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by Linda Ongley (Carriage Driver)
Every third Saturday of the month, the morning is abuzz at Jan Muspratt’s property at Rossmore. This is where the Tall Timbers carriage driving group holds its drives.
At the helm is Jan, who keeps us all on track for the morning’s driving. John and Margaret Moore arrive with Sonny Boy, and Jan has Nicholas ready for the day. The helpers are allocated their duties, with at least three working with Margaret and Sonny and three with Jan and Nicholas. Each is given a lead rope, as anyone may be called on to assist with holding the ponies when driving in the paddocks. Usually we have four drivers and between six and eight helpers on the day.
Jan uses the wheelchair loading vehicle, whilst Margaret brings her specially designed conventional sulky which has been accredited for RDA use. Each has two drivers for the morning’s work and turns are taken to drive in the two paddocks. In one we usually practise dressage whilst in the other is a cones course. Helpers position themselves around these paddocks.
We are a happy bunch, and during the year have been getting in practice for our State Competition in Cones, Barrels and Dressage. These things give us something to work for, and have good fun doing it. On our most recent day, we spruced up and had photos taken for the State Competition concourse class.
After the morning’s drives are finished, the ponies are unharnessed and washed down. Sonny goes back to his float for a feed whilst Nicholas can’t wait to get to his paddock and roll. We then all adjourn to the barn for morning tea or coffee. We all do our bit in bringing the cakes or biscuits. This is when we catch up on news over the last month and discuss our activities for future driving days.
Without Jan it would not be such a satisfying day, as she gives us a lot of incentive to better ourselves in driving, making it a personal challenge, and this means a lot to us.
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By Janet Muspratt (Carriage Driving Coordinator)
The group has been lucky with fine weather for all the driving days this year.
We have been concentrating on completing the events in the 2010 State Carriage Driving Competition. The new dressage test – the ACDS Novice CC is longer and calls for more difficult movements than the AA and BB we have done previously. It is good to have this extra challenge and our drivers and whips (coaches) are working hard at it. Our ground helpers are becoming very helpful dressage judges with frank but constructive advice on our efforts.
Our May driving day began on a great note with the presentation of the 2009 RDA NSW Champion Driver Trophy and Certificate to Michelle Harris. Michelle, driving Nicholas, achieved this by winning her dressage, cones and photograph classes and coming 4th in the barrels. It was very exciting to have Michelle win and also bring the trophy to Tall Timbers for the first time. Michelle has been driving for many years but is still striving for improvement. This was especially evident in her excellent cones driving results (a rare clear round in a difficult course in the 2009 comp) and increasingly accurate dressage tests. Nicholas is not always totally cooperative in dressage so is not a ‘walkover’ drive.
By Janet Muspratt, Carriage Driving Co-ordinator .
The presentation of the State Carriage Driving Competition results and ribbons was the highlight of the first get together for 2011 for the Tall Timbers carriage driving group at Rossmore.
The three Tall Timbers drivers all did very well, in particular Lynne Buckingham who was the Champion Driver for 2010. Lynne, driving Nicholas, won the Photo class from a group of eight entries, the Novice Cones and the Open Dressage, as well as coming third in the Open Bending. Michelle Harris also with Nicholas, came third in the Photo and Open Dressage classes, fourth in the Open Bending and won the Open Cones, whilst Linda Ongley driving Sonny Boy, had four seconds – in the Photo, Open Dressage, Open Bending and Novice Cones classes. Congratulations on a fine effort from everyone.
We are down to one pony (Nicholas) at present with Sonny Boy being retired at the end of 2010. Margaret and John Moore have been bringing Sonny Boy to Rossmore for many years for the monthly driving sessions. He has been a very willing and forward going pony until recently when foot problems have caught up with him. His eye catching liver chestnut coat with beautiful blonde mane and tail has given him many admirers. He will be very hard to replace.
A search is now on for another suitable pony which can be based at the Tall Timbers Centre, Box Hill. An experienced pony of 12 – 14hh which is broken to harness and saddle would be ideal. Please contact Kerry (at our office on 9679 1246) if you know of such a pony.
