Osborne Scurry Notes

By Jeff Osborne

They say a week’s a long time in politics – six days is a whole season in scurry racing. Competing at the Portsmouth Heavy Horse Show on the front at Southsea on Bank Holiday Monday was like the middle of winter, braving pouring rain and freezing wind. Six days later it was midsummer in the beautiful Thames-side village of Cookham near Maidenhead, Berkshire, where the Osborne Scurry Group had been invited to perform at a country show organised by the John Lewis Partnership. Never knowingly undersold, it is fair to say it one of the most idyllic venues ever for scurry racing.

At Portsmouth, where the green in front of Southsea Castle becomes an arena, Jeff Osborne proved that his new ultra-modern scurry vehicle has what it takes to win in the heat of outdoor competition. I say heat, the competition that was hot during the freezing weather, where Michelin-man drivers were wearing extra layers of clothing under their wet weather gear. Welcome to new recruit Lorna Hullah with her pair of ponies Bobby & Dazzler. Charlotte Adams-Lane has a new pair of Welsh A roans, Chaz & Dave to compete in the smalls class. And Nigel Olliffe has renamed his large pair, Fruit & Nut, which will go down a storm with crowds this summer and commentators will make the most of it!

Jemma Millman got off to a flying start with Pooh Bear and Piglet’s first outing of the year in a time of 57.98 but nudged a cone at the last obstacle to record a total time of 61.91seconds. Running third from last, Jeff powered Gavin & Stacey round the course in his new carriage, which runs on four solid metal wheels, instead of the more common two rubbers at the front and metal at the back. The small wheels dug in to the sodden surface and with no slipping and sliding, Jeff’s grey pair raced to the fastest clear round in 60.70sec, with Alison Tucker’s new pair of small ponies Buzz & Woody coming third in a clear of 62.37. Round Two went to Jeff in 60.56 with Alison Tucker less than four tenths of a second behind and Liz Ollife with her pair of roan ponies, Rock & Roll in third. But Alison Millman grabbed the championship Branston & Pickle with a clear round of 54.53 seconds.

Less than a week later in blazing sunshine the group were kindly invited by John Lewis to stage a demonstration at their country fair in the grounds of their stunning hotel and country club at Olney near Cookham. For the crowd, made up of mainly of John Lewis employees and their families, it was a fantastic chance to see scurry racing at its best and for us the chance to make final preparations before the season proper gets under way.

It is with great sadness we report the death of Digger – Charlotte Adams-Lane’s much loved chestnut mare was one half of Rhubarb and Custard for 15 years. Digger – so called because of her ability to tunnel to Australia in temporary stables at shows – had been with Charlotte ever since she was just a few months old.

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Weekend at Ryefield Farm, 31st March – 1st April 2012

The weather was kind to us all in Sussex for the weekend of fun and frolics and our hosts tended our every need. Familiar faces and pony pairs blew off the winter cobwebs and arrived at Jeff’s for a weekend of driving. New faces arrived also and put their ponies through their paces on both the Saturday and Sunday, negotiating a cones course in the sunshine. Charlotte and Ian arrived at Ryefield Farm with their new large pair of ponies, Jeff trialled a new large combination and Alison drove her new palomino pair. Watching all ponies and drivers from the sidelines proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this season is going to be fast, furious, exciting and full of close results and placings. After all the ponies had been exercised the party began in earnest on the Saturday night and in true tradition their was plenty of food, drink and entertainment for everybody. A good nights sleep, a hearty breakfast and out came the scurry teams again, as drivers had negotiated the course the day before, drivers were notching up even faster times and completed excellent schooling rounds, before putting ponies back in their stables. Once everyone was assembled in the sunshine,  in the courtyard it was time for cakes all round. Talk soon turned to the coming season and when we could not eat any more cake or drink any more tea or coffee, lorries were packed, stables were emptied and we all left to go home. It goes without saying a very big thank you to Jeff, Alison and team for a fantastic weekend and here’s looking to a bright, successful and exciting 2012 season.

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The Harvey & Jeff Show!

When show-jumping legend Harvey Smith agreed to groom for Jeff Osborne in the Celebrity Scurry on Derby day at Hickstead, the combined age of the veteran pair and ponies came to 178 years!

