A TEESDALE mother and daughter are preparing to compete in a major UK carriage driving championship next month.

Kim Usher and her daughter Amanda will line up in the intermediate pony class at the British Indoor Horse Driving Trials UK championships, which are being held at the College Equestrian Centre, Keysoe, in Bedfordshire between April 5 and 7.

The championships are the culmination of the winter indoor carriage driving season and 17-year-old Amanda is hoping for a good performance.

“We have won all our qualifying events and we are hoping to come in the top half of our class. I think that is realistic,” she said.

Amanda, who is studying A-levels in history, French, maths and English at Barnard Castle School, and her mum have been competing at national level for the past three years.

Powering their carriage is a single pony, 15-year-old Mackie, an experienced horse Amanda and Kim have ridden with since they stepped up from club to national carriage driving level.

Following the indoor championships, Amanda and Kim, from Ovington, near Barnard Castle, have a busy summer schedule of outdoor competitions lined up, taking them all over the country.

They begin at Ashfields, in Essex, at the beginning of May, with further events at Hopetoun, in the Scottish Borders, Sandringham, Cartlton Hall, in Derbyshire, Dumfries and Cumbria throughout the summer before the season ends with the National Driving Championships at Ashfields in September.

Amanda, a keen rider, explained that carriage driving is organised along similar lines to three-day eventing, with a dressage event on the first day, followed by a longer cross country section of up to 9km on the second.

Instead of jumping over fences, competitions conclude with an obstacle course, when carriages negotiate their way through a series of cones.

While Kim takes the reins, Amanda really comes into her own during the cross country leg of the competitions.

“It's very fast and very challenging, both physically and mentally as you have to learn the courses before tackling them.

“Cross country is really my day when I am helping to drive things and shouting instructions.”

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