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The Carriage Commentator

Windsor and Ascot RDA Driving Group in the Fancy Dress Class




The Driving for the Disabled Classes. Images by Paul Orchard - May 2023

Andrew Collins & Rollie

A very welcome part of the driving repertoire at Royal Windsor are the Driving for the Disabled classes.  This year they fell on the Friday, with the fancy dress class being in the Copper Horse arena and judged by Lady De Maudley, and the show and cones classes following on from the Private Driving the Adelaide Arena, judged by Sharon Wootton.

As part of several new initiatives for the driven classes introduced this year at the show, the presence of a ‘Safety Officer’ was introduced to inspect the turnouts before they entered the show class.  While the classes are as inclusive and welcoming as possible, they do not run under the auspices of the RDA Driving for the Disabled and so entrants do not have to come from an authorised group which involves rigorous inspections of horses, equipment and, where used, the able-bodied whips. 

There was a lovely selection of turnouts forward in the showing class, and the winner was Andrew Collins with his foot-sure bay cob Rollie.  Andrew is based not far from the show ground and went on to take part in the BDS Meet on Sunday too, accompanied on the Sunday by Sally Carter.  Second place went to one of the show’s most prolific driving ponies, Judi Ralls’ Oakhaze McClintok with Jessica Benton on the reins.  ‘Squeak’ as he’s known also took part in the Private Driving and the BDS Meet, being a previous winner of the Sunday drive.  In third was Eleanor Reeves-Blampied with The Gingerbread Man, Harry Wilkinson with the piebald mare Bella was fourth, Teddie Dempsey with Eddie was fifth and Nicholas Tantot with Sam was sixth.

Well known course builder Julian Burleton of Windsor Park Equestrian Club was on hand to design and build the cones course, some of which was already up in the arena for the showing class.  There were some logistical issues around the entrants being able to familiarize themselves with the route ahead of their drive, and then the adjusting of the cones widths to allow for the differing axles and wheels on each of the vehicles, which meant that the timings overran.  But it was all worth it as judge Sharon Wootton reported that the smiles on everyone’s faces were huge and really warmed the hearts of all involved.

The cones winner was Harry with Bella, followed by Jessica and Squeak, Andrew and Rollie, Teddie and Eddie, Connor Kitchener with The Gingerbread Man and then Nicolas and Sam.

Gracing the classes with her presence which boosted the spirits and made special memories for all involved was HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh, who not only presented the prizes but stayed on to watch everyone driving.  She also presented the first place for the fancy dress class to the Windsor and Ascot Driving Group’s Janet, driving Sweet Pea, who, together with their helpers on the ground, were dressed up as Batman and Robin.

Showcasing the benefits of driving and the therapeutic relationship with horses and ponies, these classes provided a wonderful day out for those inside the rings, and gave some great entertainment for those watching, sprinkled with the stardust of Royal support.