Wilkinson only too happy to be handed the reins

British Young Driver Championships'': Tara Wilkinson and her mother Leslee Wilkinson competing last year
British Young Driver Championships'': Tara Wilkinson and her mother Leslee Wilkinson competing last year
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carriage-driving is very much in the family for Shelf’s Tara Wilkinson.

Even when her older brother Ross gave it up, mother Leslee started driving.

The sport is in the Wilkinson genes and Tara aims to see it and her achievements grow from strength to strength.

Tara, 17, enjoyed an awesome August by winning a bronze medal at the junior FEI European Carriage Driving Championships in Poland.

The teenager won gold in the younger age group in Austria two years ago, but ranks her 2014 achievement as her finest to date.

However, it is highly likely that more success will follow.

For carriage-driving spans back three generations in the Wilkinson family with Tara’s grandfather Dick Wilkinson initially teaching his son and Tara’s father – 50-year-old John – the specialist equine art form.

From there the reins were quite literally passed down to Tara’s older brother Ross and while his carriage-driving days are behind him, mother Leslee has become involved in the discipline in his stead.

But leading the way is the youngest of the Wilkinson clan with teenager Tara already sizing up future ambitions after her 
escapades in Poland.

A member of the North Eastern Driving Trials Association, she readily admits her sport receives nowhere near the same amount of equestrian attention as eventing, dressage or showjumping.

Yet Halifax star Tara is hopeful that will change and sees her own achievements as being a driving force towards that target.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I don’t think many people know about our sport yet and I just followed my dad’s and big brother’s footsteps into the sport after being a keen horse rider.

“My dad John got taught how to drive horses as a kid by my grandad Dick Wilkinson and while my brother Ross no longer drives, so my mum Leslee decided to take on his pony and start driving herself.

“Myself, my mum and my dad will now all be competing at the British Championships at the end of September.”

For Tara, that will mean a second bid for major glory in the space of five weeks following her escapades on her pony Joe in 
Poland. The teenager was thrilled to bring a bronze medal at junior level back home to Yorkshire.

“A bronze medal at that level of competition means a lot to me,” she said.

“It just proves the hard work, training and time has paid off.

“The bronze medal is my proudest achievement though two years ago in the younger age group I won gold in Austria and I am currently the British younger driver champion three years running moving up the age categories. My aims in the future are to drive a team of four horses and hopefully be as successful.”

It would be folly to bet against further success with horses part and parcel of Tara’s every day life – even in the day job.

She explained: “I’m doing an apprenticeship in care of a competition horse and I am currently working for my parents breaking horses in to ride and drive.

“Having this job means I can also train my horses everyday.”

The final parts of the jigsaw are Tara’s club and sponsors, both of whom are helping to put the youngster herself and her sport on the international map in equestrianism.

She said: “I’m sponsored by Craigs Motorcycles who have been very generous and a massive help this year.

“I’m also a member of the North Eastern Driving Trials Association who I regularly compete with; they give me loads of support when I’m competing at these big events.

“I just hope the sport will grow and more people will get involved. It’s a lovely atmosphere and a team event.”

Better still when you are winning, as is often the case with the Wilkinsons.

Fresh from successes in the Area and National Riding Club Horse Trials, Brimham Riding Club have secured a clinic with New Zealand International rider Blyth Tait next Tuesday and Wednesday at Richmond Equestrian Centre.

Brimham’s 90cm team including Rebecca Mason, Carly Mason, Lucy Thompson and Janna Wood, won the Area 4 competition in June by 1.5 points.

They then went on to win the 90cm at the National Horse Trials in August at Swalcliffe Park.

Tait will now deliver a clinic and demo for which the Brimham Riding Club winning team are the guinea pigs.

The show jumping clinics are open to all levels of abilities.

For more information on tickets visit www.brimhamridingclub.co.uk, email jannataylor23@hotmail.com or call 07979 671 406.