Skip to content

The Carriage Commentator



british carriagedriving training weekend 8-10 march

The CC was on hand during an informative pre-season training event at the David Broome Centre in South Wales for competitors, judges and officials - March 2024

BC March24 Cricklands Arena
Competitors warming up at Cricklands ahead of the dressage
Judges in the outdoors assessing the dressage tests
Katie Stewart leading the technical delegates seminar

British Carriagedriving opened the 2024 outdoor season with a training event weekend for drivers, officials and volunteers using the format of a national style competition.  An bumper entry of keen competitors ensured that Saturday and Sunday were full and busy days.  There was also an opportunity for some to train on Friday on the superb surfaces of the David Broome Centre at Cricklands in Chepstow, South Wales.

For judges, technical delegates, course designers and volunteers it was an invaluable opportunity to learn from some of our most experienced officials.  BC chair and FEI level 4 international judge Andrew Counsell led the judges’ training seminar.  Long standing and highly experienced course designer Andrew Simmons shared his wisdom and hands on experience for both established course designers and builders, and some keen new ones, while the technical delegates were guided by Katie Stewart.  All three sectors worked together to ensure that the training aspect ran smoothly throughout the weekend.


On Friday night, the advanced single horse competitors and officials held a meeting and discussion which was attended by large number of interested drivers.  This is a positive move and Andrew Counsell led the discussion, and there seemed to be upbeat mood from those drivers who potentially have their FEI World Championships in Haras Le Pin later in the season.  They are in full flow with training programmes and taking a very proactive approach led by Chef d ’Equipe Jane Isaac and her assistant Janet Pilling.

The para driving squad gave a short talk on Saturday evening explaining the new protocols and pathways for new para drivers who are looking to embark on their journey into the sport.  There are new compensating aid forms so that they are registered and accepted, which is a positive development that helps to encourage para driving and should ease any challenges an individual might face. 

BC March24 Andrew Counsell talk
Andrew Counsell leading the judges’ training


The judges’ training session was really hands on and moved away a more traditional approach of assessing videoed tests in the classroom.  It began with started with an analysis of what is required and Andrew emphasised the importance of judging the way of going as opposed to the test.  There was a discussion about issues such as transitions, accuracy and the weighting of how to mark a movement.  Andrew reminded us that all sorts of different types and breeds of equines are used in driving and that they must be marked appropriately and fairly. 

The delegation then moved outside to embark on eight long hours of actually watching the tests in real time.  The group discussed and judged the overall way of going and at the end of each test, Andrew gave his views.  This new approach was enlightening and good for everyone to base their judging on because it was clear that if the basics are right, the rest should evolve in a logical manner.  There was plenty of discussion and once agreed, each competitor was given the feedback from their test and an appraisal of their basic way of going.  This showed that sometimes competitors were in classes that were too advanced for their horses and the stage of training.  This might be due to the more old-fashioned approach whereby winners progress through the levels and classes based on their results overall, rather than having established the correct scales of training and way of going at the lower levels before climbing to the next class.  One for debate.  

What was evident was that in a combination where good training had clearly taken place and there was a clear understanding of what was being asked, there was a more consistent way of going.  Conversely, there might have been some disappointed competitors who were on the receiving end of this kind of feedback early in the season, but it gave them a valuable springboard and guide as to what they need to do in the coming months.


The course designers had set a tough course which actually drove very well.  There were some minor adjustments to the times after the initial course check which took into consideration the different classes as well as size of turn out.  It was challenging enough for the advanced classes yet accessible, with some open thinking, for the multiples and overall, it was about flow, rhythm and consistency.  The newer cones judges were given hands on practice of being in the box alongside more experienced judges and this was another benefit as live experience is always the best way of learning.

Two obstacles were designed and built by the team led by Andrew Simmons and they had a variety of course options.  The more flowing options proving to be fast and as this was a training event, it was important to challenge the drivers while ensuring that the horses and ponies were not being pushed out of their rhythm and flow at this early stage in the season.


Considering most of the rest of the country seemed to be battling pouring rain and high winds, South Wales gave us an overcast Saturday and after much heavy rain overnight, a warm and sometimes sunny Sunday, The Broomes Pavilion was open and the onsite team have to be congratulated for not only feeding many hungry competitors and their support teams, but over 45 officials with morning bacon baps, a delicious lunchbox on both days, plus a sit down dinner Saturday evening – and they still managed to cover Mothering Sunday with a full house of bookings.


British Carriagedriving has taken steps to integrate and promote their sport while working with other member bodies and media outlets, so it feels like we are moving in the right direction.  While there are some who hark back to the old days, we have to accept what the sport and competition format looks like nowadays and embrace the many changes.  It’s far more constructive to promote and encourage new participants, be they drivers, officials or volunteers and keep it as positive as possible.  This training weekend certainly brought education to the fore and while their may inevitably be teething problems, let’s all try to embrace what’s happening, work together and celebrate the small but dedicated band of volunteers are trying to preserve the sport and create opportunities for us all to enjoy.

The weekend was as much about friends old and new gathering as sharing information, news and training