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The origins of "Attelage" in UK - Chapter 2


 

 

Our Journey into Attelage de Tradition.

In 2008 a letter appeared in carriage driving magazine complaining that standards of dress were falling at British Driving Society Area Drives.

The British Carriage Driving Society was founded to continue the art of carriage driving and its founders were traditionalists.

Competitive carriage driving as a sport under FEI rules was getting a good following and had become very popular but was moving away from coachman style driving and traditional dress

At that time Eunice was an Area Commissioner for Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdon, so she decided to put on a drive, inviting people to come in hats, gloves and aprons to improve the image of BDS traditional driving.

Eunice saw a BDS Judge at Reading Carriage Sales and he complemented her on her efforts of what she was doing to try and carry on BDS traditions..

He said “Why don’t you put on an Attelage de Tradition”. This had been established in France and had spread to several countries in Europe to promote a more gentile type of driving competition for traditional carriages with dress to match.

It had been put together by Baron de Langlade who had been a very established FEI Driving Trials team driver, but wanted to develop a competition using Traditional Carriages, as he felt they were not being used, just left in barns and sheds to rot. Many were destroyed during the war in Europe.

We liked the idea of giving the old carriages something more to do than just being driven round a show ring.

We had just been asked by Suffolk Horse Society to take carriages to Helmingham Hall to make an extra interest for their event. This gave us a venue for 2009.

We contacted Richard James who had been involved with AIAT in France, for a set of rules to try and get an understanding of the competition. We were being helped by Gordon Marks, who, with all his contacts, invited several beautiful traditional turnouts and said he would do a BBQ.

Unfortunately, Gordon had an accident a few days before the event. He thought it might be better to cancel it.

We both said no, we must not cancel as everyone is booked in.

Caroline Dale Leech judged and scored the turnouts.

We worked out a route which included a stop at the Doberman pub for refreshments, so it was not timed. We had one PC, stopping on a mat and no cones course.

There was a final parade in front of Helmingham Hall and Lady Tollemache presented the prizes.

A quick visit to cash and carry provided a cold buffet for the competitors afterwards.

We had run an event for the Suffolk Horse Society, most competitors said it was a brave effort but could do better. An article in carriage driving said we had tried.

Some of the drivers who has done real Attelage in France were not impressed.

We had not obeyed the rules

In 2010, we put on a 2-day event at Helmingham with a cones course and more skills. A lovely dinner with entertainment was held in the Hall stables.

We were pleased with how it went but the attendance was not as good as we had hoped, more training was required.

In 2011, Richard James put an article in Carriage Driving advertising a Traditional Carriage and Veteran Car rally at Compiènge we decided to go to France and gain some idea of what we had to do. It was also in the vicinity of Cuts.

We contacted DFDS who told us their ferry Dover to Dunkirk was the best ferry for horses because it was stabilised, we were worried about Winston getting seasick if we took him to Cuts one day.

We went Dover to Dunkirk a day early so we could learn a bit about the area.

Unable to find the venue, Eunice asked a roadman in her best French where it was, and it must have been nearby as he directed us to the hippodrome.

We had just started walking back to our hotel when the heavens opened, we tried to shelter under a hedge, but both got soaked, so went back and had a hot bath. It was the best part of the day!

Next day we went to see the carriages and cars all circa early 1900 driving in the forest and drinking champagne at Vivier Corax. There was a wonderful collection of ancient automobiles and carriages. In the evening we enjoyed a meal at the Hippodrome venue at Compiègne. On Sunday, it was heavy rain and only three carriages took part in the drive to Pierrefonds for lunch.

  • One Omnibus à capucineE. Macrez(F)
  • One Coupé de villej. j. Petit(F)
  • One Napoleon phaetonU. van de Vorde(B)

The car drivers were much hardier they just kept going.

When we arrived at the Domaine des Thermes, we were the only dry ones.

The car drivers were steaming in front of the fire, the lady passengers saying, “never again”.

We had been invited to take part in the whole event, so we took our place amongst the drivers and passengers and had a superb Buffet, with music supplied by a saxophonist from Ireland.

We met our hosts Christian and Antoinette de Langlade who encouraged us to enter Cuts in 2012. We had enjoyed the French hospitality and decided to attend this prestigious event.

Winston, our 15 year old Welsh cob had never travelled that far or been on a boat over the water.

In 2011 we purchased an 1884 Sporting dog cart which fitted in the lorry with the horse and we had our living area, so we were well equipped. May 2012 soon arrived, we had practiced PCs and Maniabilité and knew Winston could manage 13kmph provided it was not uphill.

We left home at 4.30 to be at dover 9.00 for 10.00 sailing. The crossing was fine.