Jeff, 75, bumped into Harvey, 73, at the West Sussex showground and persuaded the Yorkshireman to agree to go on the back of Zig & Zag, one of the fastest pairs on the scurry circuit.

The senior pair raced at break-neck speed around the fast course set up in front of the stands packed to the rafters with cheering fans but hit the third obstacle as the scurry vehicle swerved, to finish in fourth place in the celebrity scurry, which was won by Gareth Roberts and Michael Whittaker

Said Jeff: “Harvey said he really enjoyed the experience and we might have won if he’d leaned out a bit further at the third set of cones!”

Charlotte Adams-Lane took scurrying’s main event at Hickstead, the double harness championship with an astonishing 51.51sec clear round with Balanced Rip & Tear on a day when cones went flying everywhere – to the delight of the capacity crowd.

As ponies turned left-hand in the box a huge cheer would go up, the roar of the crowd lit a touch paper and the scurries hurtled towards the chicane, which came up on drivers in split-second forcing errors.

Sally Mawer came second – despite knocking down a cone – and Charlotte took third with the only other clear round of the afternoon.

In the previous classes – to qualify for the main ring – only two cones fell all morning, when Alison Millman took the under 12hands class with Branston & Pickle, while daughter Jemma came first in the large class with Piglet & Eeyore.

Jeff won his second HOYS qualification with Zig & Zag and Janette Baker-Watts booked her Horse of the Year Show spot with Lady & The Tramp.

A week earlier, the East of England show was a total contrast to the South of England, where the course was so short the winning time was around 40 seconds.

At Peterborough, the grooms were asking ‘are we there yet? – the course was so long the winning times were well over a minute. 

Su Ridley qualified both her pairs on one day, winning the smalls class with Prancer & Dancer, while Comet & Cupid came third in the largeclass, which was won by Charlotte Adams-Lane. Gareth Roberts took the Championship.

And a few days later, Lincoln was also a mammoth course, where Sarah Cooke celebrated her birthday by winning the smalls with Bow & Arrow, the larges with Black & Tan and edrove Bow & Arrow to victory in the large class.

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The scurrying hamster…

Scurry racing got an audience of millions on Sunday, June 12, thanks to Top Gear star Richard Hammond.

The Hamster was presenting a programme about the engineering concepts behind Japan’s 200-mile an hour Bullet train http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hvtgh

He wanted to explain that designers used the concept of balance transfer to keep the high-speed train as it negotiated bends at top speed.

Hammond explained that Greek charioteers used to lean out to prevent their carriages overturning and so he turned to the ‘modern-day Ben Hur’, Jeff Osborne to show him how leaning works.

With a twisting scurry course set out in a field near Chepstowe, Jeff gave the Hamster a demonstration.

As climbed into the back seat of the scurry vehicle, Richard asked Jeff: “What will happen if I don’t lean out?”

“We’ll turn over!” replied Jeff. Hammond who appeared to go ashen, blanched even more as groom Alison Tucker told him: “It the wheel comes up, lean out further!”

As Zig & Zag powered around the course, the TV presenter – leaning left and right – screamed to the camera: “I’m sure it looks lovely but it’s really frightening!”

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Best scurry driving ever!!

“That’s the best scurry driving I have ever seen! The crowd loved it…real entertainment from start to finish!”

 When a verdict like that comes from John Dick – one of the originals of double harness scurry in Great Britain – you know you really have put on an amazing afternoon of racing.

 And the Osborne Scurry Group championship at Suffolk County Show provided vintage thrills for the crowd packed ten-deep around the main arena.

 Second-to-run Su Ridley, with Prancer & Dancer, set a cracking time of just over 58 seconds for the rest of the field to chase down, forcing the five who followed to make errors.

 Eventually, it was novice driver Janette Baker-Watts who smashed the 58-second barrier with 57.67, before Charlotte Adams-Lane knocked a further second off with her large pair, Rip & Tear.

 By now the crowd were cheering and screaming as Sarah Cooke in her first competition of the season since winning Scurry Driver of the Year at HOYS last October, notched up a searing clear round with Bow & Arrow in just 55.85secs.