The calendar for driving at Rossmore in 2011 has been distributed. We will be driving mostly on the second Saturday of the month. A start will be made on activities in the 2011 Carriage Driving Competition in our March driving session.
By Janet Muspratt (Coordinator and CD Whip)
Our last driving session was a very busy one. It was the day for having photos taken and driving videoed dressage tests for the State Competition. Nicholas was washed the previous day and the harness thoroughly cleaned, including polishing all the brass. The vehicle was also given a good clean and polish.
In the morning, Nick’s hooves were blackened and he was given a good brushing to make his black coat shine. All was going well until we discovered that the vehicle had a flat tyre. Despite attempts to pump it up, it would not budge. Luckily of course we could fall back on the second vehicle, but it needed to be dusted off, and have its brass polished before being used. It was all hands on deck by Joy Harris, Lynne Buckingham, Allan Ongley, Tiffany Cornall and Debbie Lyshak. Meanwhile Linda Ongley, Michelle Harris and I got dressed in our good blouses and coats and had our buttonhole flowers pinned on, ready for the photos. We also put on our driving aprons and gloves.
Many photos were taken with the digital cameras but it was amazingly hard to have everything right – horse’s ears pricked, standing square, harness sitting correctly, vehicle balanced properly, us smiling – so much to think of! Nicholas understandably got pretty tired of it after a while and just wanted to get on and do something, rather standing and posing. With the photos done, we moved on to doing the dressage test. Allan Ongley was behind the video camera, which he had on a tripod, on the tray of my Dodge truck, parked just outside the arena. This gave him a good vantage point overlooking the arena, from the judge’s position at C.
Our ground helpers took up their positions around the arena and we got under way. Michelle drove first. Nick was given a little break before Linda did her dressage test, also driving Nicholas. Our dressage practice over the year hopefully showed in our final tests. As the day was getting quite warm we were pleased when the formalities were all over. Nicholas was unharnessed and let go in his paddock with his mate Spice, and we all adjourned to the shed for our morning tea and chat over how the day had gone. It will now be up to the State Competition judges to see how our photos and dressage tests compare with those of the competitors from the other centres. We will also be submitting our times for the cones course and bending race.
Exciting news ! We have finally found a driving pony for Tall Timbers ! He is a very nice dapple grey pony called Boris and will be seen in his new driving role at the Tall Timbers Centre Box Hill in the New Year.
Michelle joined Tall Timbers RDA riding group in 1985, aged 22 years. In 1990, Michelle was approached by Janet Muspratt to become a carriage driver. Janet together with several other members of the Hills District Harness Club had just completed training to become Whips (instructors) with Tall Timbers RDA. Michelle was to become their first driving client, using the specially built wheelchair loading vehicle.
Michelle was given the reins and encouraged to take control of the horse from the start. As is RDA policy she was accompanied in the vehicle by a Whip, holding a second set of reins for safety reasons. Outside competition followed after a few years, including CDEs and show classes at the Castle Hill and Stroud Shows. Then came the very exciting occasion when RDA carriage driving classes were held at the Sydney Royal, starting in 1998. One of the highlights for Michelle being winning the RDA Carriage Driving Pony class with Harlequin.
All of these events and many more have been successfully completed - not bad for someone driving from a wheelchair !
Currently Michelle is driving the black Welsh pony gelding Nicholas monthly at Rossmore. Janet continues to be her Whip. They get on well together, with a similar sense of humour, so driving is a happy time with lots of laughs, even though there is sometimes some dispute about which is left and right. Carriage driving has resulted in big physical improvements for Michelle, especially in balance, coordination and strength.
Michelle has also completed her TPC Certificate at TAFE and other courses including computing. This is despite poor vision and coordination. Her’s is definitely a story of success through great determination.
By Margaret Moore, RDA Whip
Finding a good harness pony is a difficult task at the best of times but finding a pony suitable for driving at Tall Timbers is even harder. When Sonny could no longer cope with Driving for the Disabled the search went on for a replacement – a kind, calm, willing, strong and not too old pony.
