After 33 years of photographing everybody else in equestrian sport, photographer Janeene Jennings captured some shots of my Shetland ponies and me! We lucked out this weekend having her there when doing a Combined Driving Schooling show at the Gayla Driving Center, in Georgetown, Kentucky. My ponies have been in residence and training while my husband JJ Hathaway and I traveled to Aachen 2011. Home from Europe for just 2 days we fit in a lesson and walked the course for the next day’s competition. After Dressage where we scored an unimpressive 60 penalty points, we cleared the cones and were the best of all training level entries in that phase. Then went on to do Cross Country. We had a blast and guess what, we won our division!
When my navigator was injured earlier hooking another horse, Erin Smith Woodcock saved the day. Erin, who is tall and thin had a bit of a cuture shock after finishing her own cross-country with her big dutch mare. With 10 minutes to spare she hopped on the carriage and we headed out onto the gorgeous Gayla property. In spite of the heat of the day, the ponies were fit and kicked into gear. The paths were freshly marked and mowed providing magnificent scenic views of the 350-acre property just 15 minutes from The Kentucky Horse Park. After a few memory mishaps in the past, I remembered my way through gates A, B, and C in 4 hazards, and we were pretty smooth and fast too.
Learning the sport of combined driving has been a lifetime dream. I call Buddy and Dusty my Combined Driving starter kit. They don’t really match in color and type, but are getting better working together as a pair and really like each other. Having ponies keeps things simple and affordable. I can handle loading all the gear myself, and they are very low maintenance; don’t eat much or take up much space, and even their poops are small making stalls easy to clean. They don’t need shoes (yet) and get fit pretty quickly even when we take some time off.
We have plenty of room in Kentucky and have been gradually grooming our property for my own personal training center with an arena and plenty of trails and hilly paths along the fields to condition. They know the word "road trip" and usually hop onto the trailer ahead of me. My vehicle, a Hardwick‘s Tadpole is light yet very safe and stable, and fits in the bed of the truck. When we go on the road they have Jimmy Welsh’s Cold Spring Run in Waco, Kentucky, and Louise Levesque’s Double L Farm in De Leon Springs as their hang out. Even when we take some time off, they are eager to go back to work when they see me pulling out the harness.
I have had the great fortune of working with trainers Larry Poulin, Sterling Graburn, Bob Giles and Bill Lower. The driving community is warm and friendly with many interesting people. The cost of lessons and full board and training is surprisingly reasonable when you are used to Dressage rates. Local clubs are always organizing pleasure drives, get-togethers, schooling shows and clinics, Going to shows is challenging but fun. For those of you who have always thought "When I get to the point I can’t ride anymore, I will think about taking up driving" I wouldn’t wait too long! It’s a lot of work competing and training, just walking the hazards to learn your route takes a lot of time.
I am so glad I got the chance to do this at last. This week with the ponies still at Gayla near the Kentucky Horse Park, we will get a chance to train some more in between covering Young Riders.
Photo Credit: Janeene Jennings - Thank You!!!