Spectators wondered if the clock had gone wrong as Jeff Osborne’s pair of Zig & Zag powered through the finish in a mind-blowing 53.91seconds! But Jeff’s elation evaporated after realising he had nudged the cone at obstacle number one but with four seconds added he still came fifth.

 Would last-to-go Jemma Millman beat Sarah Cooke? Clear at the chicane, she headed  Piglet & Eeyore, for home…as the large grey ponies thundered towards the finish all eyes were on the clock as it stopped at 54.91seconds – a last gasp win.

 The arena erupted in a crescendo of cheering and John Dick, at the show with wife, Christine, who is recovering from a hop replacement, marvelled at how the sport is still thrilling crowds after more than 30 years.

 The 2011 HOYS qualifiers began earlier in the week at Surrey County, where Chris Orchard won the smalls class with Touch & Go and was first to qualify for the Horse of the Year Show. Charlotte Adams-Lane bagged her qualification with Rip & Tear in a thrilling larges class, run as rain began to fall.

 And the heavens had opened by the time the championship was run but Charlotte Adams-Lane with Rip & Tear managed to take a closely fought first place from Alison Millman with Branston and Pickle.

 At the end of the first week of racing, the OSG made its debut at the Royal Bath and West Show.

 Su Ridley’s Prancer & Dancer took the smalls class – despite knocking down a cone and Rip & Tear won the large class and the championship.

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Jumping Amsterdam

QUEEN OF THE ARENA

Scurry Racing at Jumping Amsterdam – January 2011

 The Osborne Scurry Group now has the royal seal of approval!

 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was among spectators as our elite scurry group wowed capacity crowds at the prestigious Jumping Amsterdam tournament.

 Equine fan Queen Beatrix was so enthralled by our daring drivers and high-speed carriage racing that she specifically asked to visit the scurry ponies in the stables at the RAI arena, where the four-day event was held.

 The Queen met Jeff Osborne and his large ponies, Zig & Zag and later spent a few minutes chatting to Jemma Millman about her ponies, Eeyore and Piglet.

 Jemma says: “She wanted to know how the ponies were bred and she said that she had loved the scurry driving; it was fun, speedy and a bit frightening!”

 Moments earlier the Queen, in her seat close to Obstacle 7 – the box, visibly gasped as first-to-go Su Ridley’s small pair Prancer & Dancer charged towards the wall before pirouetting a U-turn at the gallop and charging back out at full throttle.

 In fact, on practice night the arena crew who had not known what to expect were convinced the first pair in the ring had taken off and couldn’t believe that speed of the ponies’ into the box had been deliberate.

 The crowds, who had never experienced the spectacle of double-harness scurry driving, agreed with their Queen and shouted, stamped, hollered, waved flags and gave standing ovations at every one of the six races in the tournament.

 And they hailed Charlotte Adams-Lane – with her pair Balanced Rip & Tear – as the Queen of the Arena.

CAL-at-Amsterdam

Charlotte Adams-Lane w Rip & Tear

 Charlotte – with husband Ian as groom – won four races in a row clocking up ever- faster times over the fast-flowing course of 11 obstacles, built by Kevin Millman.

 The astonishing times clocked up by all the racers – culminating in a clear round of 42.38 seconds by Jemma Millman, driving Piglet & Eeyore and was the result of the amazingly firm surface created by Ton Agterberg and his team at Agterberg b.v, who watered and rolled all the surface at every opportunity.

 The ground was so firm that the ponies – racing for the first time since HOYS – felt totally confident of their footing.

 Jeff Osborne’s Zig & Zag ran some amazing times but lacked accuracy at times, which robbed him of a couple of first places. Apart from nudging a ball in the box on the first round, Alison Millman ran clear every time, continuing the consistency Branston and Pickle became known for throughout the 2011 season.

 The scurry racers who made the 12-hour drive from Dover had expected to take part in five races. (See our results page)

 But we were asked to take the ‘running ponies’ as they became known into the arena early on Sunday – ‘Children’s Morning’.

 Not sure what to expect, it was like being in the kids show, Crackerjack! as hundreds of screaming children lifted the rafters with their hollering and cheering.