I had seen Boris advertised by Max Pearce, a well known harness horse breeder and competitor but had not bothered to go and look at him as we had already found a harness horse. Later I remembered Boris so Jan Muspratt, the RDA Harness Assessor, and I went to Goulburn to see him. To cut a long story short everyone agreed that Boris was the right choice and Boris was sent to Jan’s for a while to see how he performed as we knew that he hadn’t been used for some time. Boris worked willing and well for Jan so off to Tall Timbers he went.
Boris is a dapple grey Welsh pony. He is about 13 hands and has a good sturdy frame suitable for harness. Nothing seems to worry him and he is becoming a great pleasure pony who doesn’t seem to have a mean streak in his body. I think that it may have been a bit of a shock to the other horses when he first started being driven but thanks to Chanida, Nicole, John and Sandra, and our volunteers Frank and Elsa, Boris has started being used for lessons and is giving Christian, our driver, so much pleasure.
It has been a fairly long journey and at times a little rocky but I hope that driving will become a very successful part of the Tall Timbers’ Box Hill program.
By Janet Muspratt, Co-ordinator and CD Whip
Carriage driving at Rossmore so far this year has been done with Nicholas, and myself as Whip, as Warren Rickett’s pony Max has been indisposed with foot abscess problems. Fortunately Max has now recovered and will be ready for the next driving day in July. We now have four drivers, Michelle Harris, Linda Ongley, Katrina Webb and Felix Dawes.
We have been concentrating on doing the various timed events in the State CD Competition. We started with the Bending Race and then moved on to the Precision Cones which is quite a tricky course to negotiate, especially with all the cones gates being only 25cm (less than a ruler length) wider than the vehicle. Each cone has a ball on top and faults are incurred if a ball is knocked off. The aim is to have a clear round in the fastest time possible. Each driver had a number of runs through the course and quickly showed improvement in accuracy and time. The driver and I always had a discussion after each run to work out why we might have hit a cone, and also sought the advice of the ground helpers, so that next time we hopefully solved that problem. The most common problem is not approaching the cones gate square. Coming in at an angle usually results in a dropped ball. By the end of the session everyone had completed some excellent rounds although it remained hard to achieve a completely clear round. Unfortunately the June driving session had to be cancelled due to the grounds here being too wet. We are looking forward to the July session with both ponies and Whips back in action. Our newest drivers Katrina and Felix are progressing very well and showing good rein handling and driving skills, and are enjoying their driving.
Fortnightly driving started again in April at Box Hill with John Wright as Assistant Whip, and Christian Walsh driving Boris. They have also been concentrating on doing the CD Competition events. Christian drives with one hand and a ‘ski bar’ and shows remarkable skill weaving in and out of the cones in the Bending Race. This is something many very experienced drivers would find quite difficult. They have moved on to doing the Precision Cones and, just like the Rossmore drivers, Christian has started to master the complex course after some practice and debriefing sessions with John and the ground helpers, on how to improve.
Dressage practice of the ACDS Novice CC Test has also been on the agenda at Box Hill, with the ground helpers acting as judges. Circles and straight lines, use of corners and transitions have all become better with practice. At the last session, John and Christian had a change of pace and went on a pleasure drive out into the back lanes and paddocks. Boris the pony thoroughly enjoyed being out and about after all previous driving sessions with Christian being held in the outdoor arena.
I attend each of these sessions at Box Hill as supervising Whip and am very impressed by how purposeful and worthwhile these sessions are. Christian is showing improvement all the time in his driving skills, and he and John always seem to be enjoying themselves.
Both these driving groups would not exist without their excellent ground helpers, who do a wide range of tasks such as helping harness and unharness the horses, setting out and picking up equipment in the arenas, judging and timing events and replacing knocked cones and balls, assisting drivers in getting into and out of the vehicles and most importantly, keeping a watch on proceedings in case any problems need to be dealt with. Thank you everyone for your enthusiasm and commitment. It is much appreciated.
