Report from “CIAT Carriages at the Castle”
Venue: Picton Castle Pembrokeshire 28-29th June 2014
A festival of Elegance at Picton…
Dyfed Carriage Club hosted their third annual ‘CIAT Carriages at the Castle’ at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire on the last weekend in June which enjoying some glorious weather that turned out to be a ‘quintessential festival of elegance’ . With the finest carriages in the land and an invitational show from the Sidesaddle Association, it was indeed elevated to a premier equestrian event status!
The 2 day competition is run strictly to the rules of the AIAT (Association International d’Attelage de Traditon) to follow the popular European format for Concours d’Elegance d’Attelage de Tradition. This competition is more widely know as the event run at Cuts in France, but is also popular in Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. Picton is the only AIAT event currently run in the United Kingdom which takes full advantage of it’s prestigious castle backdrop, popular holiday location, picturesque scenery, miles of quiet country lanes, the chance to dress up for the Gala dinner in the castle and an enthusiastic club membership; all the ingredients essential to run a good ‘Attelage’.
This year’s event enjoyed a marked step change with improved facilities for a bigger, better and more entertaining competition. After 12 months of keen fundraising, the club members were able to hire in (at great expense) an on-site stable block which greatly aided competitors taking advantage of their weekend stay. Competitors traveled far and wide from Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire, Sussex, Leicestershire, Cornwall and Shropshire to enjoy the friendly and enthusiastic welcome from the Dyfed Carriage Club members. In addition to the new stable block, the event enjoyed a new large flat grand arena that allowed for a more inclusive atmosphere. Central to the arena was the new member’s tent which hosted the Friday night ‘meet and greet’ BBQ, another essential ingredient for good Attelage.
In addition to the carriage event, the Side Saddle association were invited and held three sidesaddle classes including a spectacular costume class held in the castle forecourt. The showstoppers had to be their thee junior riders, Tegan Niblo, Seren James and master Carl Daly! Local sidesaddle stalwart Val Rees completed the picture of three generation side saddle riders with her daughter Mel James and grand daughter Seren. Tanya Guest and her Cleveland Bay won the costume class with her Gainsborough inspired period costume.
Saturday saw the side saddle classes take part in the Grand arena judged by Sara Parry-Jones with large entries of up to 14 in each class. Meanwhile, the first of the three carriage stages started in the afternoon in front of the castle. The competition saw 15 turnouts entered, sadly one competitor had to withdraw couple of days before due to a violent robbery at home. Our two judges, AIAT technical delegate Richard James and John Marson then had to individually scrutinize all the turnouts in intricate detail at a standing presentation, awarding scores along the way. Competitors were judged on their horses, carriages, harness, passengers and overall impression. These scores are then be collated and added to the rest of the scores accrued over the weekend. A wide variety of turnouts came forward, from the very correct and impressive pairs with their vintage vehicles down to local club members with their exercise vehicles. It was an event for all to take part in and enjoy!
Saturday night was time to party and all the competitors were invited for a formal black tie gala reception inside the castle followed by a gourmet meal in the castle restaurant. A prize raffle was run to great popular acclaim (our ears are still ringing to the screams of joy from the luxury picnic hamper winner!) It was also an opportunity to formally welcome all the competitors and thank the kind sponsors and volunteer helpers, including Fiona Bonney who donated a set of new Zilco WebZ harness to the supreme champion.
Sunday morning saw the start of the second stage 15.2km Routier with difficulties along the way. These simple tasks proved quite challenging for many and were relished by the spectators around the Castle Estate. Richard James was at home manning the bonfire difficulty whilst John Marson was in charge of dispensing the champagne! Other difficulties included a parallel rail over a narrow castellated bridge, a salute, a tractor and loud music. The Champagne difficulty drew the most crowds with the public surrounding the castle forecourt in awe at the sight of the splendid range of carriages and horses whilst fascinated and amused a the drivers attempts to drink and drive at the same time!
Sunday afternoon saw the conclusion of the stages with a gentle lowing cones course. The cones width are altered to suit the carriage track, and Paul Mander’s debut with his miniature Roof Seat break and Trandem of shetlands proved challenging as the calculations are decided on the width of the wheels, not the width of the three ponies… but a decision was agreed on the width of his splinter bar and all was well. All the competitors managed the course of 20 gates with relative ease, the rules are relaxed on rein handling for the cones course. Whilst the scrutineers completed the collation of all the scores and crunched the numbers, the main arena was given over to some entertainment. Silverstone Green Energy kindly supplied an all electric Renault Twizzy car with British Autograss Champion (and groom to Russell Hand) Liam Evans competing against former Indoor Driving Trials Champion Lindsay Doran with her Dartmoor Pony Missy to a Bennington Spirit marathon vehicle. Both drivers battled a round of cones with the pony coming in 1 second faster than the car. Unfortunately Lindsay suffered 20 penalty points for balls down, but was still a very impressive result. Both drivers swapped vehicles to have another go, with Lindsay missing out to Liam, however the challenge gauntlet was thrown down for next year’s competition!
Back to the main competition and with all the result in, a winner was announced for the various categories, with Elizabeth Cartwirght-Hignett, stalwart of the AIAT driving scene for many years declared overall supreme champion, Best Lady Whip and Best Horse Pairs winner. Elizabeth was awarded a brand new set of Zilco WebZ harness by Zilco Europe’ Managing Director Fiona Bonney. The WebZ is Zilco’s latest design of competition performance harness and enjoyed it’s world debut here at Picton. It was fitting that Elizabeth in a final act of generosity, has offered her new harness to her local RDA driving group in Wiltshire. Other results also included Best Gentleman whip going to Russell Hand, Best Pony Pair to Rosemary Neale, Best Horse to Helen Annema, Best Pony to Lindsay Doran, Best Multiples to Paul Mander , Best Carriage Dog to Jane Friend, Best Veteran Horse to Russell Hand and best Exercise to previous winner, Ellie Stevens.
The event was a resounding success both for fun, entertainment and profit for the visitor attraction for the estate. With the high standard of competitors, outstanding facilities, wonderful location, affiliated CIAT status and the club’s friendly and welcoming nature, it made the event even more speciala and re- affirmed th
is to be the premier Attelage event in the UK! We look forward to next year’s event and cordially invite new competitors to take part!
More details can be seen online at the event’s own facebook page where a full almanac of photographs from the competition can be seen (look for “CIAT Carriages at the Castle”) and check out the Dyfed Carriage Club’s website at www.dyfedcarriageclub.co.uk