 The scurry ponies loved it! Spurred on by the children – who are encouraged by the event organisers to nurture a love of horses – the ponies galloped for all they were worth, notching up the fastest times of the whole tournament.

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Ol’ Blue Eyes!

JOHN NISBET RETIRES PONY – January 2011

Look out for a great article on scurry driver John Nisbet in February’s edition of Carriage Driving magazine.

In the article, John – who drove so marvellously with Could You Just and While You’re At It at HOYS – is retiring Charlie (Could You Just) – a pony that was rescued from a lorry taking him to the European meat trade.

Charlie will continue as a mainstay of the Chariots of Fire Display Team. Charlie has been replaced by Sinatra – so called because he has ol’ blue eyes!

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Scurry Driver of the Year

SARAH COOKE CROWNED SCURRY DRIVER OF THE YEAR

October 2010

 She may have had her first HOYS win back in 1992, but taking the Scurry Driver of the Year title in front of a capacity crowd in Birmingham was extra special for Sarah Cooke.

Sarah Cooke with Bow & Arrow at HOYS

Sarah raced her mother Pat’s pair of chestnut ponies, Bow and Arrow, to a last-gasp victory in an astonishing time of 46.30 seconds that had the crowd of 8,000 leaping to their feet and cheering to the rafters.

Her amazing run of wins began on Wednesday night when she beat the field to take the under 122cm class in just 48.38 seconds, almost three seconds ahead of Jeff Osborne with Gavin & Stacey in second spot.

 In the large class on Thursday with Black & Tan, she came second to Jeff Osborne with Zig & Zag who notched up the second best time of the whole tournament of 47.02 seconds.

 On Friday afternoon, Sarah, with ‘Disco’ Dave Renham on the back, steered Bow & Arrow to another clear-round win in 48.12 seconds, ahead of Alison Millman with Branston & Pickle in 49.42sec.

 So, on paper, with not one ball knocked down, Sarah looked the favourite but she had come second for the last two years to Jemma Millman. In 2008 she had been in the lead only to hit a cone at the penultimate obstacle.

 For three years Sarah’s mum, Pat, had trained and raced Bow & Arrow – Henry & Max – before he her daughter took them over the reins three years ago.

 Sarah says: “During the other races at HOYS Mum couldn’t watch, she just walked slowly down to the arena just in time to see me come through the cones at 11 & 12.

On Saturday my sister Jen persuaded her to watch the whole competition.”

 She saw Charlotte Adams-Lane’s Rhubarb and Custard, a pair that were due to be retired bag fifth spot with a clear in 52.62 seconds.

 Keith Day, driving in his first ever HOYS, navigated the experienced Lady & The Tramp around the testing course, knocked down two and six before Jeff Osborne’s Gavin & Stacey – in their first season – went into the lead with 50.81secs.

 Last year’s winner Jemma Millman had two down which left Sally Mawer and Sarah Cooke as the last two to go.

 Former HOYS winner Sally powered her large pair, Whistle & Flute, clear in 47.08 seconds. An amazing feat made even more remarkable because Flute – Dirty Gerty at home – was seriously ill just before Edenbridge & Oxted Show at the end of August.

 Sarah Cooke said: “I’d been convinced all week that it was a course that suited bigger pairs and, as the curtain opened, I thought that’s it, Sally’s got it.”

 But Bow & Arrow had other plans in mind…they shaved milliseconds powering left-hand from two to three, went straight as arrows through the chicane and powered into the box at nine before screaming clear through 10, 11 and 12 to finish to rapturous applause in 46.30secs.

'Disco' Dave leans out to keep the wheels on the ground

 Sarah, from Bedfordshire, who has won the title five times, has never managed to win Scurry Driver of the Year since the Horse of the Year Show moved to Birmingham’s NEC.

 *The annual Sunday night fun Hurry Scurry race, where a scurry driver, show jumper and jockey take part in a team was even more chaotic than usual after a mix up with security meant the jockeys arrived at the arena with just moments to spare.

 The race was won by Alison Millman, Roelf Bril and Sam Thomas, with Su Ridley, Ellen Whitaker and Mark Bradburne in second and Jeff Osborne, John Whitaker and Carl Llewelyn third.

Pictures by Robbie Nisbet

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