Pony Addiction - Scurry Driving

By: Horse Deals

Pony Addiction - Scurry Driving
Janette with ponies Fred and Barney

Janette Baker-Watts is a first time driver for the Osborne Refrigerators Scurry Driving Team. Janette and her ponies, Lady & The Tramp, have got an exciting season ahead of them as they try to qualify for The Horse of the Year Show. Janette has given us full access to her and her ponies and we are going to follow their progress in our new and exciting Scurry Driving blog.

In our interview, we find out all about Janette, her duo of ponies and what makes Scurry driving so addictive.

Name: Janette Baker-Watts

Age: 31

Scurry ponies: My competition ponies are a pair of Welsh Section As called Equilibra Lady & The Tramp. They are 22 and 23 years of age, so between them they have plenty of experience.

How long have you been driving for?

I only took up the driving reins in March this year but I have been a scurry groom for Gareth Roberts for the last 3 years.

How did you get into scurry driving?

In 2008 I moved my horse to a new livery yard and Scurry Driver Gareth Roberts is the estate manager for the owner of the property and the yard manager for all the liveries. Gareth’s groom at the time was driving Lady and The Tramp in her first season as a driver, so they were a groom short. Gareth asked if I would come and have a go as a groom on the back at an indoor show. I agreed and enjoyed it so much that the following Tuesday I was on my way to Horse Of The Year Show with Gareth and his team and I have been addicted ever since. I was particularly eager to have a go, because when I was young, I was a huge fan of the scurry driving displays at our local county show. I remember my favourite ponies were called Marks & Sparks and I loved the excitement and atmosphere the scurry created around the ring.

Can you explain the different roles of the driver and groom?

The grooms job is so important. If the groom does not position their weight in the correct place on the back of the carriage as the driver manoeuvres the ponies around the course, the carriage can easily go up onto 2 wheels and even tip over. As a driver, you can't be thinking about what the groom is doing on the back. You have to have complete trust in their ability because your focus is on the ponies and the technical elements of the course in front of you. Many of the drivers have family members, close friends or employed grooms on the back of their carriage. In this sport you are so reliant on other people. You cannot train at home or go to a show without a groom on the back of the carriage, so you always need help from others.

I have built up a relationship with the scurry ponies I look after for Gareth and he had always been keen for me to have a go in the driving seat. When I ride my own horse, I am quite a control freak and I am very sensible, so at first I couldn't imagine taking up the reins myself, let alone driving at break neck speed around a course! However, Gareth insisted that I have a go and drive his highly experienced pair of ponies, Lady & The Tramp, for the season. I was sorely tempted and decided that I would really regret it if I didn't at least have a go, so in March this year I finally took up the reins. If it wasn't for my relationship with Lady & The Tramp already, I would not have even considered scurry driving. I am very lucky to have two experienced ponies at the end of my reins, other drivers have had to start from scratch breaking in their ponies and teaching them the skills required. My pair are truly brilliant ponies who look after me every step of the way.

What makes scurry driving so much fun? For me, I am really out of my comfort zone scurry driving. When I ride, I like to be in full control of situations and circumstances. I only enjoy speed in a controlled environment and I don't like taking risks, I would be a perfect Health & Safety Officer! I am very sensible, but I think that’s what I love about the sport. The adrenalin rush I get from it. The courses you drive are cleverly built and the course builders set the cones at different angles to try to catch you out. If you are just driving at speed and without technical precision, you will knock the balls off of the cones and get penalty seconds added to your round time. I loved watching the scurry ponies as a child, so to be taking part in the sport now is fantastic. I suffer really badly with nerves before a class and if anyone has tips out there for dealing with performance nerves, than I would love to hear from you!

How can our readers get involved and have a go? There are only two Scurry Groups in the Country. The Scurry Driving Association and The Osborne Refrigerators Scurry Team. The two groups compete at different shows throughout the country. The best way to get involved is by introducing yourself to a scurry driver from one of the groups, we are a friendly bunch! All the competitors live in different parts of the country, so it is very likely that there is a scurry driver who lives near you. It is a sport which relies on the help of others, so enthusiastic supporters and helpers are always very well received.

I personally am thrilled to be on the Osborne Refrigerators Scurry Team. The name Osborne Refrigerators has been involved with equestrian sports and the shows I used to attend since I was young, so to be able to compete on the Osborne Refrigerators Team with Jeff Osborne himself, is for me a complete honour and I totally respect Jeff's dedication to the sport.

Which upcoming events can we see you at? East of England Show: 18th June

British Show Jumping Derby, Hickstead: 25th June

Kent County Show: 16 - 17 July

Royal International Horse Show: 30th July

Edenbridge & Oxted: 28th August

Hopefully this year we will also qualify for a place at The Horse Of The Year 2011.

My scurry ponies are well experienced and they thrive on the atmosphere from the crowd around the ring. They love to hear the cheering and the noise. My ponies totally rise to the occasion and go faster when they have the crowds support. I know the children love the sport and I try to acknowledge them around the ring. I really appreciate all the support from everyone and my ponies not only love it, but they deserve it.

Gareth Roberts drove Lady & The Tramp and has since trained two other drivers to great success with this pair. Lady & The Tramp have qualified for Horse Of The Year Show every year they have competed for the last 10 years and have qualified for the HOYS Championship every year. No other pair of scurry ponies hold that record, so they really are scurry champions in their own right. I really hope I don't let them down this year!. They really do deserve all the crowds support and if you see us at a show, please come up and say hello to us because the ponies love the attention. But most of all please, please keep cheering!