and I would take Toby out of the trailer and harness him up and then drive him up to the David Broome Event Centre. He was concerned that this would be too dangerous so said we would only do this as a last resort. At that moment, who should pull up but David himself!!! He was driving a flat bed lorry and offered to give us a tow to his yard. Apparently David was returning to the yard because the vehicle he should have been picking up had a different tow hitch to that on the lorry. It really goes to
show how fate can step in and I am so glad it did.

We had a great convoy of a police car leading, David's flat bed lorry towing my vehicle which was towing Toby in his trailer and bring up the rear was a police riot van. I am so glad that I had insurance that covered the recovery of not only my vehicle but also my horse.

What a day and we never did get to the training!!!

A Novice Back Stepper

Now, you might think a back stepper's role is as an added extra to the skills of a carriage driver and somewhat undeniably superfluous in the scheme of things. So did I! Until the opportunity arose for me to take that position.

It all happened for me last spring when I, reluctantly, decided to retire my riding horse, Sam. I have had him for 18 years and he is now 25 years old and a mildly laminitic horse so he was showing the signs of being a little pottery on his hooves. He has given both my daughter and I many years of good service through novice hunter trials, show jumping, dressage and Pony Club and is now enjoying life with no hassle. I did not feel the need to find another horse to ride but I still wanted to be involved with the horse world and, as I knew Erica, I asked if I could come out with her and her carriage in the Forest of Dean one day.

This was a whole new experience for me. Partly, it was the joy of going through an area of the forest that I did not know. We all get used to riding in the same area and, even though the forest has many tracks and we can vary our route, it is fun to go somewhere completely different.

My role appeared to be to undo and open the barriers, check and signal to the traffic and to chat! Then... I wanted to learn how to tack up the harness. After years of tacking up a saddle and bridle without even thinking about it, it took me ages to sort out the regime of putting on the harness correctly.

We moved on to a training day at Tan House Farm where Barbara Nadin was to instruct us and I met some other carriage drivers. I started to realise that this sport was more intense than I had expected and it brought back memories of riding club rallies.

Our first competition at Cricklands happened to be on my birthday and it was the best present I could have had. The friendliness of the other competitors was heart warming and they were all so skilful with their horses. However, it was a shock to realise how we had to learn the course of obstacles and cones. I was really relieved that I could leave the dressage route to my driver! It was a glorious day and I did my best to follow the rules i.e. to keep my mouth shut through the dressage and the cones but to prompt during the obstacles.

It was not until our second competition when I saw James Broome acting as a back stepper for another driver that I realised how much more I had to do to help my horse and driver around the obstacles. The adrenaline rush during the competition is thrilling.

There is a learning curve in this discipline but it is gentle and amicably achieved. I am more than happy with my role as a novice back stepper and hope to continue. Maybe, one day, I might take the reins up myself but I admit to not wanting to be too responsible for the ultimate result and preferring to 'go along for the ride'!


Team Toby on the Road to Happiness at Towerlands

Being new to owning a horse I decided to try my hand at showing at a local show in Gloucester at the beginning of the year, not realising it was a qualifying class for Towerlands. I was gob smacked when we were pulled out in the line-up and that was when I found out we had qualified! Gary Docking who had won the class told me I must go to Towerlands as it would be unfair on people lower down the lineup who didn't get a chance, so that was it, decision made.

The next few months were spent getting Toby fit driving him around the Forest of Dean and building up his muscles on the hills. The only problem was he was getting almost too fit and at the last couple of shows we attended Toby was getting rather overzealous. Judge Heather Noad suggested a change in diet as the alfalfa in his food was covered in molasses so was making him very fizzy. We only had two weeks before the big event so I took her advice and thank goodness it worked. I have MS so if Toby had got too strong for me it would have left me with the dilemma of having to give up on him, luckily that didn't happen.

We travelled the six hours in pouring rain on the Friday to give us all a chance of a good nights sleep before the big day. I had already decided it didn't matter if we didn't get anywhere in the two classes we had entered as long as we got there safely and Toby behaved. It was just going to be an experience.

Toby was quite restless in the horsebox area when we were getting him ready on the Saturday morning so I decided to go to the collecting ring and exercise area early to get the wind out of his sails and get him used to the tannoy announcements and other horses around him. The steward was surprised and informed us it was an hour before our class, but I explained my reasoning so that was fine.

When we entered the class Toby was behaving well and was quite relaxed and he did his show very well. He may be a big ploddy Cob x Shire but he knows how to rein back well. I couldn't believe it when we were pulled out 4th in the National Osbourne Refrigerators' 4-wheeled exercise class and the 3rd in the Pleasure driving class.

I am so glad we bothered to go. The commentator kept saying "And Sue is still smiling!" I was so happy, and surely that is what driving is about…enjoying yourself. Thanks Gary Docking for giving me the push I needed to attend. Seeing all the large horseboxes with their teams of helpers reminded me that although we only had a little trailer I couldn't have done it without my back up crew. Chris my husband who was in charge of getting us there as I am unable to drive motorised vehicles for long distances due to my disability. Becca my daughter, who was my back stepper and groom. Alex (Becca's husband) who made sure my carriage was in good condition and gleaming like a new pin after it's mucky journey on the motorway in that appalling weather.

As they say it's not all about winning, it is about taking part and I am so glad we did.


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