In the latest issue of Carriage Driving, Lester Dagge continues his insight into people across Europe who participate in Attelage de Tradition events. He meets with three very determined and inspirational women who have discovered the world of Attelage.
The trail of sheer determination is also a well-worn path by another stalwart traditional carriage driver, Comtesse Consuelo d’Hemricourt de Grunne from Tongeren in Belgium. Starting late to equestrianism, Consuelo started riding at 32, first taking up dressage. Unfortunately, her horse would often put in an unexpected jump resulting in an ungracious fall, so she decided to have jumping lessons. The tactic paid off and they started enjoying competing at show jumping and eventing. Unfortunately a few years later, she suffered a very hard fall and sustained a nasty back injury. Her doctor’s first diagnosis was that she wouldn’t be ever able to walk or ride again, so was left with the heartfelt choice of giving up her horses… or start driving. The decision was simple, with bold tenacity she took up driving and started retraining her eventers to drive. The retraining programme went well, but was sometimes challenging when presenting the eventers at cross country obstacles where they were previously used to jumping them, not driving around them. Many years later, she still drives with the descendants of her original eventers.
Keen on a challenge, Consuelo took part in her first CIAT event to evaluate her driving capabilities. “Baron Jean Casier helped me a lot to gain access to the world of traditional driving”. She managed to source a very rare and distinctive English Siamese Phaeton by English coach builder Anne Cowburn which she has competed across Europe with her distinctive team of ponies to great success. “Today my friends come from that world and I look forward to seeing them all again and finding out how our skills have evolved. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t, but this doesn’t matter, my toughest competitors are my friends including Hugo Livens and Rosemary Neale”. Consuelo’s abilities and achievements have certainly improved over the years, she now drives five ponies and two large donkeys as singles, pairs, tandem, unicorn and team. “I find CIAT driving competitions are more friendly with a great sense of fair play. It is also more accessible from a budget point of view. At this type of competition there is a family atmosphere”.
You can read the full article and discover more about the other featured drivers Trish Lebus and Jane Robinson in the October/November issue of Carriage Driving - on sale now.