Bowman keeps young pretenders at bay

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The Independent Online
George Bowman and his team of four Cumberland cobs made a good start to the National Carriage Driving Championships, in which the Cumbrian driver is aiming to win the national title for horse teams for the 18th time.

After yesterday's dressage, Bowman led from his two team-mates in the recent World Championships, Karen Bassett and her sister, Pippa Thomas. Bassett, the defending champion, is 4.6 penalties behind Bowman as they go into today's marathon phase.

Bassett is not happy about the eight hazards that she will tackle today with her team of dark brown Trakehner horses. She regards them as too tight and trappy to allow her to take a fast and flowing route through them, as she did in the World Championships in Belgium, where the team eventually finished third.

Last year Bowman was forced to retire here when one of his horses slipped up at a hazard and the team became wedged against a post. "I was probably a bit fast into it," he said. "It's just one of those things, when it comes off you're brilliant and when it doesn't you're a silly fool."

This will be the last time that Bowman's cobs will compete together, but the 61-year-old driver has no intention of hanging up his whip. Bob, one of his current horses, will become part of a new team of cobs. He also plans to bring on a young team of Lusitano horses, a breed that originated in Portugal.

Having won individual silver medals in the last two world championships, Bowman plans to have another tilt at the world title in two years' time, when four-in-hand driving will be part of the World Equestrian Games in Ireland.