Ah….where to begin! Let’s go back to 2015….we finished the year off in grand style with about 45 drives. Once again, we were everywhere….we drove many of the beautiful estates and village roads throughout the piedmont of Northern Virginia, plus we went up to Fair Hill Maryland a couple of times and even as far away as the carriage roads of Acadia Park.
2016 yielded another 40-plus drives and during this year we not only drove our “usual” Northern Virginia territory (plus spots in Maryland and again in Maine) but we added some new events. New members Tom and Marykay Albert hosted a clinic at their Fredericksburg farm with Club member Maryalice Larkin Matheson-Thomas as clinician. This was in preparation for the Club’s participation in the mid summer carriage show at Morven Park. Happy to say, we took home many of the ribbons thanks to Mary Munster’s elegant tandem, Lisa Andersen’s stunning turnout, and Molly Savage’s skill at piloting the Cox pair through cones. We had many, many beautiful venues and, I hope, plenty of pictures to post on the website. We were happy to welcome some new members: Kim Cameron of Ayshire Farm, Mark and Marci Eades with their renown show pony (who winters in Florida just so he can rack up more points!), Gail Joyce from not-so-distant Maryland and others. We hope the Club continues to grow! And we’ve even added to our “repertoire” in that we organized a carriage exhibition for the National Sporting Library and a carriage parade at the Fourth of July Celebration at Great Meadow and even enjoyed an authentic Greek dinner at a local winery.
We were not without some challenges, however. Our horses and ponies remained fit, our carriages have rolled along without incident and our harness(s) have held together admirably. We, on the other hand, have undergone hip replacements, knee replacements, shoulder surgeries, cancer treatments, kidney removal and a litany of other ailments. Sadly there have been sick relatives to care for and even some deaths in our extended families. Perhaps the glue that has held us all together and allowed us to “trot through” adversity is our dedication to, and love of, the sport of carriage driving. Whatever happens, we support each other and we find new ways to have fun. I suppose all that fabulous food that appears at our events helps as well…
Now on to 2017: We began as we often have with a “come as you are, go as you please” drive at Blandy (the Virginia Arboretum). We love it there. Not only is it stunning in its diversity, with new trees and plants each time we visit, but the roads and trails are so peaceful and very kind to carriages. Team Cox hosted the picnic but left their un-shod and fuzzy boys in the barn. It was a bit too soon after Carl’s knee replacement to manage all it takes to drive horses at a Club event.
We were twice rained out of plans for a drive from Temple Hall Farm in Leesburg to our favorite Winery 32 (known for its skill in turning peaches into remarkably crisp and palatable wines.) President Anne Watkins, however, did not disappoint with her Annual Bluebell Drive on Easter Sunday, April 16. The weather was most agreeable and, as always, Anne had ensured that the bluebells were in profusion along the banks of the Shenandoah. We had a great turnout of about 11 plus one astride, plenty of Champagne at our rest stop and a fabulous spread back at Anne’s stable.
Sunday, April 30 found us at Taproot Farm in Middleburg, a favorite venue that we’d not visited in nearly two years. Hosts Jack and Caroline Hemley went “all out” as usual for us, providing ample parking and plenty of shade for our picnic. Caroline video taped each of our 8 turn-outs as we circled in front of her magnificent home. The drive was lovely and serene as we passed through the village of Unison and over quiet gravel roads that passed beautiful estates and quaint cottages. Eventually we came to rest at Innisfree, where our good friends Doug and Queenie Kemmerer keep their horses. Under huge shade trees we enjoyed Champagne, lemonade and plenty of munchies that had been provided by Tom and Barbara Wolf. Up to that point things just could not have been more pleasant. Fabulous scenery and near-perfect weather…….and so we began the 3+ mile trip back to Taproot. All was well……UNTIL we felt a slight mist, then a couple of rain drops, then a downright DELUGE, complete with hail stones! Every one of us – whips, grooms, guests, horses – were soaked to the skin by the time we trotted (cantered, galloped?) back to the trailers. Never before have so many PDC turn outs been unhitched, unharnessed and put up in less time. A thoroughly soaked and very despondent Caroline Cox rushed to take down the serving dishes and such that had been put out for the picnic she’d planned to host. Then, just as quickly as the rain came, it left! Out came the sun, out popped the wine corkds, back to the table came the food and the party began!
One last word: the hero of the day had to be Smokey, Lil Jacob’s hubby who had stayed behind so that she could have a friend join her in the carriage. He had the presence of mind to roll windows up in all the trucks, stack-away chairs and thus minimize the “storm damage” as much as possible!