EQ LIFE: Karen is still involved in the sport – what does she drive?
HUGH: She used to drive pairs, but at the moment she is driving a single horse. Being on the back of the single horse for the first time in a number of years reminds me that actually you’ve got quite a lot to think about. You’ve got the navigating, you’ve got the turntable brake, you’ve got the stability of the carriage and all those things to think about [single horse carriages have one person on the back, as opposed to four-in-hand team carriages where there are two].
It reminds you also that the team carriages are over 600kg; you feel quite safe in those because they’re pretty solid. A smaller, single carriage… they’re not quite so robust. You feel a bit more exposed!
EQ LIFE: What are your plans in the sport now that you’re stepping back from Boyd’s team?
HUGH: I’m standing as a candidate to be chairman of the FEI Driving Committee; that’s the group that oversees driving as a whole. There are elections taking place for that in November and I’m one of three candidates. Given all the different roles I’ve played in sport on the one hand, and a business background on the other, the combination of the two… I was persuaded that I’d be a good candidate. The timing of stepping down from Boyd’s team is partly driven by wanting to spend time focusing on the campaign for this role.
And then I’m volunteering to do a few backstepping clinics. I did one online with Equestrian Queensland recently, which was great fun, and I’m doing one locally in Dorset in person soon. I do think the importance of the role of the navigator or backstep is often underestimated, and I also feel that it’s an area where there isn’t such an established training path. For drivers now, there’s quite a well-established process of progression, testing and exams, but for the backsteps, it’s still in its infancy. If I can help increase awareness of some of the issues and help as a catalyst with the various associations to begin to establish a program for navigators and backsteppers… I’m quite keen to give back what I’ve learned over the last 11 years with Boyd.
EQ LIFE: Where do you see and hope that the sport of driving progresses to in the coming years?
HUGH: I think what driving offers is that of all the equestrian sports, it has the ability to be the most inclusive because it can appeal to such a wide range of participants.
It’s great to go to a competition, which I did with Karen a few weeks back, where you’ve got people competing from the ages of juniors, 16-to-17-year-olds, all the way up to 75-year-olds. At grassroots level, it has a fantastic opportunity to draw people into sport, some of whom will be honed athletes and others who will be there with a slightly different purpose… they’re looking for an opportunity to experience a sport, perhaps not at the highest level, but one where they can enjoy themselves.