Driving has coursed through Audrey Bostwick’s veins for more then a half century. As a former competitor who continues to instruct and judge, Bostwick’s one-time hobby has given way to complete immersion in the sport. During her lifetime, her passion, hard work and expertise have garnered her admiration in the tightly knit American driving community.
“Since I came to the American Driving Society 19 years ago, Audrey has been a great supporter in every aspect of our sport. Her hallmark is her all-round effort and dedication” to driving, said Ann Pringle, the ADS executive director. And that dedication is why Bostwick is the Chronicle’s Driving Horseman of the Year for 2004.
John Greenall of West Windsor, Vt., is an old friend and driving disciple of Bostwick’s. “If you grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania and had a question about driving, it was simple, you asked Audrey,” he said of his former mentor.
“I’ve seen her judge many times, and she always stays impartial. It doesn’t matter if it’s a serious accident or a disgruntled competitor, she never gets rattled,” he continued. “She’s always known as much about driving as anyone but has never showed it off. If I could say one thing about her, it’s that she exudes a quiet class. She doesn’t jump on any bandwagons. She has always been the first person to step forward to help out. That’s just Audrey–she’s just a quality person.”
Unlike most of her peers, Bostwick’s first-time carriage ride was forced out of necessity. As a kid growing up through the scarcity of World War II, Bostwick found an unorthodox way to get around. A family friend introduced Bostwick to the functional tradition of driving, and she hasn’t let loose of the reins since.
She recalled, “As a child, I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, where Elaine Shirley Watt took me for my first ride. It wasn’t just for fun then either. During the war, gas was short, and those short hauls in her carriage were just an easy, economical and fun way to get around.”
Although Bostwick was raised riding hunters, she soon veered almost exclusively to driving. Holidays spent in Nova Scotia sealed the switch. “My friends and I would stay at a rural bed and breakfast. We took to a local farmer who had a team of working hay haulers. I, having had past experience, asked if we could just hitch them up for pleasure driving. He agreed, and we drove them over the gorgeous, rolling countryside.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, Bostwick drove with local expert Tom Harvey in southeastern Pennsylvania’s Wissahickon Park. During the winter months she would hitch up a sleigh and traverse the hills and dales north of Philadelphia.
From there, she traveled to Vermont’s Huntington Valley to participate in Lincoln Sharpless’ driving academy. She also worked with David Gwibb and began showing teams for Clement Hoope and John Heatley.
Her time spent with these masters took her to driving shows and exhibitions at Devon (Pa.), the Royal Winter Fair (Ont.) and the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Bostwick’s 1972 victory at Ludwig’s Corner (Pa.) remains a testament to her skill as a driver. Bostwick drove Peter, a formerly mistreated and malnourished pony she had rescued and rehabilitated.
Unbeknownst to Bostwick, the driving reunions and competitions of the late ’60s and early ’70s were laying the foundation for the American Driving Society. From the beginning, Bostwick was instrumental in the nascent organization, overseeing rules’ formulation, judging technicalities, and educating the public about the sport of driving.
“Our meetings and competition naturally gave way to discussions about rules, etiquette and techniques,” recalled Bostwick. “At the time, we thought we were just ironing out different interpretations. But just two years later , these discussions and debates would form the American Driving Society. Since then, we’ve tried to keep the ADS an organization that keeps competition friendly and encourages new people to start driving.”
Thanks in part to Bostwick’s groundwork, the 1980s saw a renewed interest in driving as fresh faces began to pour into the sport’s ranks. That caused a surge in competition and a need for increased administrative oversight. “Those were interesting times because, although we were happy to see an uptick in the sport’s popularity, yet we had to take extra care to ensure the safety of new drivers and to protect the sport’s tradition and image.”
Today Bostwick, still an ardent advocate of driving etiquette, teaches the sport at Delaware Valley Community College (Pa.). The college is the nation’s only secondary school that offers driving instruction to its students. Since she first walked through the door in 1988, Bostwick has touched many lives. One is Rebecca Merritt, a physically challenged student who went to Delaware Valley College to learn more about horses and carriage driving. From the beginning, Merritt was impressed that the school had an instructor the caliber of Bostwick.
Merritt eagerly took to Bostwick’s instruction. With Bostwick as coach, Merritt made the U.S. Team for the 1994 World Paralympic Driving Championships held in Hartpury, England. Not one to rest idle, Bostwick managed to forge a relationship with the local Gloucestershire college and create a joint equine studies exchange at both universities.
Merritt recalled, “It was such a great opportunity, and Audrey was always so generous. The try-outs were held in Maryland the year before, and I needed a pony for the games, so she purchased Spot, the same pony I used in try-outs, to take to England. While I was competing, she found the time to befriend the local administrators, and her work created a college exchange program. She always has been so eager to help in any way she could.”
Natasha Grigg, a close friend and the former president of the American Driving Society, added, “Audrey has a dry sense of humor and can be a stickler about etiquette. She’s good-natured about it, but sometimes her intensity and dry wit can take a person by surprise. She is just passionate and meticulous in her approach.”
Added Grigg, “I recall that we [the ADS] attended a function at Acadia National Park [Maine] hosted by none other than Martha Stewart. Stewart wished to learn more about driving as she had a pair of ponies herself. Audrey wasn’t overawed. Audrey treated her just like any other student curious about driving. When she’s teaching, she has always been polite, kind and, most importantly, to the point.”
Home: Perkasie, Pa.
Animals: Vermont-bred Welsh ponies named Ben and Jerry; a gray pony called Oreo; driving pony named Spot; a former hunter/jumper turned pleasure horse named Crystal Serenade; dogs Olivia, Sandy, Willa and Molly.
Hobbies: Sleigh rides in winter and carriage tours in all seasons.
Accolades: American Driving Society’s President’s Award for lifetime achievement (1989); member of the ADS Executive Committee (1998-present); ADS vice president (1998-2002) ADS Fund Overseers (2004); former chairman of the Board of Trustees for Hoopes Addis Foundation, an organization that offers grants to promote driving.
Favorite Driving Moments: Sleigh rides in Wissahickon Park near Philadelphia; teaching driving at Delaware Valley College for 16 years; maintaining her personal carriage collection.