coaching


From the recent Devon Horse Show: here’s a four-minute video of one of the (beautiful!) coaching classes … courtesy of our friends at Driving Essentials.

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If the embedded video won’t play on your computer, click here to go directly to it on YouTube.

The small(er) CAA group that traveled from Windsor up to Norfolk enjoyed a coaching run today, with John Parker driving his beautiful mail coach through the countryside surrounding John and Susan Townsend’s Swingletree Driving Center.

Susan and Rosie took these photos:

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I now have a bunch of photos from the CAA group’s visit to this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show. In the three photos below, I believe the first one is of Mark Broadbent, who won the Coaching Championship and the Jack Pemberton Trophy for being the best turned out. The second and third photos are of U.S. drivers: Jim Fairclough and Misdee Wrigley Miller, respectively. It looks like they had perfect weather for the event (unlike last year, when the ground was so muddy from the previous days’ heavy rains that the coaching was canceled!).

To see more photos, click on the link (at right) to visit the CAA’s Facebook page.

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Here’s another story from Mr. Reynardson:

“‘Hallo, Peter. How about that ‘strange gentleman?” said a brother coachman as he pulled up alongside the above-named Peter Hilton, who drove the Hirondelle from Shrewsbury to Birkenhead, from which place the passengers crossed by a ferry-boat to Liverpool. ‘All along with that strange gentleman’s driving, eh, Peter?’ ‘If that is all you’ve got to say,’ said Peter, ‘you’d better mind your own business.’ This was a mighty sore subject with Peter, who at the best of times was not famed for his affable manners, if anything put him out. He was not very fond of chaff; and the incident I am about to relate afforded a grand subject for banter on the road and with many of his brother coachmen, who all knew me pretty well.

“The facts were these: Peter, for some reasons best known to himself, for I could never make them out, was not vastly fond of me. I knew him less than any coachman on the road, and certainly had never given him any cause for either liking or disliking me. He never much approved of my driving, though he knew I was in the habit of driving any of the coaches out of Shrewsbury and elsewhere in that part of the country. It happened one day that Mr. Isaac Taylor, of the Lion Inn, in Shrewsbury, who horsed most of the coaches, was in the yard when the Hirondelle was about to start. He had given me leave to drive any team of his, and seemed surprised not to see me lay hold of the reins and mount the rostrum. ‘Aren’t you going to drive, sir?’ said he; ‘you’ll find them a fairish team, I think.’ ‘Well, to tell you the truth,’ said I, ‘Peter Hilton don’t seem much to like my driving.’ ‘Nevermind Peter Hilton,’ said Mr. Taylor, ‘jump up, sir; I’ll make it all right,’ calling out at the same time, ‘Hilton, Mr. Reynardson is going to work today.’ ‘Very well, sir, if you like it,’ said Peter, looking as sulky as he could look, and he could look it to perfection.

“Off we started; a horrid day, I well remember, raining and blowing great guns, so that I could hardly keep the horses in the road, the wind dead in my teeth, and the rain driving up the road, till reins, whip, and everything else were as wet and soddened as if they had been boiled or were made of tripe.

“Having arrived at Wrexham, where a Dog-cart was waiting for me to take me to a friend’s house about two miles distant, down I jumped, gave Peter a ‘douceur,’ which I hoped would make him think better of me for the time to come, and said, ‘Good day, Peter; don’t look so cross. I’ll come and drive for you again some day ere very long,’ and with this I jumped into the Dog-cart, and was off before the horses were out of the coach.

“Some time afterwards I met my old friend Mr. Kenyon, or ‘His Honor,’ as he was always called. ‘Hallo, old friend,’ said he, much to my surprise; ‘how came you to let Peter Hilton’s horses get away from you the other day?’ Of course I was all amazement, never having heard of any occurrence that could give rise to the speech. ‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I said. ‘I never let Peter Hilton’s horses get away, nor did I hear of anything of the kind. I can’t make out what you mean.’ ‘Why,’ said His Honor, ‘did not you drive the Hirondelle on such a day from Shrewsbury, and did not they run off with the coach from Wrexham?’

“To this I replied that I had never heard of anything of the kind having taken place, and stated, as I have before said, that as soon as I got off the coach at Wrexham, being wet and miserable, I got into the Dog-cart and made the best of my way to my friend’s house, before the horses were even taken out of the coach. ‘Well, Peter said you did, and it’s all over the country; so, as you did not do it, you will know what to say if anyone chaffs you about it.’ It would seem that whilst they were putting the horses to at the Feathers Inn, at Wrexham, my friend Peter and the three or four passengers that were on the coach — for I remember we had only a light load that day — slipped into the inn to ‘whet their whistles,’ and Wrexham was famous for its good ale in those days. From some cause the horsekeeper left the horses for a moment, and when he returned, to his surprise, he found the coach gone, and, to his greater surprise, friend Peter and his passengers in the bar.

