AIAT ANNUAL MEETING
Cavalry and Guards Club
The Royal Mews – Buckingham Palace
London – February 19,2012
It has become customary to change AIAT ‘s annual meeting to a different country each year which provides the added attraction of getting more familiar with another place.
This time, England was the host and the assembly. With 14 represented countries, it took place at the Cavalry and Guards Club, the weekend of February 18-19.
Bill Ginns, President of the Coaching Club, and Richard James, Editor of Carriage Driving Magazine, had organized that we all were housed in neighboring clubs. Other than the Cavalry and Guards Club, the Royal Air Force Club and Caledonian Club were particularly welcoming. Their respective Secretaries made sure we felt at home in these majestic private institutions.
Sixty members representing the following countries made the trip : Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Interested observers included Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.
Saturday, Richard James had organized a full day at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, where we were graciously received by the Crown Equerry, Colonel Toby Browne LVO.
Richard James started the program by a fascinating commentary on the Hansom Cab, the original London taxi, full of anecdotes and amusing details….which will soon be published. This was followed by a demonstration in the courtyard of the Royal Mews. Harnessing, then positioning the reins on top of the carriage….then placing the horse and putting the reins to the bit …« hop » the « taxi driver » climbs aboard. Not so simple as it seems!
Steve and Liz Jarman showed us the problems of driving with a postillon. It consists in driving a pair without a coachman, but rather with a postillon mounted on the horse to the left, guiding the horse on his right with the help of its reins and the pressure of his whip on the neck. Liz, our postillion drove a few rounds in the courtyard of the Mews then Steve and her decided to take a little stroll before putting the horses back into the horsebox. The lucky passenger was the author of this report, invited for a drive on the Mall and neighboring streets and avenues amidst the busy traffic. It was a great experience, and what a privelege, under these circumstances, to return to our point of departure with Buckingham Palace in the distance
We then had a very detailed visit of the Royal stables, conducted by the Head Coachman. Jack Hargreaves showed us the splendid Royal coaches….from the Gold State Coach (1762) used for all coronations, royal marriages, and the last Jubilee of the Queen….to the air-conditioned Australian State Coach…offered by Australia in 1988…not to mention the Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.
The tack rooms were filled with impeccable harness, saddles and bridles and the stables inhabited by several handsome horses ready to be used at a moment’s notice for the Queen, ambassadors or important personalities.The over-all_impression was of serene activity….awaiting the intensifying preparations for the June 4th ceremonies. However, one sensed the imminent excitement at the Royal Mews as driving horses begin to fill the boxes….. mainly Cleveland Bays and Windsor Greys.
An excellent lunch was followed by various interesting exposés. For instance , Mrs Lizzy Jamieson’s description of carriages and coaches maintained by the National Trust ; Dr. Alex Naylor’s explanation of an ambitious project to reconstitute, in 2015, the Dépêche de Waterloo :
and a fascinating history of the Royal Mews by Colin Henderson, who was a former Crown Equerry.
After returning to our respective clubs to change, we rejoined for a charming and agreeable dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club, complete with toasts, jokes and “Hear,Hears”!
Everyone was reunited Sunday morning for the serious General Assembly. Christian de Langlade (F) thanked the experts and participants for their years of contribution to AIAT; José Juan Morales (E) read the financial report, and Linda Depaepe (B) announced the upcoming events.
Bert De Mooij (NL) proposed that we create the AIAT Cup to be awarded annually to the winning team overall if the CIAT’s.
Guy Wagner (L) revived the persistent problem of judging carriages and it was suggested that competitors who, knowingly, gave falsified information…would not be reinvited ; Sylvie Grenet (F),of the French Ministry of Culture, described the successive steps necessary to acquire acceptance of Traditionnel Driving by UNESCO ; Heiner Staub (CH) offered to host the General Assembly next year, in Berne, and, on behalf of Portugal, José Folque (P) proposed to follow up in 2014 when the inauguration of the the new Coach Museum will take place in Lisbon. Peter Hopler (A) invited the judge to meet for a clinic in Vienna next November and those present agreed to his proposition.
After lunch, the delegations dispersed …filled with souvenirs, ideas and excitement after such an interesting experience in London….anticipating new adventures in the same domain.