Gerogery West’s Pam Salter took up the reins of carriage driving about three years ago and hasn’t looked back.
Ms Salter and her “gun pony” Dalgangle Horatio swept the prize pool with an outstanding performance at the November 26 NSW Driven Dressage Championships,
The pair took out the novice championship, Hinemoa trophy for highest scoring pony and the Mary Willsallen trophy for the best score from all classes.
Held at Marrar, north of Wagga, the event was run by the Riverina Carriage Driving Society.
Ms Salter, who has been involved with horses for the past 40 years, said she had always harboured a desire to learn to drive.
“It comes from my father driving a pony to school and the working teams of Clydesdales used for harvesting,” she explained.
“His stories sparked my interest.”
Ms Salter bought Horatio, an 11.3hh Welsh A gelding, as a two-year-old, broke him in to ride and then sent him to Max Pearce to be put into harness.
She had to wait five months to find a “vehicle” but once that was sorted “Max put the pony in and said get in and drive him”.
“I took him to his first competition six weeks later even though I was very green and had no idea.”
Ms Salter was “hooked”.
“It’s a lot of fun but it’s more difficult than it looks – there’s more to driving a horse than just holding the reins.”
Competitions are very similar to ridden dressage except the arena is bigger (100 metres by 40 metres), you are allowed to use your voice – “it’s your legs” – and you don’t canter until the higher levels.
“We use the same letters as a dressage arena, you are marked on similar things such as submission, your transitions, circle shapes and regularity and rhythm,” Ms Salter explained.
The steepest learning curve for Ms Salter was remembering how to tack up correctly.
With harness, there’s a lot of leather to arrange and buckle up and an added safety aspect, given you are hooking up an animal to a cart with wheels and shafts.
“You have to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s before you get in or you can have a nasty accident,” Ms Salter said.
That being said, there is much pleasure to be had once you’re correctly hitched up and ready to roll.
Ms Salter is the secretary of the Border Carriage Club, which meets regularly for rallies and instruction.
The Christmas catch-up will be a pleasure drive at Chiltern and lunch on Sunday, December 11. Call Ms Salter on 0439 336 769 or Angela Gray on 0458 930 202 for more information.