An equestrian rider and her pair of Welsh mountain ponies dominated their divisions at the recent North Island Carriage Driving Championships held at Whatatutu.
Faye Flintoff, riding with 18-year-old pony Clyde and 20-year-old Coal, made her way through a full weekend of competition amidst on-off pelting rain, completing the cross-country marathon, dressage and cones phases to finish up with three trophies.
The first two were earned in the multiples open and the cones open, and the third was made possible thanks to her trusty ponies, earning the “fittest animal” trophy.
Technically it was awarded to Clyde, who was found to have the best health from vet tests conducted throughout the competition, but really it was his partner Coal who helped him earn the esteem.
“He doesn’t do any work,” Faye giggled, explaining that Coal tends to put in more work on the harness. “He just hangs around and Coal does the work, so of course he’d come back fresh as a daisy!” she laughed. “I thought that was quite funny… when they gave it to me I said he didn’t really deserve it.
“He’s a worker, he really is,” she said of Coal. “He’s an amazing pony.”
After missing out on the dressage title on the Saturday, Faye had the marathon crown set in her sights as competition got underway on Sunday, made all the more challenging by a healthy dose of wet weather – which anyone with glasses would know can be extremely annoying. But nonetheless the carriage team made their way through gates, across water and over tough terrain as part of a seven-obstacle timed course, maintaining a careful balance of speed and efficiency. “The longer you’re in the obstacle the more faults you get, so they idea is to be as fast as you can,” Faye explained.
One father and son team tipped over during the event and were forced to withdraw, but Faye and her faithful ponies continued on to secure the trophy. Faye said she was “really happy” with how the ponies performed, as well as with herself.
“It went well… I think it was just luck, best on the day,” the humble Marychurch Rd resident said.
“I didn’t forget any of the obstacles, but the cones were a different story,” said Faye. “One of the stalwarts (in the sport) once said to me you’re better off to go fast and knock them all down than get time faults.”
But Faye managed to knock down just one cone in the next round of competition, whilst others knocked down at least two or more, meaning Faye finished up with the least amount of faults in the cones course, as well as a top time, to earn yet another trophy.
“I was quite lucky really,” she said.
As part of her winnings Faye took home a $75 Zilco voucher and said she “definitely” plans on defending her titles next year.
“It’s a really good sport and its getting much more popular,” said Faye, who has been doing the sport since around 2000, not long before she got Clyde and Coal, and another Welsh mountain pony Triggy. “When I first became interested in carriage driving I actually went to two of these events before I even had a pony, just to see what it entailed and whether I really really wanted to do it, and you come away from them like, mad keen to give it a go,” she said with a smile. “It’s an incredible sport, it really is. They say it’s the most fun you can have sitting down.”