July 12, 2016

Nashoba Carriage Club Revives Horse and Buggy Days in Collierville

By Katori Hall
– The Commercial Appeal –

A look of frustration filled Kathryn Foster’s face as she clicked her tongue furiously against the roof of her mouth.

Disregarding the cue to trot faster, Foster’s horse continued to move slowly.

"On, no…My foot was on the brake," Foster said while quickly removing her foot from the carriage pedal. "No wonder he was so sluggish."

Keeping your foot off the brake is just one of the many rules taught at the Nashoba Carriage Club’s horse driving clinic in Schilling Farms on Poplar in Collierville.

Reminding people of 19th Century horse and buggy days, the Nashoba Carriage Club has increased the popularity of traditional horse driving in the Shelby County area.

"It’s really a gentleman and ladylike sport," said Jimmy Chancellor, president of the Nashoba Carriage Club, "We are trying to emulate what people did at the turn of the century. We are returning back to tradition."

The 40 members range in skill level from novice to that of an award-winning horse jumper.

But most members say that the learning experiences are nothing compared to other advantages of the club.

"We always have good grub," said Dr. Ruth Wilbur, the club’s only veterinarian member.

Club members meet monthly for dinner and information sessions to keep informed of carriage driving techniques.

Last month, Vicki Bodoh, the vice president of the Carriage Association of America, taught the members about the unspoken rules of appropriate attire during competitions.

One rule states that men and women should wear clothing that is coordinated with the color of their carrriages.

"Once a month, we have driving clinics and we invite people, friends and family members, out to the farm," said Mary Liz Foster, wife of founding member Sonny Foster.

This month, the club had its driving clinic with world-class horse driver Elizabeth Keathley, who hails from Woodbury, Tenn.

Keathley won the 2000 Ocala Combined Driving Event in Ocala, Fla., beating world champion Lazar Vilmos from Hungary in the four-in-hand competition (driving horses at the same time).

Keathley has emerged as the top female horse driver in the world.

Her clinic, along with the club, focused on single-horse pleasure driving and combined driving. Pleasure driving is for drivers who want to take their horses out for a relaxing carriage ride. Combined driving is more athletic, entailing a faster trot and more strength from the driver. Keathley also taught dressage, which is a timed contest where horses trot in precise patterns in a 40 by 80 meter ring.

"This club is an excellent example of pleasure drivers," Keathley said. "They always have great fun together. They go out on drives and pack picnic lunches for the day."

In 1998, the Nashoba Carriage Club was formed for carriage horse drivers who wanted to improve their driving skills or make the transition from horseback riding. Sonny Foster, 77 is the founding father of the Nashoba Carriage Club. He is also the only living charter member of the Germantown Charity Horse Show.

Keathley is helping members prepare for a series of horse-driving competitions.

"We’re just learning, getting ready to compete in the Kentucky Gala." said Susan Walker.

Wanda Chancellor, coordinator of the clinic and sister of Jimmy Chancellor, will be training three days a week to prepare her Welsh pony Twister for the gala.

"I have to get him used to the heat and everything," she explained.

The gala will be in Lexington, Ky, July 28-30. The Cannon Carriage Classic in Woodbury follows on Aug. 27-30 with the Nashoba Carriage Classic at Schilling Farms at the end of September and the Southeastern Triple Crown on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.