2.5 hours into our journey through France, we had a breakdown with the air hand-brake. Luckily we had just taken out insurance, so 4 hours later we were on our way again. After 16 hours on the lorry Winston enjoyed a good roll on Cuts grass, he was not at all bothered.

Elizabeth Cartwright Hignett, introduced herself and with Antonia Maas was soon giving us tips on how to compete at Attelage well into the evening.

At the Presentation stage, Eunice walked in front to give Winston a lead between the three judges, he was not too sure, he could not understand what they were saying. When we started on The Routier after a few 100 metres we came to a busy road and stopped. The cars were on the wrong side of the road. Eunice walked in front until he got used to it and followed a bunch of cyclists. The Routier was all going well, round the lake and through the woods, round the corner to a steep hill “Oh Dear, do not like hills”. Up we go, well into our stride now. We came to the PCs, no problem, we had practiced well. Double clear in the Maniabilité. No balls down, Winston loves a cones course.

The Prize-giving, 150 horses in that arena, Winston not happy. 17 in our class and Binder is called, The flag is up, God Save the Queen, What a triumph for our first Attelage. After a drive round The Château through the exited, thronging crowds, it was back to the safety of the Stable Field.

We drove home determined to establish Attelage de Tradition in the UK.

May 2014 it was back to Cuts, less penalties but 2nd place, everyone is improving!

In June 2014 at our local Suffolk Agricultural Show, Baron Christian de Langlade was judging the Coaching Class. Accompanied by Antoinette and Richard James. Lady Clare of Euston was the Show President, so Eunice grasped the opportunity with everyone present to ask if an Attelage de Tradition could be held at Euston Hall Estate in Suffolk. After consultation with Andrew Blenkiron, the Estate Director; The 1st Euston CIAT was born in August 2015.

Since 2014 we have attended the Annual AIAT AGMs and Training to qualify Wallace as TD. Eunice has organisation ability and learnt the secretarial requirements. With aid from an increasing team of willing helpers and sponsors, we have just completed our 6th CIAT Euston. This year, 2020 with Corona Virus restrictions in place, it was condensed into a one day competition, still under AIAT rules with even more prizes from generous well wishes and New interest from Heavy Horses and their associates. The future is looking bright.

In conclusion.

A Tribute to Christian and Antoinette de Langlade.

We first met in 2011 when thanks to Richard James our interest in Attelage de Tradition had been kindled. Encouraged by Gordon Marks, In 2009 and 2010 we had gathered some top British drivers for an attempt at competitions at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk.

We then attended the Rally for Veteran Cars and Carriages at Compiègne in 2011. We were made most welcome and despite the rain we enjoyed the atmosphere and learnt much about the detail and importance of socialising from Antoinette.

Our entries at Cuts in 2012 and 2014 proved successful with our Welsh Cob, Winston. Since our involvement with AIAT and training received from Christian, with Cuts as our example, we held our first CIAT at Euston Hall in Suffolk, August 2015. Long may they continue.

We wish to congratulate Christian and Antoinette for promoting this wonderful experience and thank them sincerely for the tireless energy they have devoted to their cause.

Wallace and Eunice Binder. GB

October 2020.

The origins of "Attelage" in UK - Chapter 1


 

CIAT Picton, the Inspiration of Attelage de Tradition in the UK

They say that like a great fire, great ideas start with a spark of inspiration in order to become a roaring success. CIAT in the United Kingdom began with such a spark. Lester Dagge explains what inspired him to establish the first AIAT CIAT competition in the United Kingdom.

 “It all started when leading English carriage driver Elspeth Gill, renowned for her prolific winning Concour d’Elegance turnouts returned from her first CIAT competition at Cuts exuberant at her prize winning gifts. She explained it was the greatest competition she had ever been in, “we simply MUST do this here in the UK!” It was to be Elspeth’s swansong for competitive private driving with her Hackney Stallion and picturesque Studebaker Basket Phaeton, but her legacy was to encourage me to establish a similar competition here in the United Kingdom. I already had experience setting up and running carriage driving competitions in England and Wales, but to host an AIAT CIAT was to be a greater challenge. I knew that to hold any competition, you would need a number of key ingredients for it to work. Firstly you needed a great venue, access to suitable roads and tracks, an accessible location, an army of helpers, stabling, a budget and finally competitors. Without an equal share of all the ingredients, the event cannot proceed."

 

With much research and investigations, It took about five years to finally assemble all parts of the ingredients before we could create our first AIAT CIAT, or as we have fondly called it in the UK, ‘Attelage’, (a generic name that has become firmly established in the English driving vocabulary for such CIAT events). Various venues had been investigated, but sadly, many of the great estates have been broken up, commercialised and turned into hotels or public event venues and the land sold off with the roads made inaccessible or precarious. The great estates and stately homes of the National Trust would be ideal, but were largely resistant to any equine events due to their risk policy of roaming visitors, and so we were left with asking private vendors instead.

