Colette celebrates National Carriage Driving success ! 

Martin Read – Sports Reporter

Congratulations to Collyers A level student Colette Holdsworth ! 17 year old Colette has won the National Carriage Driving Advanced Pony Championships in the four day event at Bywell Hall , near Newcastle after only having been carriage driving for four years. Colette’s proud father Rod explains: “When she was younger, Colette did some Pony Club activities with her old pony, Belle – now retired to the field –  progressing to carriage driving, competing with Pepper, a 13.2 hands Welsh cross mare. She had visited a carriage driving fair at Merrist Wood Agricultural College, and then went for a lesson with Pippa Bassett, a carriage driving instructor near Capel, and was hooked!” 

Like Three Day Eventing, Carriage Driving comprises three phases – Dressage, a sequence of set moves to display schooling and obedience in the arena – Marathon, at speed against the clock on a cross country course with obstacles built around natural features, including water and steep banks, designed to stretch both horse and rider, driven in the correct order, the tight turns necessitating judgement and skill – and Cone Driving – testing the prowess and competence of the driver and the suppleness and acquiescence of the pony, requiring a steady hand, concentration, ice cool nerves and a well-trained animal.

Last year Colette represented team GB at the European Youth Carriage Driving Championships in Hungary, winning an individual gold medal. And, it is very much a family show, with Colette’s sister Nicole also part of the GB team with her pony Ken, both of them mucking out and feeding their ponies morning and evening and training every day during the peak season.  

Colette was also Supreme Champion last year at the Indoor National Indoor Carriage Driving championships. 

Concentrating on Maths, Further Maths and Physics, Colette plans to go to university in 2020, meanwhile she will continue training with Pepper throughout the winter indoor season ahead of next spring’s start of the new outdoor season and hopes to go on to represent GB as part of the future adult team. Why is carriage driving so special for Colette? She tells the District Post: “I love the bond between horse and driver. There is a lot of trust involved in carriage driving as competing is such a big ask of them. Without a strong connection between horse and driver, the pairing will not be competitively successful. Building this bond with Pepper has been the most enjoyable and rewarding part of my time in the sport. The carriage driving community are so friendly and encouraging which makes the events feel really special”

Colette’s father adds: “Carriage driving is an equine sport that appeals to both young and old and attracts people from all walks of life. What they all have in common is a love of horses”. At the age of 98, the Duke of Edinburgh may have surrendered his driving licence, but he still loves carriage driving, the sport in which he has participated in and enjoyed for many years, and he has recently been spotted carriage driving around royal estates.

For anyone interested in carriage driving, information is available on these websites –  The sport is open to all, with taster lessons at local clubs, such as Brockham Harness Club and Bradbourne Carriage Driving Club. It is not necessary to have your own pony or carriage to have a go, and indoor Sussex/Surrey events and training are held at Merrist Wood Agricultural College and Golden Cross Equestrian Centre, with outdoor events held at venues across the country, including Goodwood Park and Windsor Park.

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