RDA NSW TALL TIMBERS CARRIAGE DRIVING 2013
Janet Muspratt (Coordinator and CD Whip)
Driving at Rossmore has been with just one pony, Nicholas, over the last few months as Max once again succumbed to foot problems. Warren did a couple of very successful sessions with Linda Ongley and Katrina Webb driving Max, in the winter. As we have four drivers, Linda, Katrina, Michelle Harris and Felix Dawes, we have decided to split the once monthly driving sessions to ease the load on Nicholas. Michelle and Linda are now driving on a Wednesday and Katrina and Felix on the usual Saturday.
At Michelle and Linda’s last session, it was time to dress in our best driving gear for the competition photos to be taken, and for dressage tests to be videoed. This means that Michelle and Linda have now done all the Carriage Driving Competition events – Long Cones, Precision Cones, Bending, Dressage and Photographs. Katrina and Felix just need to do their dressage and photographs at their next session for them to be finished too.
A big milestone was achieved with carriage driving at the Centre at Box Hill when John Wright gained the status of Carriage Driving Whip following his assessment at the start of October by CD Assessor Helen O’Brien. Well done John! It is just on two years since John started driving and the goal of having carriage driving at Box Hill without the need for supervision by visiting Whips has finally been achieved.
Christian Walsh driving Boris, with John as his Whip, has also been doing the CD Competition events and completed the last of them a few weeks ago when Alan Ongley videoed his dressage and took still photos. No doubt Christian, John and Boris will be relieved to have finally nailed the dressage and not have to practice 20 metre circles, straight lines, serpentines and rein backs for a while. Pleasure driving in the back paddocks is looking good.
We are very lucky at both driving groups to have willing, cheerful, capable and dependable ground helpers. They are an integral part of every driving session and allow each Whip to concentrate on the horse and coaching of the driver, knowing that the other aspects of the driving session are being taken care of. Thank you everyone again for your enthusiasm and commitment. I am sure that at Rossmore and Tall Timbers each session is a happy and worthwhile experience for our drivers because of this group effort.
All our drivers have made good progress during the year, especially in the negotiation of tight narrow cones gates in the precision cones and in the ‘always can be improved upon’ dressage movements. Nicholas, Boris and Max have done a great job as our carriage driving ponies. I look forward to another interesting and progressive year in 2014.
Janet Muspratt (Coordinator and CD Whip)
Driving has been held once a month on a Saturday morning over the winter. The July and August sessions saw Linda Ongley and Katrina Webb driving Max with Warren Ricketts as Whip, and Michelle Harris and Felix Dawes driving Nicholas with Janet Muspratt as Whip.
A lot of fun was had by Katrina and Felix in one session where they took turns to drive the Competition long cones course as fast and accurately as possible. The ponies were also very enthusiastic and flew through the course, urged on by their Whips who are known to be quite competitive! Each combination wanted to come back for more, and eventually drove about five rounds each, trying to outdo the other.
The course involves 16 gates made up of pairs of road cones, each with balls on top, set up around the arena in much the same way as a show jumping course. There is a clearance of about 60cm for the vehicles to go through on most of the gates, but with several gates the clearance is only 25cm ie only 12½ cm on each side of the vehicle – not much room for a mistake. A knocked cone or ball results in penalties so the aim is to drive the course as fast as possible, but ‘clear’.
In September and October, Nicholas and Janet needed to step up when Warren was hospitalised unexpectedly for a heart bypass operation. He is now home, progressing well and looking forward to getting back to driving. Sessions were split onto different days as a result, as taking two drivers per session is enough for Nicholas. There has been more practice for dressage and also some fun doing barrel racing and bending. The videoing of the Competition dressage tests will take place very soon, as well as the photographs for the Competition.
As usual we have had wonderful support from our ground volunteers - Joy Harris, Debbie Lyshak, Alan Ongley, Tiffany Cornall, Lynne Buckingham, Marg Moore and Peter Webb. All do a great job across a variety of tasks such as harnessing and unharnessing, assisting drivers with mounting and dismounting, being grooms at the horses’ heads, timekeeping, stewarding during cones courses and acting as judges, as well as being stationed around the arena ready to assist if any problems occur.