Get Ready, Get Set, It’s Carriage Driving Time!

Written by: The Hilltops Phoenix

IMAGE: Image courtesy of the NSW Branch of the Australian Carriage Driving Society.

Horses and ponies have long been a part of Australian life, and although the advent of motorised vehicles saw a rapid decline in the horse and carriage, World War II meant a lack of petrol, so horses resurged on farms as a necessity.

Saddle horses and harness horses were attached to two-wheel jinkers and multiples hitched for the run to town.

Following the War, gymkhanas were numerous and all Royal Shows had full harness programmes, and things might have remained this way had it not been for the heft provided by legendary R. M. Williams.

At his Horsemen’s Congress in Gatton, Queensland in 1971, Williams invited a group of prominent harness exhibitors to discuss the formation of an organisation to promote harness activities. Twelve people met, chose the name Australian Driving Society, and elected Ted Dwyer President and Mary Willsallen Secretary/Treasurer.

What you may not know is that the Dwyer family property “Ellmore” near Young hosted the first Rothmans National Harness Show in 1972, and the first AGM of the new organisation (which became the Australian Carriage Driving Society, or ACDS) was held in the woolshed.

Now, 51 years later, the ACDS consists of six state branches, approximately 50 Clubs and more than 1200 members across Australia. The NSW Branch consists of 16 clubs located across the state.

The great news is that this week the 2022 NSW Festival of Carriage Driving kicked off in Boorowa at the Boorowa Showground.

Starting on the 9th of April, this 12-day festival of carriage driving features:

  • Two Pleasure Drives
  • 2022 Robert Allport Memorial Mini Enduro/Junior Driver Enduro hosted by NSW Branch Australian Carriage Driving Society (ACDS) and PE&H Committee
  • 2022 NSW Driven Dressage Championships, hosted by Bungendore Carriage Driving Club
  • 2022 NSW CDE Championships plus Level 4 CDE, hosted by Ellmore Harness Club
  • Junior Driver Obstacles/Cones Clinic and Drive-Off
  • Show Driving Event/Park Drive

John Tonkiss, the NSW State Secretary of ACDS explained that there are around 60-70 entries this year, with some entrants coming straight from the Sydney Royal Easter Show. The beautiful horses on display range from a pair of Belgian draught horses all the way down to small ponies.

Of the facility in Boorowa, Mr Tonkiss said “It’s a magnificent facility: the best in NSW if not the whole of Australia.”

“The whole town of Boorowa gets behind us. The Hilltops Council has been exceptional in terms of their support. We could not ask for more,” Mr Tonkiss said.

To see the full program, please visit

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