Coachlines - June 2022

28.06.22 The Clerk

Coachmakers out and about – Royal Windsor Horse Show

In almost every year between 1982 and 2008, Rachel, the Assistant Clerk, represented the Royal Navy with great success in show jumping, eventing and dressage competitions, both inter-Service and civilian, sustaining quite a few injuries along the way. However, whether it was competing at The Horse of the Year Show, the Royal Tournament, a one-day event at Gatcombe Park, or one of many inter-Service competitions at venues such as HMS DRYAD, RMC Sandhurst or RAF College Cranwell, the jewel in the crown (pun intended) was the Services’ Team Show Jumping Competition at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Usually comprising an entry of between 30 to 40 teams, the competition includes representation from the RN, Army and RAF, and from the Emergency Services and some cadet units. The first round usually commences at 0800 on the Saturday morning of the weekend and the jump off between the top 12 teams by score is held in the afternoon, preceded by a parade around the Castle Arena of all the teams in the competition.

It is quite a sight and great fun, in a seriously inter-Service competitive sort of way, and Rachel was on the overall winning team for the Queen’s Cup in 2000. She was also on the team that won the Unmounted Unit Class (the Queen’s Plate) for teams that are not Cavalry, Kings Troop or Mounted Police at least once and was placed on several occasions.

Rachel’s winning Windsor rosettes

However, her retirement from the RN meant that she no longer qualified to participate in this competition and other distractions meant that until this year we had only been back to the Royal Windsor Horse Show to spectate once since 2008. It was therefore a joy to go back on Friday 13th May this year – and what a lot of Coachmakers were on display that day.

Quicksilver in the Castle Arena

Participating in the Coaching Marathon, there were several members of the Coachmakers’ Company involved. In the Road Coach Class, Court Assistant Mark Broadbent was driving Quicksilver on its first public showing since it was unveiled at the Coachmakers’ Banquet of 2019 following a full restoration by Fenix Carriages in Devon. Riding with him was Freeman Portia Kennaway, the owner of Quicksilver, and Liveryman Jimmy Jeffery. Quicksilver is one of two surviving mail coaches of its type and its only previous outing since the Coachmakers’ Banquet in 2019 was in October of that year when it was presented with horse to Her Majesty the Queen in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, none of that swayed the judge on the day.

Tally Ho in the Castle Arena

However, in the same class during the show was Liveryman John Brown driving his own Road Coach called Tally Ho, and what a magnificent sight it was too that earned him second place in the Road Coach Challenge Cup.

Freeman Mike Malone driving the former Regimental Coach of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

And in the Regimental Coach Class, Freeman Mike Malone was driving the former Regimental Coach of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, now owned by himself and with commendable success, winning the Regimental Coaches Challenge Trophy.

The sight of the 13 coaches participating that day, each drawn by four horses and driven through Windsor Great Park to conclude within the confines of the Castle Arena, was spectacular. It was also a great credit to the original craftsman who created them, the contemporary skills of those who have since restored and/or maintained them, the skill of the drivers and the dedication of those that own them and who make it possible for everyone to see them being used. Although only a very lucky few get to ride on such vehicles, that they still exist and are regularly used for competition or simply for pleasure keeps their history alive.

However, it was not just the influence of the Coachmakers of old that was on display at Windsor on 13th May, a more modern type of coachmaking was also in evidence.

As is the want of the Assistant Clerk, at any country show or horse related event of any size, it is an essential part of the overall experience to visit the area in which eye wateringly, mortgage-requiring horse boxes are on display. We don’t actually need such a vehicle, and even if we did we’d have to sell the house to afford one, but it is a bit of fun looking at something that is so expensive knowing that sooner or later, like everything else horse related, it will end up smelling of pee and poo.

Nevertheless, in 2014, Past Master the Honourable Michael Callaghan presented Brian Oakley of Oakley Horsebox fame, the Coachmakers’ Award to Industry for the elegance of design and undoubted commercial success of his products. And so proud was Mr Oakley to have received the award that still today, anyone visiting the Oakley stand at any show is left in no doubt about just how proud he is. And his products are still incredible vehicles, still eye-wateringly expensive and still highly desirable, and they all end up wearing that distinctive aroma.