 It took a house move from England to Wales to allow Lester to achieve his dream of holding an Attelage. When he moved to rural west Wales, he was surprised to discover a lack of support for carriage driving, so established a driving group which he subsequently ran for 8 years. This allowed him the opportunity to bring a group of like minded enthusiasts together to hold training, lessons, talks and events. One of the events would promote driving to its full glory with the idea of an Attelage. With an army of volunteers drafted in to help stage an event, we then had to find a suitable venue. A prominent local private estate, the 12th Century Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire was approached, who welcomed the idea of the competition with the opportunity of additional visitor numbers.

 

Starting with a blank canvas, an enthusiastic fund raising campaign was established to create necessary funds for holding the event including temporary stabling, equipment and expenses. Richard James, the grand master of carriage driving and AIAT was consulted into the regulations and requirements for holding the event and the necessary judges and stewards were appointed. Although a similar mini competition had been trialled in Suffolk by Eunice Binder a few years previous, Picton would be the first AIAT affiliated ATM competition in the United Kingdom. Promotion of the first event started in earnest in 2011 and called ‘Carriages at the Castle’ to help the public and British competitors better understand the nature of the new competition format.

Traditionally, British carriage driving was split into FEI style driving trials or traditional Private Driving. Attelage offered the cross between the two disciplines and therefore had a task to attract both driving disciples! What we didn’t account for was the keen interest in the event from competitors outside the region. At first I believed it would be only local competitors, but actually we attracted people from all parts of the United Kingdom. With an opening event of 18 competitors, we found that although most British events were a one day competition, our guests would seize the opportunity for a short vacation in an exciting new location. Pembrokeshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty steeped in history and mystery, so our guests would revel in its location.

 

In order to minimise the risk of failure and to financially support the event we had to facilitate some host club members with a cursory allowance made to accommodate their modern non traditional vehicles with a similar competition running along side the CIAT event. Richard James kindly offered his great expertise and advised on the essential aspects of the event including planning the difficulties (the smoke passage was the best!), a picturesque 12km Routier and of course the formal reception and grand banquet in the Castle. The opportunity to don our best formal clothes and fine dining was met with great approval by all the guests who even forgave the debacle of high heel stilettos crossing a muddy field to get to the Castle! The new competition format was met with outstanding acclaim by all the competitors, and with help from an army of keen amateur photographers, pictures of the event were shared worldwide thanks to the use of social media.

 A strict protocol was followed to ensure we adhered to the competition format and guidelines set down by Christian and Antoinette de Longlade that would help protect the conformity of the event. This format met with great approval from the British competitors which offered them something fresh, new and exciting, particularly the enjoyment of the social camaraderie and unbiased judging system. Visitors to the castle enjoyed the spectacle of the competition and the magnificent carriages such as breaks, gigs, dog carts, as well as horses in singles, pairs, teams and tandems whilst our commentator explained the intricacies of each turnout to the public. Thanks to a prudent eye on finances, our first event turned a small profit which was ploughed back into a fund that helped plan the future events. CIAT Picton grew from strength to strength, attracting increasing competitors, spectators and influence. Sadly however, after 5 years, a change in Picton Castle’s management and onerous visitor attraction regulations offered an untimely end to Carriages at the Castle, but left enduring memories and the start of a great legacy for Attelage in the United Kingdom. The achievements of Picton helped firmly establish Attelage and I am proud that other spectacular venues were inspired including CIAT Glamis, CIAT Euston, CIAT Sandringham, CIAT Tismans and the new CIAT Elveden.

 

This passion for the event saw Lester become an active enthusiast for Attelage, along with his wife Lynnie taking part and supporting a number of competitions. They have also attended a number of AIAT agm’s around Europe with Lester honoured at the opportunity to judge a number of events in England, France and Italy.

 

A final footnote of the influence of CIAT Picton and the AIAT is a profound consequence of the scoring sheet results on the UK traditional carriage market. Each year, returning competitors would improve on their experience, acquiring better carriages, better horses and better equipages. Unfashionable carriages that once would not normally have performed well showing in Private Driving classes were now suddenly totally appropriate and perfect for Attelage. Carriages are now being sold at a higher premium suitable for Attelage and once again becoming fashionable, upholding Christians original vision to promote and encourage the use of traditional carriages.

 

Thank you Christian and Antoinette for your dream, it has come true, and CIAT in the UK is a roaring success!