The Myopia Driving Club was formed in 1976 as a result of interest in driving in the Myopia Hunt country. An introductory letter stated:
“Because of the growing interest in driving in this area, a group has decided to organize the ‘Myopia Driving Club’. The Club will be primarily for those living in the Myopia Hunt Country and we plan to have regular pleasure drives, informal competitions and clinics to help new drivers. We would like to invite you to join us as founding members.”
The letter was signed by Lutz Wallem (President), Deirdre Pirie (Vice President), and Holly Pulsifer (Corresponding Secretary.
At the time, Deirdre was raising section A Welsh ponies, and had exhibited her four-in-hand of white ponies at Devon and the Royal Winter Fair. She drove a “Myopia Break”, manufactured in Amesbury at the turn of the century. Lutz Wallem had a stable of imported Holsteiners, and employed Walter Sirrenberg, a German driver, to drive both teams and pairs. Bill Lower became stable manager there. Holly had a Welsh-Arab, “Crumpet” bred by Angela Winthrop, that she drove single. They had all been instrumental in the organization of the first Myopia Driving Event, held in conjunction with the Ledyard Horse Trials in 1975.
A review of the club minutes from past years recalls names and events that are part of the fabric of driving in the United States – including club members who drove for the USET, innovative competitions, and fun activities.
1977 The Club hosted 500 members of The Carriage Association of America for their annual meeting. We celebrated the Silver
Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth with a drive, and added our pennant to those presented later to her at Balmoral. In the fall, we organized a a competition for four-in-hands only, in conjunction with Neil Ayer’s Ledyard ’77. Competitors included Woody Follett driving a team of ponies owned by Caroline Stevens and Holly Pulsifer, and Peter Gage with hackney ponies, Craig Kellog , John Jenkel, Deirdre Pirie, Bill Dreyer, Peter Munt, with Liz (Whitney) Tippet’s greys and Emil Jung with hr bay Holsteiners, “Frolic” Weymouth & Kelly Vladez sharing the driving, and Walter Sirrenberg with Lutz Wallem’s Holsteiners.
1978 Some club members were instrumental in persuading the USET to field a national driving team. Follwoing the acceptance of driving as a USET discipline 18 candidates applied for consideration, among them four members of the Club: Deirdre Pirie, Marc Johnson, Bill Lower, and Cirilla Thibeault. Lutz Wallem lead a fund drive in which each member pledged to earn 10 times his age – resulting in nearly $2000 through dessert cooking classes, a horse show, wine tasting and other activities.
1979 Col. Thackeray, George Bowman, T.A.G. Moore, and Cecil Ferguson were judges at the annual competition. An exchange was organized by George Bowman for the North West Driving Club and Deirdre Pirie for the Myopia Driving Club. Six Americans (among them the Kinsellas, Cirilla Thibeault driving tandem, Deirdre, Holly and Marshall Winkler) competed at Lowther in England, using horses and vehicles loaned by their English hosts. Nine English enthusiasts came over for Myopia, including Tommy Fawcett, George Denny, Clive Richardson, and Robert Bowman.
1980 “Jerry Ballantine will show the 1980 World Driving Championship Films. Come and see club member Deirdre Pirie driving her team. Deirdre was the only American representative to finish without elimination!” “Our club ran a three-day event in two days that was well attended – including one day of thunder, lightning, and rain.” Penny and Bill Rawls, and Ray Morang joined the club. Woody Follett became President, Polly Nickerson continued as Treasurer.
1981 We manned a raffle for the USET at Suffolk Downs that raised approximately $7,000. The 3-day event in October was sponsored by Almaden, and held at Flying Horse Farm. Spencer Brewster was club president.
1982 In July we ran a Junior Training Event, with approximately 19 participants, including Than Pulsifer, Jessica Grigg, and Samantha Dery. In October, George Bowman came to judge “the Great Myopia Mud Event” – a true test of character, endurance, health and humor – commemorated by Penny Rawls, who quickly made up T-shirts that said “It’s supposed to be fun!”
1983 Charlie Cheston became club president. Later that year he competed with leased horses in Italy at the prototype of the first World Pair Championship, and won the USET Pair Championship. The annual event was part of “Equifest”, to raise money for the founding of the Tufts Veterinary School.
1984 Charlie competed in Great Britain, and then won the USET Pair Championship, with Deridre hot on his heels in 2nd place. Myopia hosted the USET Four in Hand Championship, with Graf Rothkirch leading the Jury.
1985 Myopia hosted the USET Pairs Championship, using the show grounds at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. Marge Kittredge, the Kinsellas, and Macy Hill presented a program on Dressage and Pleasure classes – resulting in the comment from Bunny Nutter, club secretary, that “their preferences were quite different. That’s what keeps competitors on their toes (or on the edge of their seats!)”
1986 The club’s program included the annual trip to the Brewster’s Little Forge Farm, in Plymouth, MA., made by Polly Carter and Betsy Spencer, Willoughby Britton, Spencer and Lalla, the Winklers, the Needhams, and the Nutters.
1987 Natasha Grigg became club president, and Judy Gregg club secretary. The event, held in June at the Myopia Schooling field, was small, including only the Advanced pairs for a USET selection.
1988 The Club members drove “on parade” for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the Myopia Hunt Club and the 300th anniversary of the founding of Appleton Farms. Our much loved vet, “Connie” Thibeault, died. Dr. Thibeault collected carriages and was a mentor and inspiration to us.
1989 In June Myopia once again hosted the Rolex – USET Pair Driving Championship. Dierdre Pirie headed the jury that included Marek Zaleski, Sally Graburn, Don Thackeray, and Macy Hill. Udo Hochgeschurz led the field, and went on to win the World Championship that year.
1990 Once again, Myopia was represented on the USET as Deirdre competed in Stockholm at her 5th World Championship with her team of Holsteiners and Holly served as Chef d’Equipe.