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The Carriage Commentator




The sun shone on all those who attended a successful and popular Annual BDS Show on 19th June 2022 at Smith's Lawn. Organiser and BDS Vice Chair Julie Elliott reports with her unique perspective. Thank you to Paul Orchard for the images - July 2022

It is a pleasure to be asked again to write some lines for The Carriage Commentator as I take a look at it from the ‘other side’ as Show Organiser for the British Driving Society.  The BDS Annual Show, which this year was held on the historical date of the Sunday after Royal Ascot week, is always a well-attended show.  Members travel from far and wide to support this great event, held in the wonderful surroundings of Windsor Great Park, by kind permission of HM The Queen.  For me, the planning starts early in the year when all contractors have to be booked and it’s during these winter months that the schedule is drafted.  The types of class at the show have not changed much over the years apart from the addition of a Novice Driver Class and the loss of the Coloured class, which has not been well supported for a couple of years.  However, that could all change in the future as trends alter from year to year; for example, last year the 13.2 hh and Under and Welsh A B & C classes had record entries, whereas this year, it was the World & Rare Breeds, Multiples, Vintage Vehicles, Miniature and Veteran classes which swelled the numbers.  It was especially nice to see the Veteran class so full as this demonstrates that the driving horse or pony can have a career in the twilight years.  Some are familiar show horses who are still competing, something dear to my heart as my horse is now 29 and still going strong, and some are outgrown family ponies who have turned their hooves to driving.  It just goes to show that if we continue to care for our older equines and manage them properly they can still have a job, and seeing so many of them out and about looking fit and happy is a credit to the driving community as a whole.

The BDS is very privileged to be able to continue to hold this special annual show at Windsor, and while some of the logistics may bring challenges, our competitors accept this with a smile and get on with it.  The ground of the new rings is better to drive on as it doubles up as polo pitches, and considering we arrive to what is essentially a large field, we start from scratch each time and have to construct the whole show.  This is by no means an easy task, but the effort is so worthwhile as by the Sunday morning, it all looks like it’s been there forever.  This year we were blessed as the sun shone on us all, which always helps a day run well and keeps people happy. 

Another pleasing aspect of this year’s event was how many new faces entered the classes, many of them coming over from other driving disciplines such as HDT, CIAT, FEI and Coaching, a cross pollination that always used to happen.  There were quite a few ‘working horses’ too whose daily job is in the commercial worlds of weddings and funerals.  We were delighted to welcome them too as they enjoyed a slightly different day in the show ring, and many of them did extremely well, with some high placings and wins in their classes.

This show has always had a very strong Novice class as it is the entry point for lots of competitors. The winner of the Gail Crosier Novice Championship was Teresa Wade with her black Cob Trixie’s High Noon.  Often it’s where future champions are first seen, and we have enjoyed watching the journey over the years of several novices who have gone on to take some of the big classes further into their career, such as Malcolm Salter’s turnout which won a very strong World & Rare Breeds class with his and Mike Clarke’s KWPN Koning, winner of the Novice Horse last year.  This combination also qualified for HOYS at Lincoln Country show and we wish them well! 

The Welsh Championship is always one of the hardest fought with some of the top turnouts coming from these breed classes.  Seasoned exhibitors with many different turnouts over the years, Mo & Liz Edmonds took the title with Liz driving the striking dun Leyeswick The Real Deal – winners of the Novice Championship last year.

The Exercise Vehicle classes are also well supported and this includes the Pleasure Driving class which threw up some new winners – in the four-wheeled section Paul Stratton took the red ribbon with Butterfly Star, a wonderful piebald Cob who went on to stand Reserve Exercise Champion, while Paul Liddle, winner of the two-wheeled section with Stepping Manor George, was crowned Exercise Vehicle champion, while Andrew Collins won the Pleasure Driving class.

Veteran class winner was Will & Elaine Leslie’s Magical Mystery, and in the Vintage Vehicles, judged by builder and restorer Philip Holder, it was HM The Queen’s Char-a-Banc which headed a very strong line up.  In a first in recent history for the show, the turnout was postillion driven by Royal Head Coachman Matthew Powers, made all the more special because the vehicle had been restored for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.  We were so proud to be able have such an eye-catching and unique turnout at the show, and anyone who got the chance to look closely would have seen the outstanding details on this wonderful carriage from the Royal Mews.

