Australian Carriage Driving Championships 2000

Victorian Andrew Pollock’s plans to win back to back Australian titles came to an end in a spectacular roll-over in a Marathon Obstacle. Taking only seconds to right his vehicle and complete the Obstacle Pollock was handicapped in his quest for victory with the 60 penalties awarded in a roll-over.

Over the Easter weekend the Carriage Horse Driving Trials Club staged the Australian Carriage Driving Championships 2000 at Numurkah in Victoria. Attracting a field of 60 entries from four states the Championships followed the News South Wales and South Australian titles held late March and early April.

Event Director was Ross Nankivell ably assisted by his wife, Margo as Secretary and Technical Delegate was Doug Willcoxson from Braidwood, NSW.

Day 1 - Presentation and Dressage

Some lovely turnouts presented to judge Robyn Anderson in the Novice Presentation arena. Madeleine Bentley (VIC) as always looked a picture with her attention to detail paying off with a score of 42. Close behind was Debra Hatton, Liz Carey, Bev Bresannello, Dawn Walter (all VIC) and Anne Perry (SA). Open judge, Dick Harkness had a tougher time judging in his arena. Pair drivers Jackie Boyd (SA) and Melissa Ray (VIC) both achieved 45, with Tony James (NSW), Alan Farmer (VIC) and four-in-hand driver Gavin Robson (VIC) fractionally behind on 44.

After Presentation it was over to the Dressage arenas where the judges were Patricia Mann and Gerald Barnard-Brown for the Novice classes and judges Dot Willcoxson and Louise McNair for the Open and Multiples competitors.

Stand-out performances in the Novices came from Anne Perry in the Novice Horse class with a score of 30.5 followed by Novice Pony entries Wendie Stephens (TAS) and Langtree Royal Fanfare on 33.5, Carolynne Roberts (VIC) driving Navigator with 39.0 and Peter Hennel (VIC) and the unpredictable Lucinda 40.5.

Over in the Open arena it was tougher to get low scores. Open Pony drivers Sue French (VIC) with Barnon Yeoman (37.5) and Paula Rhodes (VIC) and Tokanui Maestro (50.1) continued their recent strong dressage performances; Open Horse drivers Andrew Pollock driving Matilda and Leanne Connor (VIC) unbelievably tied on 46.3 with her horse Navatoe Jedda. The best of multiples were Gavin Robson on 51.4 only six points ahead of David Searle (SA) on 57.7, both demonstrating the control, accuracy and horsemanship necessary to drive four-in-hands, and Pony Pair drivers Melissa Ray on 48 and Garry Harris (NSW) with 51.8. 

Many leaders after day one’s competition were leading by narrow margins leaving no room for errors the next day.

Day 2 - Marathon or Cross Country

Another day to order and all drivers looked forward to testing themselves and their horses over the 20km of the marathon. Consisting of five timed sections, including two walks, the course was relatively flat, the marathon obstacles open and the times relaxed.

Obstacle sponsors were Stockgain, Katunga Lucerne Mill, Mitavite, Barastoc, Teangi Feeds, Riverland Oilseeds and ACDS clubs Central Highlands and Mornington Peninsula. Several MOs consisted of posts and rails, two incorporated trees and MO6, The Teangi Muster, comprised round hay bales and "cows".

In the Novice Pony Class (u9hh ne11hh) Belinda Drury (VIC) took the honours by 1.2 penalties from Jenny Willcoxson (NSW). One class up and Madeleine Bentley finished four points up from Vicki Stevenson (VIC) while Andrew Lyon (VIC) was well ahead by 10 points in the bigger class. In the Novice Horse class Andrew Marshall (VIC) driving Jim, the biggest horse in the whole competition standing at 16.3hh, finished by a narrow margin from overnight leader Anne Perry and Haselmere UrseIl. 

Open singles saw strong performances from Alex Fischer (NSW) driving Laddie, junior driver Janelle Marshall (SA) and Tovan Tris, newcomer to open ranks Rhonda Armstrong (VIC)with Myall Glen Renew and Leanne Connor. Andrew Pollock, on target for the best overall marathon score, as always pushing the boundaries of performance with increased speed and daring, came spectacularly to grief in MO7 with a roll-over. Fortunately he grabbed the reins avoiding further incident. Neither driver, groom nor horse was injured and they completed the final MO recording the fastest time. Some people never learn!

Pair drivers Allison Jackson (VIC) driving the eye-catching pair Bindy Lou and Fraser Isle and Garry Harris' smart pair Bronze Emperor and Bronze Ruler finished ahead in their respective classes although Dorothy Mitchell's (VIC) Benny and Buster pushed Harris. Tony James with his horse pair of Winsome Henry and Honest John finished well ahead of the rest of the field. Trevor Brand (NSW) driving the only tandem entry of the competition Yarrandale Showman and Yarrandale Firecracker drove a smooth course, only experiencing problems in one MO. The pony teams enjoyed the space in the obstacles with Rachel Haslau's (VIC) team managing to find the tighter gaps, taking out a post in the process in one MO, to finish just ahead of Gavin Robson.

Many drivers were caught by the new rule regarding following the track after the final obstacle and accrued penalties for meandering off the track. Something they won't forget next time. Several overall placings changed, some dramatically, following the posting of the scores and minimum points separated the top drivers in most classes. This left the results wide open placing a greater emphasis on the Cone Driving results in these classes.
Day 3 - Cone Driving

The Cones concluded the competition and took place on the main arena and was judged by Terry Shaw from South Australia. The course consisted of 20 sets of cones and incorporated a serpentine, circles, "L" shape etc. Some doubt was expressed about its length and the number of cones but the course flowed smoothly, the vast majority of drivers made the time and over 66% of the field managed clear rounds. 

Competition C winners with double clear rounds were Belinda Drury, John Barton (NSW), Peter Hennel, George Kilpatrick (VIC) driving Blue Boy, Joy Xanthos (VIC) with Rosette Park Little Token, Cheryl Drummond (NSW) and McTavish, Paula Rhodes, Andrew Pollock, Garry Harris, Tony James and David Searle. 

There are many memories of the Championships including the weather, the friendly atmosphere and the camaraderie amongst fellow drivers. Also, the agony of the McNamara clan whose accident before competition commenced saw them spectators rather than participators for the weekend. Two drivers completed their final event with two special ponies: Cheryl Drummond's McTavish and Dorothy Mitchell's Benny both retired after the Championships.

Congratulations to the organising committee headed by Ross and Margo Nankivell, and their band of helpers from the Carriage Horse Driving Trials Club and to the many others including the Echuca club members and all stewards and pencillers over the weekend.

By Angela Hennel

Publicity Officer, Australian Carriage Driving Society Inc.