The B.C. Carriage Racing season kicked off in 70 Mile House last weekend.
Hosted at the Huber Farm, the 2022 BS and Drive attracted 18 contestants from across B.C. and Alberta. Organizer Dennis Huber said the BC Carriage Driving Society-accredited event included dressage, an obstacle course marathon and cone racing.
“In dressage, you’re judged on how well you drive a set pattern, in the marathon you’re judged how well you drive a set course with obstacles scattered around the course and in the cones competition it’s a set pattern of cones and it’s a speed competition. You got to do it quick,” Huber said. “Then all the scores are counted up, we take off points for penalties and the person with the least amount of penalties wins.”
Huber said he loves carriage racing and used to compete at the highest level but now organizes and judges races for the competitors, many of whom have been his friends for years.
Kathy Helmig, from Sherwood Park, Alta., has known the Hubers for four decades and has been racing carriages against them for most of that time. Helmig said the sport is a great way for older equestrians to keep riding, noting the average age for carriage racers is 55.
“Because of our age and the fact we’ve been around for a long time, the camaraderie, I think of all the sports, is the best here,” Helmig said. “Someone will go ‘oh I forgot something at home’ and five guys will jump up and go ‘oh I got one of those’ and run and give it to them.”
Over the years, she said the sport has evolved as the racers have developed new racing carriages that are safer to ride in. Their lighter frames and designs, Helmig said, mean they bounce off obstacles rather than crash into them like in the past. She’s hopeful that as time goes on the sport is picked up by more young people.
One of the younger racers on the course last Saturday was Maia Nunn, 21, from Falkland, who navigated for Joni Peters, of Armstrong. The two were drawn to the event by a mutual love of horses and a desire to share that love with others.
“It’s super fun and there are lots of really supportive people here,” Nunn said.
Peters said it was absolutely fabulous to have a young navigator learning the ropes from her. She said the two of them met through other equestrian events.
“It’s a sport that has a lot of heritage and history, but it’s struggling to gain new drivers, so it’s fabulous to have a horsewoman like Maia interested in adding this to her repertoire,” Peters said.
Huber said he’s always willing to help mentor new carriage racers or train their horses. Anyone interested can call him at 250-456-6050.