Oakley Horseboxes proudly announces its award

L ’Assistant and I also had the pleasure of meeting up with Liveryman David Freedman and his wife Nicole who fly over each year from Toronto to the Royal Windsor Horse Show to support many of the competitive carriage drivers who use harness produced by Freedman Harness of Toronto. If you want to know exactly what David and his team do, follow this link. It was lovely to catch up with them both and update them face-to-face about the Coachmakers’ Company and what the future might hold, and to thank David personally for underwriting the Coachmakers’ Company prizes that are awarded annually to students of Capel Manor College for leather harness work completed during their Saddlery Course, see:

To conclude by looking back to 10th May 2008, Rachel’s final year representing the RN at Windsor before stepping out of uniform on 16th June, her faithful and reliable old Thoroughbred event horse had retired through age. As a result, she was competing that year on her eight-year-old Irish Sports Horse called Cromarty. Cromarty had talent but lacked finesse, and was inexperienced and therefore inconsistent.

To have any chance of winning the Services Team Jumping Competition it is essential to score three quick clear rounds in the morning first round of the competition to progress into the afternoon jump-off, which is contested by only the top 12 teams in the standings. As a result, given Cromarty’s inconsistency, Rachel agreed to Captain the RN Team B that year to give Team A the best chance of success in the overall competition.

As the morning’s first round wore on all three of the RN Team A achieved the required clear round. However, not wishing to let the side down, Rachel and Cromarty gave a flawless performance, possibly their best as a partnership up to that point, and as the commentator called “it was clear all the way”. Unfortunately, Rachel’s two B Team teammates weren’t quite so careful but RN Team B still managed to make it into the jump-off at No 12. No hope of an overall win perhaps but still on for a creditable result.

Prior to the jump off phase in the afternoon, all the teams participating in the competition parade in their teams of three riders abreast around the Castle Arena, usually in the presence of Her Majesty and a capacity crowd of about 5,000 spectators. In 2008, 33 teams totalling 99 horses and their riders were on parade on a rather hot and sunny afternoon.

It was an impressive sight but it was also the first time that the inexperienced Cromarty had been in the presence of 98 other horses. In such close proximity to so many other horses, in an unfamiliar environment thronging with people and noise, to say that she became a little unsettled would be like describing a violent thunderstorm as a light shower.

Somehow Rachel managed to keep things under control, just, but as everyone vacated the arena she and Cromarty were required to remain in the warm-up ring on their own because as the pair representing the team that had placed at No 12 after the first round, they were first into the Castle Arena for the jump-off.

Horse and rider were perspiring profusely and Cromarty was very excited. I did offer Rachel a drink of water as she did her best to remain still and imbibe a sense of calm into her horse, but I won’t tell you what she said. Finally, after what seemed like an age, they were called forward into the arena to begin their round. Remember, Rachel was riding a green horse in a heightened state of arousal into an arena surrounded by 5,000 expectant faces, including that of her Monarch. No pressure.

As it turned out, although strong and characteristically difficult to turn, Cromarty seemed to settle and listen to Rachel sufficiently to jump cleanly over the eight fences that the 5,000-strong crowd thought constituted the jump-off course. For me it was a pleasure to watch, although Rachel later said that it wasn’t that much fun for her at the time.

As Cromarty sailed over fence eight the crowd erupted into applause and cheered what they must have appreciated was quite an achievement for the new pairing. Unfortunately the jump-off course consisted of 11 fences and the sudden explosion of noise simply freaked out poor Cromarty who had already had her most testing day to date; and although Rachel managed to point her at each of the remaining three fences, there was not a hope in hell that Cromarty would clear them as she simply charged towards the finish line intent on concluding proceedings as quickly as possible.

It is not recorded whether Her Majesty made any comment about this but it would be nice to think she might have said something like: “Oh dear, it was going so well.”

It was a little disappointing for Rachel but even with 12 faults, her round was good enough to lift the B Team to 11th place overall in the final standings, and she had the great pleasure to watch her good friend ride a lovely clear round to lead the RN Team A to overall victory, beating all the mounted units that year.

As we packed up later that day we reflected upon the fact that had Cromarty been trusted to do the job, her faultless clear in the first round would still have ensured that the RN Team A made it into the jump-off and Rachel would have been able to round off her time competing in the Services’ Team Jumping Competition at Windsor with another overall win. However, at that time it could not be guaranteed and so it was right that Rachel stepped back; also had Rachel not led Team B that day it would have finished nowhere.

In 2011 Cromarty retired from competition to produce four lovely foals and very recently Rachel rode the late Cromarty’s eldest daughter called Pentland over her first simulated water jump. Pentland is bold, confident and talented, and although we’ve not been out competing for a number of years, the flame has been rekindled…

Cromarty goes clear in the first round – early morning 10th May 2008