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Drove to carriage success on both sides of Tasman

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

EQUINE EXCELLENCE: Yvonne Weal, groom Lloyd Weal and Draytown Trooper show the type of precision competing in Melbourne that made them Australasian champions. Photo supplied.

By Colin Thorsen

Yvonne Weal is the undisputed Australasian Horse Drawn Carriage Driving champion, with husband Lloyd as her groom.

Over the space of three weeks Weal has ‘reined’ supreme both sides of the Tasman with her carriage horse Draytown Trooper, cleaning up the Australian Open Horse Championship in Melbourne and the New Zealand Combined Drive Championship at Taupo. Carriage driving is the equivalent of three-day eventing in that ‘arena’.

Weal set up her win in Wandin with an emphatic overall victory in the dressage with a score of 52.0 (the next best was an open pony on 59.5). She retained her lead with second placing in the marathon and clinched the Australian national title with a win over the cones course.

Wins in both lead-up events, including the Open Horse Class overall in the Victorian State Championship held at Catani, had Trooper looking great and extremely fit going into the dressage phase of the Australian championship.

“There were some pretty flash looking outfits with a fair bit of money spent on them,” says Yvonne Weal. “Lloyd and his brother-in-law Ivan had our carriage sparkling.”

The New Zealand combination had a few minor hiccups in the arena, one where Trooper decided there was a ghost in the letter K as they came down that side of the course for the first time.

“Overall, I was pleased with his test but couldn’t believe my eyes when the results were posted and we’d won overall by such a big margin.”

Weal says the marathon was a tough course. Section A alone was an uphill drag for most of the way, followed by eight challenging marathon obstacles pretty much at the top of a hill. Everything was going great until they came to the sixth MO.

“Trooper was really firing but slipped through the wrong gate, incurring 20 penalties for a course error. There was no time to dwell on it, we had two more MO’s to complete. We finished with no time faults anywhere on the course and Trooper sailed through the vet check 30 minutes later.”

Other horses were not so fortunate, being eliminated after their heart rates failed to come down sufficiently.

Weal and Trooper had to settle for second in the marathon behind Australian Brendan Dwyer but retained their lead overall in the open horse class.

“The cone course was a real doozy,” according to Weal, with four obstacles and 30 sets of cones to get through, all at a minimum 250 metres per minute (that was the slowest competitors could go without incurring time penalties).

She was thrilled to get round with just one ball down and two time faults which gave her the win in the cones.

Weal left Wandin at 1pm on the Monday. She and Trooper arrived in Auckland at 3am Wednesday. Lloyd and Grant Weal were there waiting for them with the truck.

“It was great to be home after an absolutely awesome and educating trip,” says Weal.

She paid tribute to husband Lloyd for his role in her success.

“He’s definitely my right hand man. I didn’t have to worry about a blacksmith. Lloyd did everything - shoed the horse, put studs in for every event and generally took care of everything behind the scenes.”

It was then on to Taupo where the Weals took out a rare mother/daughter New Zealand national championship winning double. Yvonne won the open horse class, with overall wins in the dressage and cones and second placing in the marathon, while Jennifer won the open small pony class with Greenlee Ray ‘O’ Sunshine - his fifth New Zealand title in all.

Husband Lloyd took Yvonne’s place at the presentation. Yvonne had to leave with Trooper before the presentation to meet the transporter taking them to Sydney so they could fly home in time for the New Zealand Combined Drive Championships at Taupo.

Lloyd thanked all the many people, both Australians and Kiwis, who had travelled to Wandin to support them. The party included their daughter, former New Zealand representative Jennifer Weal, Yvonne’s mother Doreen, brother Ivan and his wife Annette (who live in Australia), Betty Miles, Fiona Hicks, John McGough, Colin Hicks, Pam Nathan, Jill Udy and Rosemary Smith.