24 November 2023

Horse and carriage championships promises unique spectacle

| Vanessa Hayden
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Horse and carriage driver

One of Australia’s biggest horse and carriage events is being held in Mullengandra on 1 to 3 December. Entry to spectate is free. Photo: Linda Mace.

The horse world will turn its collective eye to Mullengandra on 1 to 3 December when Australia’s largest horse and carriage competition is staged at the beautiful Carberry Estate on the Hume Freeway.

The three-day event promises a distinct international vibe and is geared towards pure spectator enjoyment.

Hosted by the Border Carriage Club, the event, known as the ‘Battle of the Border’ has attracted a record number of competitors from all over the country, many of whom will be vying to take home the prestigious ‘His Royal Highness Prince Phillip Duke Of Edinburgh Memorial Perpetual Trophy’.

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Event secretary Miriam Bentley said the competition had attracted 79 drivers and 125 horses, with entries consisting of either a single horse, a pair of horses, or a team of four horses. They are all tested in three phases: dressage, marathon and obstacle driving.

“Combined driving celebrates the tradition of horse-drawn vehicles while incorporating athleticism, skill and teamwork,” said Miriam.

“It is designed to test a horse’s or a team’s speed, stamina, obedience, and athleticism, in three distinct and demanding phases usually held over the course of three days.

“It requires a deep understanding of equine behaviour, exceptional driving finesse and a dedication to training horses and drivers.

“Spectators are treated to a captivating display of grace, agility, and coordination between humans and horses. Combined driving really is a remarkable and compelling equestrian pursuit.”

With its stunning row of 90-year-old elm trees, white fences and colourful course obstacles, Carberry Estate (between Albury and Holbrook) serves up a significant splash of charm.

“It’s what makes our event very different to many others,” said Miriam. “It has a very European feel to it which everyone loves. The whole setting feels very international.”

She said while the sport was new to the district, it had existed for more than 50 years and had been made more popular by the Australian born six-time world champion Boyd Exell.

Over the three days spectators can watch horse and driver combinations test their skills in dressage, obstacles (cones) and marathon.

The dressage is where the drivers and their horses execute a series of prescribed movements in front of the judges. The judges are looking at obedience, freedom and regularity of motion, and impulsion through a sequence of compulsory movements executed within a designated area or arena.

The cone driving competition tests a horse’s obedience, agility and simultaneously, a driver’s skill, emphasising their ability to maintain control at higher speeds. Accuracy and precision are tested as the single, pair, or team is challenged with negotiating an intricate course of narrowly spaced cones with balls on top, cleanly and within the time allowed.

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The marathon component is the final phase and will see horses or ponies pulling a specially designed marathon carriage being driven by the competitor. They will complete anything up to 18 km overall, including obstacles.

The competitors tackle the fast-paced and demanding phase known as the cross-country marathon in which a horse’s fitness, stamina, agility, and obedience are tested. The driver’s accuracy and judgment are also examined as they are asked to negotiate an intricate series of hazards which can include water, steep hills and sharp turns in the fastest time while accumulating the least number of penalties.

“All spectators will be able to see the competition, under the shade of the elm trees, and we also have a commentator over the three days to explain what is happening and who is competing. There’ll be hot and cold food, drinks and some market stalls so there will be a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy.

“Elegance, excitement and action all in one place,” said Miriam.

Entry is free all weekend and there is unpowered camping available for those who want to immerse themselves in the whole experience.

Follow the competition on the Battle of the Border Carriage Event Facebook page or contact Miriam during business hours on 0427 204 205.

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