YORK’S golden girl of carriage-driving is champing at the bit ahead of showcasing her sport at Harrogate’s Countryside Live next week.
Huggate’s Steph Milner is guaranteeing her event to be “fast and furious” as the teenager targets glory alongside double British Rally champion turned back stepper dad Jonny.
Steph, 17, will team up with former motor sports ace father Jonny to drive her 13-year-old Welsh D x Hackney Josh at the Harrogate showpiece which features driving trials for the very first time. And the sport’s inclusion was music to the ears for young Milner who helped Team GB to a Derby gold medal at last summer’s World Young Drivers Championships in Austria.
Boosted by that success when she was just 15 years of age, York College student Milner – who has won six national events out of six this year – is now targeting another gold at next year’s World Young Drivers.
Only by next year the Huggate star hopes that carriage driving will be more in the public eye – thanks in no small part to its appearance at Countryside Live.
“The fact we will be competing at Countryside Live will be really good for promoting carriage driving,” Milner told the Yorkshire Post this week.
“It’s still a growing sport which a lot of people don’t know a lot about.
“It will be great for everybody to see what it’s all about and that it’s not all boring and what you see with all the posh driving and that.
“It’s not all about that, it’s about having fun! It’s fast and furious and thrilling.”
Given her dad’s motor-racing escapades, there was always a chance that Milner would thrive as a sports star. Sisters Laura, 18, and Katie, 14, also excel in grasstracking and dressage respectively.
But former Woldgate College pupil Steph’s introduction to carriage driving was all down to a next door neighbour.
Dad Jonny then became involved as a groom, and the rest is history.
“To begin with somebody who lives across the road from us used to drive a pair of ponies,” said Steph.
“When I was about 12 I went on the back of that with her and from then on I got the bug.
“I think I went out three times before I said I want to go out there with my own pony.
“With my dad, he decided to take over as the groom and then I got my new pony Josh who I took to Austria.
“He said he’d like to groom with me and he thought ‘this is going to be easy.’ But he actually gets nervous before he goes out because he knows that you’ve really got to focus. Although you are not going at 100 miles an hour or however fast he goes in his rally cars, it seems very fast when you are going round because you have got to think very quickly about all the different movements.”
After Countryside Live, Milner is aiming towards another shot at the World Young Drivers, but for now the Yorkshire ace is only concentrating on next weekend’s Harrogate event. And Steph expects strong competition from Halifax’s junior world champion Tara Wilkinson.
Milner – studying beauty therapy at York College – reasoned: “Tara won her class in Austria as well and she has got a tiny little pony that is really nippy. I’ve got the bigger pony with a longer stride.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I’ve never competed in the Showground’s main ring before so there is going to be a little bit of pressure.
“But once you get yourself focused you don’t really think about everything around you.
“I think it will be absolutely fine and I’ll just do my best!”
Also on the equine programme at next weekend’s Countryside Live is the Search for the Talented Showjumper competition in which experts Graham and Tina Fletcher will be giving master classes as they decide this year’s winner.
The Northern Show Cross Final will again take place, having been introduced last year, and Countryside Live – next Saturday and Sunday – also provides the chance for riders to qualify for the Olympia Heritage Mountain and Moorland Ridden in December. Tickets are available on the gates which open at 9am. Tickets cost £10 for adults while under 5s are free and it is £5 for children (5-18 years). Parking is free and extensive. For more info see www.countrysidelive.co.uk or call 01423 546100.
Party Time for Walker but top dressage honours go to Half Moon
MICHAEL Eilberg and Half Moon Dynasty took the inaugural Mount St John Dressage Future Elite Championship at the Horse of the Year Show this week.
Becky Moody – flying the flag for Yorkshire on Don Angelo – had to pull out of the competition at the 11th hour.
But there was no stopping Eilberg and Half Moon Dynasty who took top honours with an impressive 74.6 per cent.
Eilberg’s ride produced a strong test, performing the required canter pirouettes, half pass and flying changes to an exciting musical medley. As per the rules of the competition, the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare, owned by the Half Moon Stud, is currently working between Advanced Medium and Intermediate 1 level.
“It’s great to be back competing at HOYS,” said Elsberg. “We had a good test and it was great experience for her. She’s a very talented mare. I’ll compete her at this level for a year and hopefully she can come out at Grand Prix in the future.”
Alice Oppenheimer came in a close second with Headmore Delegate on 74 per cent while Spencer Wilton and Goodman’s Super Nova took third with 73.5 per cent.
The innovative competition marked the first return of competitive dressage to HOYS since a Grand Prix in 2010.
In other action at HOYS, Jill Day’s Party Time V secured his third consecutive win in the Ripon Select Foods Small Show Hunter of the Year ridden by Yorkshireman Robert Walker.
Philip Spivey also claimed the questrianClearance.com Senior Newcomers title with Smirnov.
The Annual Meeting of North West Yorkshire committee of the British Horse Society will take place on Tuesday, October 15 at 7.30pm at Ripley Town Hall.
It will be followed by two talks; on Saddle Making and Fitting and the Alexander Technique as applied to riding.
Home-made refreshments will be provided and non-members are welcome.
Tickets are priced £3 on the door.
Reserve your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org