“The horses had started off first in a walk, then in a trot, then got into a gallop, and away they went with the empty coach at any pace you like to call it, till they got to the bottom of Marford Hill, about five miles from Wrexham. How they were stopped, why they stopped, whether they were stopped by anyone, or whether they stopped of their own accord, I never heard; but stop they did, and the coach and horses came to no grief.

“Will Jones, who was driving the coach from Liverpool to Wrexham, met them about halfway down the hill, and seeing something was wrong, there being no one on the coach, pulled almost out of the road, and avoided being run into. He said they were going a real good pace, and he could not for the life of him make out what could be up till he got to Wrexham, and found how matters stood. Peter Hilton, to get the blame off his own shoulders and avoid the chaff which he must go through, and thinking that he should never hear any more of it, laid it to my driving, and said, ‘Oh! it was all along that strange gentleman driving.’ He was soon, however, found out, and the chaff he got was without end. He never passed a coach without being reminded of the strange gentleman.”

I found another fun book in the CAA’s Library. This one, Down the Road: Reminiscences of a Gentleman Coachman, was written by C. T. S. Birch Reynardson and published in London in 1887.

This particular chapter recounts the sad tale of Mr. Wiggins …

“Perhaps more by luck than judgment, I never came to any grief in my coaching days. I never upset a coach, and I never was upset by anyone else; I never killed anyone, and I never was killed myself, which I have often thought a wonderful fact, for I have often seen queer things happen, and have had various ‘touch and goes,’ which even now make my hair stand on end, that is to say, the little of it that remains. I believe I never killed or ran over anything that I ought not but once, and then I ran over and killed a pig.

“Poor ‘Mr. Wiggins!’ he was turned into pork at a moment’s notice in a way he could hardly have expected, but which, perhaps, was quite as much to his taste and quite as dignified as being confined in a sty, and fed up for weeks, and doomed at last to undergo the process of being shaved at Christmas and turned into pork pies or sausages.

“It happened thus. I was driving the Nettle coach, which ran from Welchpool to Liverpool. I had a real good load, four in and twelve out, and luggage in proportion, when going through the toll-bar close to Llanymyneck, near which place I had a friend living whose house I was going to look at, with the intention of hiring it. Just as I got my leaders well through the toll-bar, who should pop out by my friend ‘Mr. Wiggins’ right under the near wheel of the coach. I shall never forget the sound of the wheel cutting through him; it was just the sound that would be produced by driving over a washerwoman’s wicker clothes-basket, or something like the horrible crunch that is heard in one’s head when a double tooth is being wrenched out. I’d half a mind to pull up to see if the poor fellow required any assistance; but the guard said, ‘Never mind him, sir; he’s as dead as mutton.’

“And as the Nettle was then running opposition to the Royal Oak, the pace was too good to stop and inquire after him. It so happened that this took place on a Saturday; I got off at my friend’s house about two miles further on, and on Sunday went with my friend to Llanymyneck Church, and had to pass through the said toll-bar. On our return we went into the toll-bar with an excuse to get a light for a cigar, and there, spread out on a clean white tablecloth, were evident signs of my acquaintance of yesterday, cut up and looking very like very nice pork. ‘The deuce take it,’ said I, ‘you surely don’t kill pigs on a Sunday in this country!’ ‘No, sir,’ said the toll-bar keeper; ‘it’s a pig that met with a little bit of an accident yesterday; the coach went over it and killed it. But it will make a very nice bit of pork for all that, and I don’t see that it will be much the worse, though it aren’t perhaps quite so fat as it might be to kill in the usual way.’

“I said, ‘Did the coach really kill the pig? I suppose that it was all the coachman’s fault, and that he was driving too fast, or something of that kind.’ ‘Well, no, sir; I don’t see how anyone was to blame this time,’ he said. ‘To be sure they do race a bit sometimes, the Oak and Nettle do; but I don’t see that the coachman or anyone was to blame but the pig himself. I’ll tell you how it was, sir; my missis oftentimes gives the pig a bit of victuals inside that rail which you see is broken,’ pointing to a part of the garden fence which ran up close to the door, and out of which just enough rails were broken out to admit poor piggy; ‘and just as the coach was going through the gate out he pops right under the wheel, and, to be sure, there was no help for him, and the coach did fairly cut him in two.’ Introducing me at the same time to the piece of his ribs that the wheel had gone over, he held it up for my edification. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it couldn’t be helped, I suppose. What might such a pig as that be worth?’ ‘Well, sir, it might be worth a couple of pounds; it’s only a little one yet, do you see.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘you’re a good fellow for not blaming the coachman; here’s a sovereign for you to get some applesauce to eat with him. I was driving, as it so happened, and if you’d blamed the coachman I should have kept my sovereign in my pocket.

“He seemed astonished and not a little pleased at the transaction.

“I hired my friend’s house for three or four years, and often as I passed the toll-bar I went in and lit my cigar, and had a little chaff about the ‘gentleman coachman’ turning pork butcher. I need not say that during the time I lived there we were sworn friends; and often as I drove the coach through the toll-bar, when he touched his hat to me, I acknowledged it by ‘Mind your pigs.'”

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