Harriet Hayward interviews William Frederick Matthews (Fred) about Trotting.
Fred was raised in caravans in Cornwall and recalls a happy childhood with his 3 brothers. Fred has been around horses since he was little, and driving since he was 8 or 9. He talks about buying and training horses for trotting, his horse, Cornish Bob, and his rig.
List of Questions
What was it like growing up in a Travelling family?
We lived at Trevarth in caravans, then moved to Buller Hill for 22 years. I have 3 brothers, my mum and dad are now gone. Weather was rough. We fetched our own water. Had fantastic Christmases.
46 seconds What kind of things did you do for fun?
Ride horses, used car bonnet to sledge down bank, ride bikes over bank. Used to get snowed in. Dad use to sell wood. 4 boys in our caravan, mum and dad had theirs.
1 min 43 sec. I know you do trotting. Is that something you got into when you were younger?
We’ve had horses all our lives, and Shetland ponies. Took off down here 10 years ago. Two of my brothers are big into it. My horse is worth £2000, very good on his speed, in a 2 mile race he can do 29 miles an hour for the last mile. It is a big thing down here.
2 min 50 sec Do the horses learn naturally?
Horses are bred for the job. “Cornish Bob” is 8 years old now, hasn’t raced for a while, it’s a lot of money to get horse fit, get shoed.
3min 35sec How do you train a horse to trot?
You train them up, start off steady, build up to 6 miles when fitter, then put them on road and time them. There’s a bit of road near Goonhilly that’s 1 mile. If they don’t do the time, put more work into training.
4min 41 sec. How many years can a horse do trotting for?
It depends how young they start. Their joints don’t last if you start them too young. My horse, every joint is good, could go on until 10 or 12 if looked after, fed right. The knack is training in a field, finishing on road. The field is a lot softer. The beach is good training, at Perranporth. Shoed on road, not needed on beach. It is good fun.
6min 15 sec. Have you ever had an accident while trotting?
No never. I’ve been driving since I was 8 or 9 years old. My brothers and I used to break horses in. You only have an accident if you’re an idiot.
6 min 46 sec Is it uncomfortable when you sit on the ring?
No, they are good, stainless steel and blow up tyres. The only thing that’s holding you on is the reins, but you have a helmet and elbow protectors, just in case, but nothing has ever happened like that.
How long are the races?
4 minutes, 2 miles. Any longer and they are not a very good horse. The faster the time, the better it is.
7 min 48 sec Where did you get your rig from?
You pick them up all over the place. I’ve got 2. An aluminium one, and I had a stainless steel. They are a lot of money, but second hand they are half the price. I had a wood one, all over, just a little bit of metal, and a good comfortable seat. It depends what you want, you can find good ones online. I can pick mine up with one hand, that’s how light it is.
9 min How do you keep your horses so fit?
You feed them on the right food, twice a day, exactly the same time, wormed, clean water, stabled not eating grass.
9 min 40 sec Do they get ridden as well?
Yes, you can ride on their back. I used to ride a lot on bareback, but I’m not the youngest now.
10 min What would you say makes a good trotter?
Nice colour, fine bones, stand nice, when you see them move. There’s 2 sorts, a pacer like Bob and a square goer. My old horse is 19 years old, still going at 28 miles an hour. It’s a lot of work, training them every night. There’s a drive coming up soon, there’ll be 25 horses, we’ve started training already. I’ve had Cornish Bob for 6, nearly 7 years, I would get rid of him but I’m afraid he’d get into the wrong hands.
12.24 Is trotting more popular now?
It is a popular thing. There’s suppose to be a track going in at Pendarves, Camborne. I’m hoping it’s not long until it’s open. I’ve got grandsons driving. Harley is 13 years old and drives them round the field, it’s in their blood.
13.30 Any more?
My dad was a good horseman, that’s where we learnt. He could tell a horse’s age by looking at his mouth, my brother can as well. We do weddings with our carriage. It’s 170 years old. Victorian, prestige, Sammy pulls that, he’s 19 still working strong.
We’ve got dogs to go lamping.
Is it only the men that trot?
It is a good bit of fun. You want to see it. The buzz is horrendous!