'Queen of the Shetlands reins' supreme!
Continuing her reign as 'Queen of the Shetlands', prolific shetland pony driver Julie Wedgbury trounced the competition at the CIAT Picton Attelage de Tradition over the last weekend in June and took away the Supreme Champion, Best Lady Whip and Best Multiples categories. This win adds to Julie’s many accolades as one of the foremost ambassadors for shetland pony driving, often derided as the poor relation of the driving world. Her team of her outstanding chestnut Shetlands was put to an original varnished wagonette, one of the oldest and most original carriages on the circuit and showed the abilities of the small ponies that they compete on an equal basis to all other equines in an Attelage de Tradition competition.. The correctness of her turnout and excellence in driving skills bode the team well to win the overall highest scores. The competition now in its fifth year at Picton attracted a growing number of entries from all over the country including Yorkshire, Cornwall, Isle of Wight, Shropshire and Herefordshire but sadly it was noticeable of the absence of local drivers who were unable to support this event due to their other commitments. The competition did attract some extremely high standard turnouts and fabulous carriages including Yorkshireman David Calvert and his pair of Hackney part breds and Russell Hand with his outstanding team of coloured Gelderlanders put to an original Hoopers private Omnibus. Russell’s excellence and attention to detail won him the coveted award for highest placed turnout at presentation. 'Poacher turned Gamekeeper’ Lester Dagge suspended his organisational skills during the event to take part himself with his wife’s New Forest part bred with their debut in traditional turnout. Their efforts were hard earned and rewarded the Best Gentleman whip award and ranking 2nd overall. Jane Friend from Herefordshire won her category with her delightful Dartmoor Pony whilst Nicki McDonagh drove her’s and Margaret Honeybourne’s pair of Shetland ponies to a delightful Shetland Pony Ralli Car. Despite their protestations that their ponies would be woefully late and unable to meet the Routier times, actually surprised the owners and came in on time, illustrating the astonishing abilities of the breed. Paul Mander with his now iconic Miniature Roof Seat Brake drove his team of shetlands which again supported the principle that the Attelage de Tradition is suitable for equines of all sizes; even though the Routier stage was 15km long, his ponies were still bursting with stamina at the end and capable of doing another round!
The Attelage de Tradition is a three stage competition starting with a preliminary judging by three individual judges. This year Picton was honoured to have Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett, a prolific Attelage de Tradition competitor, Colin Henderson, Chairman of the Carriage Foundation and Gordon Marks an eminent BDS judge. Their individual presentation scores were added to the overall scores for the competition including the timed Routier with five driving skill difficulties featuring a salute, hill stop, junction stop, music and carpet of honour in front of the Castle. The Picton Castle estate delighted the competitors and spectators alike offering outstanding picturesque scenes and a photographers delight. The event was supported on the Saturday morning with Sidesaddle Association classes adding to the style, panache and elegance of the occasion. The honorary Sidesaddle Judge, Mrs Peta Roberts had her work cut out for some very keen and popular entries.
Alongside the Attelage Tradition, the host organisers, Dyfed Carriage Club also ran a Carriage Driving Challenge competition for modern vehicles with a healthy contingent of club members and visitors from around the country. The competition runs in tandem along the same principles as the Attelage de Tradition, save for modern exercise vehicles. This allows for newcomer competitors to savour the essence of Attelage de Tradition and encourage them to compete in the future with original traditional vehicles. This year, the overall winner for the Carriage Driving Challenge went to veteran driver Marian Dunevein from Wiltshire who managed to get back in the box seat after 25 years with thanks to coaching from her mentor Amy Bracey.
The Carriages at the Castle event was a triumph of teamwork and clockwork organisational skills thanks to the members of the Dyfed Carriage Club. The heart of the event was the well stocked members tent manned by club stalwart Judith Parr supplying endless cups of tea and coffee for the guests. Their hospitality started off with Friday night meet and greet barbecue for members, helpers and competitors and the Saturday night champagne reception in the castle met with a traditional Welsh welcome with the melodic tones of a Welsh Harpist. The gala dinner allowed competitors to socialise and compare notes with an eloquent after dinner talk by Colin Henderson on the work of the Carriage Foundation. The event runs to a tight ship with an intensive and exhaustive scoring system manned by Club Secretary Victoria Parr. The final placings are only ever revealed until the last competitor has completed the cones course and it is then that Vicky and her team of scrutineers are able to announce the category winners. With the hard working Hornblower Bob Elliott welcoming the winners with a suitable fanfare, our commentator Rosemary Neale was able to make the revelations. The very nature of the event is about friendly sportsmanship in a fair and equal platform. The complex scoring system, based on penalty points, optimum times and presentation scores offers a level playing field for all competitors, so when the final placings are announced, all competitors celebrate jubilation for their piers.
Finally, an event of the nature is a massive organisational challenge and is extremely grateful to the support of the Picton Castle Trust, tenant farmers, competitors, judges, volunteer helpers and multitude of sponsors. This year, particular thanks go to title sponsors Fenix Carriages, Allan & Page and the many private individuals who made it an outstanding success.
Details on line at www.dyfedcarriageclub.co.uk
Supreme Champion, Best Lady Whip, Best Multiples: Julie Wedgbury
Best Gentleman Whip, Best Single Horse: Lester Dagge
Best Presentation: Russell Hand
Best Single Pony: Jane Friend
Best Pony Pair, Nicki McDonah
Best Horse Pair: David Calvert
Best Carriage Driving Challenge: Marian Dunevein