The Beginnings of the ACDS
by Ann Robertson
Horses and ponies have long been a part of Australian life, World War II created a lack of petrol for everyone and throughout Australia's
farming life horses resurged as a necessity. Saddle horses and harness horses were attached to 2 wheel jinkers and multiples hitched for the run to town. The fear of “Future invaders” encouraged more Clydesdale stock to be bred and prepared or simply held in reserve.
Over the War years Gymkhana’s were numerous to raise funds for the War effort. Some lovely harness horses and ponies gave beautiful performances and turnout exhibitions. All of the Royal Shows had full harness programmes.
In the 1960’s Ted and Judy Dwyer of ‘Ellmore’ at Young, NSW heard of a new development in Driving in the UK. In 1969 they noted the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) was referring to a ‘new’ harness event with rules based on ridden 3 day events with Dressage, a Cross Country ‘Marathon’ and Cones. The Dwyers were greatly interested, it sounded exciting and challenging. In Australia harness dressage was non-existent, an unbelievable concept with numerous changes of pace in a confined area, showing bend, and pulling a vehicle! A marathon? It wasn’t a straight jog down a country road. No! Some flat ‘going’, but with an ability to avoid rocks and stumps, negotiating water crossings and dam walls, galloping, cornering without tipping over, learning to communicate with a directional groom, voice and whip aids without leg aids. All within time specifications!
The undulating farmlands and tracks of ‘Ellmore’ were made available and the Dwyers along with a small band of dedicated associates who had the ability to visualize the implication of rules added Australian modifications and Combined Driving in Australia was born.
With the encouragement of R M Williams the Australian (Carriage) Driving Society came into being in 1971 and in 1972, with Rothmans support, a 2 Phase event was held at ‘Ellmore’. It was a modest beginning with a 5km timed cross country drive and obstacle driving but no dressage the first year.
The rest of the weekend was taken up with show and turnout classes, tradesmen and novelty turnouts. Twenty five gallant adventurers took part and declared it a success. The first AGM was held on the Saturday evening with Ted Dwyer elected President and Mary Willsallen as Secretary and the CD concept was off and running. The 1973 event at ‘Ellmore’ saw the introduction of dressage, a longer marathon and an obstacle course. The obstacle course was not the cone course of today or of the foundation FEI rules. Many found it more stimulating than the modern cone course introduced in 1981. It featured a water crossing, clothes line, plastic sheet to cross, a plank over which one of the carriages wheels had to be driven and finally a serpentine.
Enthusiasm for carriage driving grew rapidly in the four eastern states with many local clubs forming and affiliating with the ADS. There was only limited access to training schools but many experienced Australians and a few
At his Horsemen’s Congress in Gatton, Queensland in 1971 R M 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, elected Ted Dwyer President and Mary Willsallen Secretary/Treasurer.
The Dwyer family property “Ellmore” near Young in NSW hosted the first Rothmans National Harness Show in 1972 and the first AGM of the new organisation was held in the woolshed. The original office bearers were joined by an elected committee of drivers from Qld. NSW and Victoria.
The National Harness Show program began with show, turnout, period and novelty classes, and included an 8km marathon and an obstacle driving test. There were twenty five starters. Dressage was introduced in 1973, and what was then known as 3 Phase Driving began to collect a dedicated following. The show continued until 1981, becoming an annual pilgrimage for the harness fraternity, and growing to sixty eight starters. New events at Yarra Glen, “Dunolly”, “Mill Valley”, Camden and Swan Hill followed a similar format and continued to foster interest in the sport of Driving.
After nine years as President Ted Dwyer retired and Dr Peter Anderson was elected President. The early Secretaries were Diana McDonald, Gwen Winzer and Michael Stringer. Mary Willsallen was Treasurer and became the ADS delegate to the EFA. Newsletter editors were Judy Dwyer, Gwen Winzer and Ann Robertson. The elected committee was made up of representatives of most states. The growth of driving clubs was quite rapid and by 1980 there were 31 affiliated oganisations and approximately 900 members. It was decided to form State Branches in order to serve the needs of their clubs, and eventually the new constitution drawn up by Sir Anthony Synnot created the format the ACDS has today.
The first Annual Conference run in conjunction with the AGM was organised by Mary Willsallen, Lady Synnot and Judy Dwyer and was held at Burgmann College, ANU Canberra in 1982. It continued there for several years before being moved around and has since been held in all states except Tasmania and WA.
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The ACDS today is made up of over 50 clubs. Each of these clubs is individually constituted (incorporated in their state or territory) and each is affiliated with the ACDS. These clubs run activates for their members and make these activities available to members from other clubs. Many run activities to attract new members.
State Branches are made up of an elected executive and delegates from the clubs. State branches administer matters related to that state, including the running by clubs of state championships. Each state has panels to promote and manage each of the driving disciplines, show driving, dressage, combined driving, pleasure and endurance and historical. States present annual awards and provide funding for events and junior development.
Federal Council of the ACDS is made up of an elected executive and a delegate elected or appointed from each state making a total of 10 councillors. The role of Federal Council is to administer the society providing good governance over matters such as finances, rules and regulations, the appointment of federal convenors in each of the carriage driving disciplines, production of the Society's quarterly Journal, horse registrations, national championships and competitions and driver development..
People interested in learning more about carriage driving are advised to contact an ACDS club (details on this website or contact the Federal Secretary). Here you can get advice about all aspects of carriage driving. These clubs run activities such as ‘come and try days’ to encourage and assist new drivers. The ACDS has one activity memberships available so people interested in carriage driving can participate in non timed carriage driving activities.