World Class Harness
Driving Coach
in WA

November 2015 by Rowena Bathgate

Above : Bram with Merryn Bojcun from Albany and her horse Shepherd’s Hill Zali

Harness Drivers from as far away as Albany, Bullsbrook and points between recently attended two days of one to one schooling with FEI Accredited Coach Bram Chardon, three-time World Champion with four-in-hand ponies; the most recent title in September of this year. Classes were held in the lovely forest surrounds at the Murray Districts Carriage Driving Club grounds in Dwellingup which, fortunately, helped alleviate the 30+ temperatures. Bram, despite having come from the European Autumn, handled the heat and the flies with aplomb. Dutch-born Bram comes from a well-established equestrian family. His father Ijsbrand has been a World Champion driver and his sisters are Eventers.

On Day 1 schooling was concentrated on flatwork in the Dressage Arena, and on Day 2 drivers had the option of training in two marathon obstacles or on the arena. All the drivers were enthusiastic in their praise of the wonderful coaching sessions. On Sunday night those who could, attended a barbecue at Chris and Mike Steward’s home where Bram talked about his driving life, competing, travelling and family. We were all a bit shocked to find out that a competition carriage costs approximately $70,000 at Championship level.

Fence-sitters were treated to watching Bram drive an obstacle course with Ben Neilson’s pony Lewis Park Luka, and also a flatwork session with Merryn Bojcun’s Shepherd’s Hill Zali.

My horse Bailey is a plodder in harness. He is a big Andalusian x Arab with endless stamina and clearly shows his breeding in his contained and elegant movement under saddle. With Mike Steward and Gillian Woodstock’s patient tuition I have endeavoured to get some action from him. In some ways I have felt disadvantaged by my riding background. I KNOW how to get movement, extension and collection when I ride but have struggled to translate this knowledge to driving. Correcting problems like falling in at the shoulder and lack of flexion have been an endless source of frustration.

When Bram asked me what I wanted from the lesson I knew that the horse needed extension and collection. Both of which we had briefly had in my training sessions with Mike and also with Gill. As it turned out I was wrong, what I actually needed was to control Bailey rather than allowing him to control me! I am always so happy to get forward movement from him that I have failed to maintain enough contact (Mike is always at me to keep up the contact!) for fear that Bailey would stop going on. I was intensely satisfying after 45 minutes with Bram, to have Bailey showing his potential because we had corrected my actions rather than the horse.

For me much of the success of the training session was due to Bram’s understanding of riding and his ability to ‘translate’ ridden aids into the equivalent driven aids. I am grateful to ACDS, ACDS WA Branch and particularly Christina Gray, for arranging this opportunity.
Rowena Bathgate

Bram gives ben Neilson a Masterclass driving Lewis Park Luca
through the obstacles with Ben back-stepping

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