Defending World Champion Boyd Exell from Australia came, saw and conquered at the 23rd edition of the FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championship at Breda, the Netherlands. Exell won all three phases of the combined competition and was crowned individual World Champion for the fourth time in a row.
Defending World Champion Boyd Exell from Australia came, saw and conquered at the 23rd FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championship at Breda in the Netherlands. The seemingly unbeatable Boyd won all three phases of the combined competition and was crowned individual World champ for the fourth time in a row, leaving Dutch drivers IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde to battle it out for the silver and bronze. However, the Netherlands did take home team gold for the fifth consecutive time.
Fifty-six drivers from 16 nations had travelled to the Prinsenhoeve Estate in Breda, which has hosted many FEI championships. The layout of the show grounds has been changed completely, and the mud from last year’s World Pony Driving champs was quickly forgotten, thanks to the sunny weather during competition days.
After four-times World Champion and Dutch team member IJsbrand Chardon took the lead in the provisional standings on day one, all eyes were on the reigning champion, Boyd Exell, on the second day. Boyd had decided to use the experienced 16-year old gelding Rambo in the wheel instead of the better-moving mare Daphne. He showed perfect transitions and extensions with his beautiful team and was rewarded with the winning score of 33,15 points. “I was very pleased with my test, the horses went very well,” he commented afterwards. “I am disappointed that the judges were not brave enough to give points. I believe I have the best pair of leaders that there are at the moment. I have sold one of them to Hungarian driver Martin Hölle, who will use this horse in his horse pair. I thought to myself that if I can’t get more points anyway with these two fantastic leaders, I might as well sell one. I do have a lot of depth in my team; I’ll use the leader horses of Aachen in my team next season.”
Some 10,000 spectators visited the event on marathon day. Course designer Jeroen Houterman had created a challenging track with eight demanding obstacles, and Boyd was impressed: “This is the first proper marathon since the World Championships in Riesenbeck 2012.”
Mistakes mounted as the competition progressed. “We had lots of work today. It was a fair course but there were lots of drivers with problems. They took the very short routes, while the longer routes were much better, I hope this will be a lesson for those drivers for next time,” designer Jeroen commented.
Most unfortunate of all was probably the talented young driver Edouard Simonet from Belgium, whose carriage tipped over on the way to the last gate in obstacle six. Edouard was thrown but managed to hold on to the reins and injured only his ankle.
Tension grew when the top five drivers entered the show grounds. Theo Timmerman (NED) drove fast and steady without any mistakes. His compatriot Koos de Ronde really went for it: “My goal was not to make any mistakes. I went all right in the first few obstacles, and I was able to speed up.” He had one knockdown at the last and finished in second place. “It was a very nice course. My team is in super form, they were a little tired in the end, but I am very pleased.” Koos has now moved to second in the standings behind Boyd, who has an advantage of 19,07 points.
Chester Weber lacked the necessary speed with his team and finished 21st, which put him back to fifth place in the standings. IJsbrand Chardon had to replace his experienced leader horse Darco with a less experienced one and was unable to perform at his normal high level. He also nearly drove a wrong gate in obstacle 7 and dropped to bronze in the individual standings after dressage and marathon.
All eyes were on the last starter, Boyd Exell, who turned on a superb performance. “It was a course to treat with respect. My horses went very well; I did some training after Aachen and I was happy with my leaders today.”
With Boyd now untouchable, the big battle in the cones course was for silver and bronze, and it was between two flying Dutchmen, IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde. Ijsbrand was the first to stay within the time but had an unlucky knockdown, giving Koos a little breathing space. Koos, however, knocked two balls down and had to settle for the bronze.
“It was a very difficult course,” Ijsbrand said. “But I had a very safe feeling and I was well within time. I am pleased with my silver medal. We came here to win gold, but Boyd was simply better again. We will definitely go for it again in two years’ time!”
Koos was also pleased with his bronze: “This is the best result I have ever achieved at a World Championship. Of course I would have loved to have won silver, but I don’t feel I have lost silver: I feel I have won bronze.”
Chester Weber drove very well and moved up to fourth place in the individual standings, just ahead of the third Dutch team member Theo Timmerman and the best ‘rookie’ at the World Championships, 24-year-old József Dobrovitz jr. from Hungary.
German lady driver Mareike Harm drove an excellent cones course and left the arena with only 2,44 for exceeding the time, which moved her from 16th to a well-deserved ninth, finishing as the best four-in-hand lady driver in the world.
Boyd’s wins in all three phases is unique at a World Championship. His advantage over Ijsbrand in the end was 24,73 penalty points.
Last World Championship
The medals were presented by the Chairman of the FEI Technical Committee Driving Károly Fugli (HUN) and Bettina de Rham (SUI), FEI Director Driving. Breda was the last Driving Championship for Bettina in this role. She will take over as Director of the Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage Department at the FEI next month.
During her term as Driving Director, the number of international driving competitions has gone up by 50% and many important milestones were reached, such as the introduction of the 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-star levels, changes in qualification criteria and, most importantly, the whole Driving rulebook was re-written.
Individual results FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championship Breda 2016:
1) Boyd Exell (AUS) 158,40
2) IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 183,13
3) Koos de Ronde (NED) 185,26
Team results FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championship Breda 2016: