Greenbriar River Trail

What a fabulous time to be in  ”wild, wonderful West Virginia”!  The leaves were at peak and the weather was perfect – light jackets in the day time and a fire in the lodge at night.  Three turn-outs gathered for the trip:  Caroline & Bertrand Collomb with her four in hand of Haflingers, Carl and Caroline Cox with the “Black Boys”, and Al and Vicki Baturay with their pair of Haflingers.  Good friend and fellow whip Grace Vance came up from Aiken to be with the group, as did the Cox Lead groom, Molly Savage.  We all stayed together in a well restored lodge just a few feet off the Greenbriar River Trail.  Our horses had the option of stalls and/or turn-out in spacious paddocks and it was a simple matter each day to tend them, harness, hitch and GO.  The Greenbriar River Trail really needs to be experienced by everyone who loves carriage driving; the footing is excellent with imperceptible grades (it is a reclaimed railroad bed), and, for most of its miles, it lies right beside the sparkling Greenbriar River.  Yes, there are places you can leave the actual trail and travel over dirt roads.  At one point we took such a detour and ended up hundreds of feet above the river – the views were beyond description!  It was one of many great places we stopped to rest the horses and enjoy our lunch and, yes, the Champagne that fits so well in the floor cooler. 

The lodge was amply equipped – large kitchen, huge sitting area, nice private bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms.  Very clean, very comfortable and it easily accommodated the entire group.  We especially enjoyed breakfast together in the kitchen before we went out driving and cocktails on the wrap around porch when we returned.  Dinner was always fun as well, if not somewhat problematic.  We were pretty much in agreement that, beyond frying a few eggs, etc. in the mornings and opening packages of chees/crackers/pate and bottles of wine in the evenings, nobody really came there to COOK.  Obviously, thought we all, we’ll just go out to eat for dinner each night…..well, once again, this was “wild, wonderful West Virginia” – mountainous, untouched by civilization, right?  Right!  Consequently there were NO restaurants within miles and miles, and those that we eventually found had odd hours at best.  OK, so let’s go grocery shopping and we’ll dine in the cabin…..not!  Grocery stores were distant and scarce.  All’s well that ends well, however, as we did find 2 restaurants.  They were a bit of a drive, up/down a mountain.  The ”Fiddlehead” was the one we liked the best.  It served a nice combination of steaks, pizza, fried chicken, burgers, quesedillas, and Thai salad.  Hmmmmm, Thai salad?  Those who ordered it said it was delicious, and obviously very authentic, as we learned that this quaint restaurant nestled in the West Virginia mountains was owned and operated by some lovely Thai folks!  The other restaurant didn’t serve or allow alcohol.  It was crossed off our list. 

So, if you go – and we hope you will – plan to spend several days exploring the 80 miles of trails in your carriage (including tunnels which we never reached!), and plan to cook your own meals (at least on the evenings that you don’t go to the Fiddlehead Restaurant.)  Plan also to stay and board your horses at EJ’s Cabins, in Dunmore, West Virginia (check out his website).  You’ll be made welcome! 

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PDC Field Trip to Martins Auction

It’s a tradition throughout the carriage driving world, it seems, to make the bi-annual trek to Lebanon, Pa. for Martin’s Auction.  The PDC is always well represented there, and this fall was no exception, with about a dozen or so members in attendance.  There are always great “finds” and I doubt any of us went home empty-handed.  Special congratulations go out to top bidders Dr. Tom Burgess, who is now the proud owner of the handsome fully restored Brewster Bronson carriage that graced the front cover of the sales flyer, and also to Club President Anne Watkins who at last has a snazzy high-backed cutter of her own, and also to Al and Vicki Baturay, who captured a beautiful wicker Phaeton.  Whether we are buying or selling or just looking, we are always learning and that is the salient feature of this auction.  Where else can one see so many different carriages on display, along with all of the requisite appointments?   PDC’s own Judy Hahn, a first timer to the auction, says she just “wanted to see what it is all about” and, yes, she’ll be back!   

Smitten Farm

Thomas and Barbara Wolf, long time members of the PDC (Barbara serves on the Board), also enjoy a long association with the Orange County Hounds, of The Plains, Virginia (Tom has been an active member lo these many years).   Sheba – and by now all followers of this web page know who she is – enjoys her status as a well- respected “member” of both organizations, in that she shares the “lines” with Barbara during picnic drives and carries Tom swiftly and safely over Orange County territory on hunting days.  There aren’t too many carriage horses who do both, as often or as well, as Sheba!

As a happy consequence of the Wolf’s excellent standing in both the hunting and driving communities, they were able once again to arrange a Club drive though a portion of the magnificent Orange County territory.  Eight turn-outs arrived at Gosling Farm in The Plains for a well mapped “go as you please” trip through the beautiful Smitten Farm  where many a great TB racehorse got its start) and over the peaceful gravel roads that surround the area.  The rest stop was at Cromwell’s Run, recently purchased by the carriage-friendly Wiseman family.  We were welcomed by Thomas and Alexa Wiseman, along with their son Thomas who saw his first horse-drawn carriages and appeared to be an instant fan…..is there a pony cart in his future, we wonder?

Barbara drove Sheba with former Master of the Los Altos, Ca. Hunt, Giny Hunter on board – showing her yet another way to enjoy our magnificent countryside.  Carl drove his Black Boys to an ECC wagonette (why is this important?  ….because it holds a trap door with a cooler)  And why is THAT important?….because celebrated coaching horn stylist, Bobby Dryer and his lovely guest Linda Perry were on board…..along with Carl’s wife, Caroline, of course.  Silver goblets graced the turn-out for the Pierre-Jouet Champagne Carl brought along in recognition of their 25th Wedding Anniversary.

The ever-stylish Mary Munster drove her Friesian mares with special passenger, Pricilla Hatfield, on board.  Pricilla’s mom and dad drove the family pony, “Buster Brown” to a two wheeled cart, so it was nice to have a seat available for her behind Mary’s elegant pair.  However old Buster Brown might be (I’ve heard 20, 25, 30), he was the only equine to arrive at the rest stop who didn’t appear to NEED a rest! 

Club President Anne Watkins brought “Czar” along for his inaugural outing with the Club.  He appears to be everything one could want in a driving horse – attractive, quiet, obedient, willing and he knows his job!  Moreover, when she pulled her carriage along side Wayne Porter’s, it was apparent that “Czar” and his “Tucker” (another fool-proof steed) could make a nice pair – right size, right color, right attitude!

Marci and Keith Bade drove their Haflinger mare, Maya.  These picnic drives are getting to be “old hat” for her….she places herself well, stands well, and generally seems to enjoy the experience of being out with other carriage horses.

Teresa Young and husband, Seppo Karkkainen, drove their beautiful Friesian mare on her first PDC picnic drive.  She was put to a very nice Meadowbrook and she performed splendidly.  We certainly hope to see the three of them on many future drives!

Can’t write about a PDC picnic drive without mentioning the food…..and, yes, it was plentiful as ever!  Host Thomas had prepared a pork tenderloin, accompanied by applesauce and assorted beans from the Wolf garden.  Barbara’s table décor was a profusion of autumn flowers, also from their abundant gardens.  Various accompaniments to the main course included sesame noodles with shrimp, corn pudding, deviled eggs, platters of cheeses/crackers/grapes, stuffed muffins, cookies, pumpkin pie and the coup de grace, a delightful sheet cake wishing Carl and Caroline a “Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary”  HOW do these people know these things?  Apparently there is a “mole” among our equines….      

Sky Meadows State Park

They kept rolling in!  Trucks and trailers bearing horses, ponies and carriages converged in the parking area of Sky Meadows State Park in Paris, Virginia.  What started out as a conversation between PDC members Vicki Baturay and Judy Hahn…..”Hey, let’s you and I meet at Sky Meadows and check out the trails….” turned into the discovery of a whole new, and at times challenging, venue for the Club.  Possibly it was the desire to explore new carriage trails, or maybe it was the turn in the weather, but 10 turn-outs assembled to enjoy the day.  Although Vicki and Judy had suggested a couple of routes, it was pretty much “go as you please”.  Some headed UP Lost Mountain, while others stayed on the well mowed bottom land.

Caroline Collomb, with hubby Bertrand and groom Edgar, was the only one brave enough to explore the area with a four in hand.  She piloted her trusty Haflingers up, up, up until they nearly reached the pinnacle.  The trail became narrow and rocky, however, so she was forced to turn around.   Carl Cox, Caroline and groom Molly drove the Black Boys part way up the Mountain and then decided to head for the mowed fields, where one didn’t need to act as a “ballast” to keep the carriage level!  Al and Vicki Baturay were more adventurous….maybe because they drive sure-footed Haflingers to a sturdy Khunle…so they continued further up the Mountain.  Mary Munster surprised everyone by driving Dirk, her Friesian gelding, on his first picnic drive in company (lots of it!) Judy Hahn drove Buddy everywhere and anywhere she wanted to go (he’s THAT kind of horse!)  Wayne Porter drove Sweetie and they displayed how nice it is to have a horse that goes the same in/out of company, especially when you have Club President, Ann Watkins on board.  Barbara Wolf dropped by to guide Sheba ‘round and through the lower trails before she left for work-related engagement at the Kennedy Center.  Happily, Tom was able to stay for the picnic.  Sam Davis drove Foxglove directly behind the Cox turnout “because that is where she wants to be”, offered Sam!  Marci Bade, with hubby Keith, sent Maya along behind Foxglove.  Good Haflinger that she is, Maya always goes politely wherever she is asked! Leslie and Bob Yarbrough drove one of their TB/Connemara mares (which one??? Hard to tell, they are so perfectly matched!) over the mowed trails, to the rest stop and then for another couple of miles before heading back to the picnic.

Ah, the picnic!  Judy may be fairly new to the Club, having joined only this year, but she certainly has caught on to what makes for a stellar PDC “Picnic Drive.”  Not only did she and Vicki select a picturesque and interesting venue, they placed what was to become a FEAST under huge shade trees, providing a comfortable setting for the many whips, grooms and guests who gathered.  The tables were filled with a delightful array of warm (how did you manage THAT, Judy?) quiche, plenty of salads, summer veggies, roast chicken, cheese trays, cakes, cookies and pies plus cider, sodas and a selection of wines to accompany the food.  The friendly Ranger who dropped by was kind enough not to notice anything amiss in our selection of beverages (who KNEW that alcohol is frowned upon in the Park…!?!)  All agreed that Sky Meadows is a place we want to come back to, again and again!  Also, it is possibly a good venue for sleighing, should the weather cooperate this winter.

PDC Exhibition

Three turn-outs from the Piedmont Driving Club exhibited carriages at the stunning Oakwood Estate in Warrenton, Virginia on as part of a ‘Prelude to Autumn’ fundraiser in support of the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra, which is based in Northern Virginia.
Caroline Collomb, “Mistress of Oakwood”, drove her four in hand of Haflinger ponies to a Europeanmade wagonette. As she is both gracious and enthusiastic for the sport of driving, she offered many rides around the large oval in front of the Mansion. And so it was, happy Patrons wearing elegant cocktail attire climbed in and out of her carriage without spilling even a drop of Champagne!
Carl Cox brought his own touch of class to the event as he drove his black and shining pair to a stylish surrey. Three women adorned his carriage, all wearing hats that can only be described as “fabulous”. Caroline was beside him, with Debbie Nash and Juli Kordic in the rear seat. All sipped their Champagne from silver goblets while waving to an appreciative crowd on the lawn.
Al Baturay, looking every so handsome on the box seat, drove the Haflinger pair that he shares with his wife, Vicki. The beautifully matched “Nordex” and “Aztec” showed off a German-made carriage with inlaid wood that perfectly complemented their golden coats and flowing, flaxen manes. Vicki’s floral skirt and delicate fuchsia hat created an eye-catching and pleasing contrast.
After putting the horses up, the group joined the nearly 200 Patrons inside the Oakwood Mansion for cocktails, canapes and several musical interludes featuring piano and violin. In all, it was an exquisite evening, one that the PDC members will not soon forget!