Some of the favourite viewing for spectators are the wagon classes, where the Hackneys and Cobs are given the chance to really show their paces, quality and training while in the ring.  Mr Mitchell driving Mr Broster’s Welsh Section D Thorneyside The Real Deal took the Welsh Championship and in something of a clean sweep, Messrs Mitchell & Granger’s Lonwind Swagger stood in reserve.  Hackney champion was the on-form Joe Peters with his striking Dutch horse Eclipse Flasch Dance, fresh from his win at the Hackney Breed Show at Ardingly.  In the hands of an experienced showman, this highly tuned animal didn’t miss a beat all day.

The Multiples class was a sight to behold with teams, pairs and tandems forward packing the ring.  Sonny Hillier with his working Friesian pair Jester and Joker to a large Break did well to win this excellent class.

Alongside the established show classes with their clearly defined categories, there was some impressive driving from our Young Drivers, with eight forward in the 8-14 age group.  How lovely it was to see different types of horses and ponies going so well in the hands of the next generation of drivers.  From Leah Redsell and her family’s chestnut Hackney horse, Nutfields The Contender, to Welsh Cobs and Miniatures, the overall winner, who has been knocking on the first place door for a couple of years, was Charlie Price and his father’s Welsh Section A Nellie.

The day’s finale was the Show Championship which included a coveted HOYS ticket.  One of the most special aspects of the show is the sheer variety of fine quality turnouts which gather together in the ring to try and join the list of esteemed winners of the BDS Show Supreme Championship.  Choosing who that is going to be is one of the driven judges’ hardest asks, and the task this year fell to Heather Noad, vice chair of the BDS Judges committee, selected as she had not judged any of the qualifying classes during the day.  Starting afresh, all the turnouts were asked for a stand show so Heather could see each competitor for herself.  Her choice was Joanna Broadbent with her Hackney ponies, a recently put together pair at their maiden show of the 2022 season, who gained their place in the finale by winning the under 13.2 hh Country Vehicle class.  Jo was driving a delightful varnished Four-wheeled Ralli Car, restored by husband Mark Broadbent, accompanied by her faithful Boston Terrier on the seat next to her; reserve champion was Liz Edmunds and Leyeswick The Real Deal.

A record number of entries paraded past the Royal Box, but for the first time in many years, HM The Queen was not present.  We never know until the day itself if she will be there, but nevertheless, everyone was proud to parade past a jubilant crowd of spectators, who were there to watch the polo. 

Considering all that we have to contend with at the moment, from the difficult economic climate to some drivers still getting back into showing after Covid, we as a Society couldn’t have been more pleased with the numbers, the standards and how well the day went.  We are extremely grateful to everyone that entered, competed, spectated and sponsored, as without the generosity of many of the long term sponsors and re-emerging past sponsors, these sorts of events would be financially very hard to stage.  Already some of our supporters have agreed to help us again next year which is so kind of them. 

Moving forward, we are very pleased to confirm that our BDS end of season national championship show will be run alongside the established and popular Chatsworth Country Fair in Derbyshire on the 2nd – 4th September.   We have been lucky to squeeze in another HOYS qualifier from Grandstand Media for this event, and on top of that, this will be a weekend packed full of all driving.  So far we have planned a fun day on the Friday, a drive around Chatsworth House for all traditional and modern vehicles, the HOYS qualifier and classes on the Saturday, a social evening on the Saturday, rounding off with the BDS National Championships on the Sunday.  I hope to be invited to write again for Carriage Commentator and will reveal more to you nearer the time!


Until then, happy driving and thank you for the kind words and support for the BDS Show at Smith’s Lawn.  I love to hear how much you all enjoyed it, as on the whole, the kindness from everyone involved is what motivates us show organisers to do bigger and better for our competitors and keep up the hard work behind the scenes to enable us all to do what we enjoy so much with our horses and ponies.


For the full results list click here – BDS Annual Show – British Driving Society