Traditional horse and carriages go high-tech

Robyn and Ian Schmetzer driving their horse Rosey in one of the new carriages imported from Poland by Gary Rollans.
Robyn and Ian Schmetzer driving their horse Rosey in one of the new carriages imported from Poland by Gary Rollans.

GARY and Rebecca Rollans recently returned to their Upper Orara farm from a 14-hour round-trip delivery to farmers near Leeton.

The trip was not to deliver feed from the North Coast's lush Orara Valley to parched Leeton, but to deliver a special cargo of carriages they have imported from Poland.

The carriages' new owners include Robyn and Ian Schmetzer, who have been hit hard by the drought, but are still following their passion for competition carriage driving. Their son John is in a wheel chair and one of the carriages was specially designed to give him freedom and ease of access so he too can follow his love of driving.

Designed and built by a craftsman whose brother competes in the sport internationally, the new Coyaltix carriages blend new technology and modern safety requirements with traditional carriage building techniques. Competition carriage driving is a fast, exciting sport like three-day eventing, but with both horses and carriages. The sport includes marathons, technical obstacles, dressage and cones.

In Europe this highly-competitive pastime attracts thousands of spectators and its popularity is growing in Australia.

Mr Rollans, who has competed in the sport at a high level in Europe, said his aim was to bring the latest vehicles from Europe for a reasonable price.

He said the new carriages had features like four wheel disc brakes, vulcanized rubber wheels, adjustable drivers' seats and delayed turntable steering for tighter, smoother obstacle driving.

"In fact they are so modern that on the way home from the port where we took delivery of them, we had interest wherever we stopped, with people asking if they were electric," he said.

Mr Rollans is now designing a series of permanent carriage obstacles for a dedicated carriage competition ground.

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