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UK’S YOUNGEST SCURRY DRIVER EYES NATIONAL TITLE


Daredevil teen Lily Owen is driving her adult rivals green with envy after becoming the youngest competitor on the UK National Scurry Circuit.

Lily, 15, is the only junior in the country competing in the fast and furious Pure Scurry Trials where drivers race at breakneck speed around an outdoor course of obstacles.

What makes Lily’s carriage driving success even more remarkable is that she only picked up the reins for the first time three years ago after her parents threaten to sell her pony, Pal.

Because the thrill-seeking teen initially showed little interest in her horse, her parents put the palomino up for sale to save money during lockdown.

The move spurred Lily into caring properly for the 12.2 stallion and the pair quickly bonded so much they took part in their first Scurry competition in January 2022, when Lily was 12.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lily came last after knocking down virtually every obstacle in the race held at an equestrian centre near her home in Tycroes, South Wales.

 Undeterred, the teenager practiced relentlessly at home – only to get the same result at her next driving heats.

That’s when her parents Tod Price and Sue Kennedy discovered the axle on the wheels of her secondhand scurry cart were too wide for the course.

The talented teen, who is studying for her GCSE exams, said: “I couldn’t understand why I was getting so many faults, but we found out my wheels were too wide so there was virtuality no gap between them and the penalty cones.

“Hence it was like demolition derby when I took part in my first classes, but it didn’t put me off. The thrill of competing had got under my skin and I was more determined than ever to get placed even though I felt complete rubbish at it.

“At the time, we could only afford a £400 cart and didn’t check the width of the wheels. It seems such a stupid error now, but at the time I didn’t have a clue.”

Lockdown

Talking about her growing passion for the sport, Lily said “My mum and dad are both horsey, but ponies didn’t interest me much. It seemed a real chore looking after them and my heart wasn’t in riding.

“They bought me Pal thinking he would change my attitude, but it didn’t make much difference so during lockdown he was put up for sale as they couldn’t afford to keep him.

“Suddenly I realised I didn’t want to lose him and began mucking out his stable and grooming him. We really started to bond, and he began whinnying every time he saw me.

“After going on pleasure drives with my dad, I saw that Pal was the perfect size for a driving pony so I thought I’d give it a go. Although I’d watched the scurry competitions at the Horse of the Year Show, they looked really fast and quite scary, and I never imagined for a minute I would be competing in the same kind of races one day.”


Scurry driver and pony
DRIVING FORCE: Lily and her pony Pal have shown they are a team to be reckoned with

Lily and Pal began training from scratch, long reining with a harness before attaching a pallet for him to pull.

She said: “We were both complete novices so we learnt the basics together.

“Pal can be very cheeky at times, but as soon as I put his harness on, he stops misbehaving. He really knows his job and seems to love it as much as I do. He now bends his head down and puts his nose into the harness when I tack him up.”

After a few pleasure ride trials on the road, Lily decided they were both ready for their first competition.

“It was a bit of a disaster,” she admits, “but we were both hooked.”

Though Lily races against other juniors in the more sedate Indoor Driving Trials, where ponies compete at a more sensible trot, it’s the Pure Scurry Outdoor Trials where horses gallop flat out round a course of 12 obstacles that thrills the teen the most.

“I’m the only junior racing against adults outdoors because a lot of young competitors are put off by the speed,” she says.

“It was pretty scary at first because you go absolutely flat out, but it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”

Roared

Recently, Pal the palomino was joined by 12.1 bay Cookie for the pairs competition.

Though Lily has been placed, she is aiming for her first win this season. She said: “Cookie is newer to the sport and is spookier. I was about to come in the top three for the first time when the commentator kept announcing how young I was so the crowd leapt to their feet and roared me on.

“It was such an incredible feeling, but Cookie took fright at all the noise and, unfortunately, we hit a cone which incurred a penalty.

“I was so proud of the boys though and delighted at how they performed, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos. I concentrate so hard that I usually have a poker face when I’m competing.”

Lily, who has a younger brother Alfie, 13, and sister Elsie, six, travels to competitions across the country including Yorkshire, Newbury and The Royal Welsh Show.

Scurry racing with ponies
Pony Pals: Lily, Pal and Cookie competing at The Royal Welsh Festival Show at Builth Wells

Later this month, Lily will be whipping her adult rivals into shape at the Royal Sandringham Estate in Norfolk where the late Duke of Edinburgh was a huge carriage driving fan and competitor. His granddaughter, Lady Louise Windsor, inherited his horses and carriage which she drove in front of The Queen at The Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2022.

Determined Lily, who wants to train as a carriage driving instructor, said: “Because I’m in the middle of exams it’s been difficult to take time off school to practise, but I feel the boys are ready for the challenge.

“My fingers and hands get blistered from all the driving, but I love it and my ambition is to become National Champion one day, though we’ve got quite a journey ahead to win the title.”

Despite the obstacles to national glory, dad Tod is convinced his daughter has the talent to achieve her dreams.

He said: “I’m amazed at how naturally talented Lily is given she is so young and has only been driving for a relatively short time.

“Despite having previously shown no interest in horses she is now obsessed and there’s no stopping her. Lily is a gifted driver, but she has to work and practice extremely hard to stand a sporting chance against her more experienced adult rivals”.


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