The British Driving Society celebrates 50 years with a Golden Jubilee Driving show in Braintree this autumn. Caroline Foster takes up the reins of the story
THE prominent Unex Towerlands Arena in Braintree is to become the home of a new two-day show for equine driving enthusiasts which will mark 50 years since the formation of the British Driving Society (BDS).Formed in 1957, the BDS aims to encourage and assist those interested in driving equine animals. 'Often these are ponies that have been outgrown by their riders, but who are too attached to part with them,' says Tess Styles, BDS executive secretary, 'but can equally be a horse, donkey or mule.'Tess also says that the drivers' ages vary from six to 96, with membership in the junior section being quite considerable, although it is more often than not the older age groups who take to driving when they no longer feel able to ride so well in the traditional way. The BDS' membership is still growing year on year. Being a member of BDS gives individuals access to carriage driving pursuits including leisure, training and competitive events. Participants can belong to a local driving school and compete at a local, national or international level, but it is at the Jubilee Driving Show that more than 100 qualifying members will culminate. 'There will be approximately 70 qualifying classes over the weekend, 30 qualified at other championships and the rest qualifying on the day,' says Tess.The move of the BDS National Championships to the Towerlands Arena has enabled an expansion of the series, which now includes private driving, light trade, exercise vehicles and young drivers. The classes also include Horse of the Year Show qualifiers, novice, Hackney, Hackney-type, Welsh, veteran, donkeys/mules, pairs, Shetlands, mountain and moorland, pairs/tandems, ride and drive, pleasure driving, multiples, exercise vehicles, disabled, concours d'elegance, world and rare breeds. These events will take place in three arenas on the site, one indoor and two outdoor, from 9am to 10.30pm on Saturday, September 29 and from 9am to 6pm on Sunday, September 30.There will be a gala evening performance on the Saturday and plenty of variety throughout the day. From vintage carriages to an obstacle competition, trec skills and novice drivers there will be an awful lot to see.However, this is an open event, which the BDS hopes will attract the general public as well as those interested in joining the BDS and its member schools. There will be a BDS trade stand with information about the society, advice for novice drivers as well as carriage makers, refreshments and other activities scheduled over the two days to ensure everyone has a good time. Visitors can also choose to dine in the Anglesarke Suite, an observation room, where they can enjoy fine dining while watching the proceedings. Not only will there be some fine horses and ponies on show, the range of carriages and coaches will be extremely diverse in their shape, size and quality. Anyone who has attended any kind of equine driving show or event will have some idea of the standards and dedication shown by those who take part through dressage of both animals and drivers as well as the quality and care of the vehicles and the skills needed to put horse and driver through their paces. For members of the BDS and associated driving schools this is their chance to show themselves and their skills to a captive audience of thousands.The Jubilee Driving Show celebrates a fabulous 50 years for the BDS which supports all aspects of equine driving, from pleasure driving or competing in singles, pairs or multiples. Members are entitled to a comprehensive yearbook, quarterly newsletters featuring news, activities and fixtures for their area, also items for sale, information on teaching seminars, fun drives and showing. The BDS has a comprehensive website, which outlines membership details and there is advice and guidance on the general care and maintenance of equine animals.Whatever your interests in equestrian activities, the Jubilee Driving Show is guaranteed to be an informative and enjoyable weekend.