Translation by Sue de BRANTES
Certain privileged Americans have been coaching enthusiasts since the 1900’s and before. The elegant “coach and four” was a passion among the lucky few since the Industrial Revolution.
Of the recent events, one of the most remarkable is a biannual event in Berkshire, Mass. Near Stockbridge. It assembles a dozen-odd coaches from various regions. Their favorite horses are largely of German origin….Olodenbourgs, Hanovers, and Saxes.
Modelled after the British tradition, the sport took off seriously with the founding of the Coaching Club of New York, in 1875.
Members of this ultra exclusive club had to possess at least one self-driven Park Drag or Road Coach, drawn by four matched horses. Meets first took place in Central Park, mainly in Spring and Autumn, and eventually moved to members’ country properties.
Still today, these reunions take place near Lennox and Stockbridge, not far from New York. Such families as the Westinghouses, Morgans, Vanderbilts and Duponts (from Wilmington)…take part in these prestigious meets where team driving at its most refined is admired by smart neighbors.
Since 2004, every two years, Orleton Farm, becomes the focal point of the Berkshire Coaching Event. Here, at the summer residence of the Stokes and Proctor family, Mary Stokes Waller , her husband Harvey Waller and her their two sons welcome about twenty ponies and heavy horses. Here also they have a collection of hippomobiles (including a Brewster, made by one most famous American carriage builders) and historic automobiles including Bugattis. Each of these antique models is kept in working condition and driven regularly by members of the family.
The horses are trained and maintained by Steve Hom, judge and “meneur”, who, for many years was in charge of the Rockefeller stables in nearby New York State.Throughout the Wallers' Coaching Weekend, one is constantly aware of their effort to preserve an old tradition. Only coaches (or, exceptionally, Roof Seat Breaks) may participate, with particular attention to elegant details.
From the first event on Friday evening, the Whips' Dinner,the tone is set. Thanks to the generous hospitality of its hosts, this weekend has become the summum of elegance In the United States. A personal invitation to participate is a great honor as we can assure you including the author
accompanied by M. Andreas Huber of Ladenberg, Germany, as well as other European Coaching Clubs.
On the Road:
Our hostess leads the parade of the superb teams the first day in a Park Drag built by Cowlard and Selby (London 1890), and the following day it is her husband's turn:in the road coach "Old Times" which was perfectly restored, inside and out, in the US. This is the best known road coach ,also built by Cowlard and Selby, in 1886, to race in the famous London-Brighton competition where James Selby established the record in June 188...108 miles in 8 hours, about 22.5 km per hour! To accomplish this record, he changed teams four times.
This Road Coach, a bit heavier than a Park Drag, still rolls along comfortably thanks to excellent springs. All the accessories are embossed with "OT" for Old Times, the harness renewed by Freedman (Canada) and the accoutrements like blankets for passengers, water pails etc...
Who are those who participate? Among others there is a lady lawyer from NYC in still another Cowlard and Selby Road Coach, "Excelsior" (1891), a member of the Rockefeller family in a Healy Shooting Break, and a builder from distant Colorado with magnificent Kladrubers. Plus a charming gentleman on crutches who, once seated in the driver's seat (Frolic Weymouth?) becomes a jolly, ultra_capable "meneur".
The elegant President of the American Coaching Club, Luis G. Piancone, from New Jersey but of Italian origin, drives thoroughbreads to "Tantivy"
(Shanks, London 1907)which used to belong to the legendary Jack Seabrook. Three poney teams participate including that of Paul Martin, the Pennsylvania auctioneer, whose team is perfectly adapted to a mini Park Drag by Brwster.
When we start out from Orleton Farm at 10AM, our hosts set the cadence at a brisk trot. Police monitor the traffic as we pass through lovely parks and gardens. ...alongside Victorian houses and ancient oaks. Trumpets sounded and, as we cross Stockbridge and Lennox, spectators applaud with enthusiasm.
About 6 miles(10 km) later we are awaited at another majestic property where the carriages line up to be judged by John Richards, well-known British connoisseur. After a trumpet contest, there is a quick lunch before the return to Orleton Farm where competitors and horses relax and a reception awaits.
This event compares favorably with similar ones in Europe....except for the social side where Americans are particularly hospitable. Everyone is very friendly and open....generous in passing their reins to guests and proud to welcome guests from overseas...as well as eager to accept invitations from foreign friends.