3 November 2013

Pau: Old and new talents dominate 6th FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies

The 6th edition of the FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies in Pau, France, will go into the history books as a successful edition. The pony driving sport has yet moved up to another level. Young and talented drivers but also experienced athletes took home the individual medals. The Dutch team, who won, finally broke the German hegemony of the past five editions gold for the first time in the 10-year-old history of the combined Championships. Bram Chardon (NED) won individual gold for the second time in a row in the four-in-hand class. His compatriot Ewoud Boom won gold for the first time in his career. Martin Hölle (HUN) is now not only the European Junior Champion, but also World Champion in the pony singles class.

The 16-year-old Martin Hölle set the basis for his gold medal in dressage, in which he finished second, driving his German riding pony Apache de la Licorne. Hölle also came second in the marathon behind Sebastien Pallen (BEL) of which Hölle bought his pony two years ago. Hölle was on gold before the cones competition and drove very clear-headed in the cones course, passing the finish line with only 0,27 penalty points behind his name and securing his first World title.
The 22-year old Rosanna Walters-Symons won the silver medal with her 16-year old Welsh Cob Dabernon Tiger Woods, with which she won the bronze at the 2012 European Driving Championships for Young Drivers. Rosanna, who is an PhD student at Exeter University, finished on the 5th place in the dressage and the marathon and moved up to the silver medal thanks to a wonderful cones round.
Just like Martin Hölle and Rosanna Walters-Symons, 47-year old bronze medallist Els Broekman also drove her first World Championship in Pau with her 14-year-old New Forest gelding Aron. Els won the dressage and was able to hold on to a podium place after the marathon and the cones competition.

After having competed in every World Championship for Combined Ponies since the start in 2003, 36-year old Ewoud Boom finally succeeded in winning an individual medal. Boom won the dressage, finished third in the marathon and secured his first gold medal after putting down an excellent performance in the cones, in which he had the only double clear round. 17-year old Marco Freund finished on the 4th place at the previous World Championships in 2011 and ended deservedly on the podium this year. Marco, who is the son of double World Champion four-in-hand driving Michael Freund, came third in the dressage and second in the marathon. He was able to secure his silver medal by driving a clear round with only some penalties for exceeding the time allowed.
Great Britain’s experienced Anna Grayston competed at many European four-in-hand and World Combined Championships and was very happy to take home the bronze medal. The 41-year-old former four-in-hand pony driver drove her pair of good looking Welsh ponies to the fourth place in dressage and moved up to the third place after a strong marathon performance. Anna had two knockdowns and some time penalties in the cones, but was able to secure the first individual medal in her career.

Defending World Champion Bram Chardon came, saw and conquered. The 20-year-old son of four times World four-in-hand Champion IJsbrand Chardon won all three phases of the competition, leaving his opponents far behind him. Bram drove a wonderful dressage test with his now even more experienced team of grey Welsh ponies, set fast times in the marathon obstacles, designed by Swiss O-course designer Christian Iseli, and was the best driver in the cones. Even though Bram had a big advantage before entering the cones arena, he still drove to win and secured his second individual gold medal with an amazing performance, much to the joy of the many orange-dressed Dutch fans.
The silver medal went to Jozsef Dobrovitz junior, who made up for his disappointing results in 2011. The 21-year old Jozsef junior, who is also one of the 10 qualified drivers for the FEI World Cup™ Driving, finished fourth in the dressage and in the marathon and was on bronze before the cones. Dobrovitz drove an amazing double clear round and after Dutch driver Jan de Boer, who was on silver, had too many penalty points in the cones, he moved up to the silver medal. Double World Champion Tobias Bücker took home the bronze medal. The 38-year old salesman by profession competed in every World Combined Championships and also at the European four-in-hand pony Championships.

The Dutch drivers started these World Championships excellently by winning the dressage in each class. The Dutch team held on to their leading position throughout the whole competition and created a huge gap to their opponents. The final obstacle driving competition resulted in a Dutch winner in each class. The German team performed very well as well, but had to give the gold medal out of hands after five consecutive World Championships. The Hungarian team members with the average age of 22 finished on bronze.


Martin Hölle (HUN), single Champion: “I have this pony two years now and I have been training very hard for this World Championship, which is far more difficult than the Youth Championships. In the marathon I was able to drive everything according to plan. Before I went into the cones I knew that I had an advantage of two balls, which gave me the confidence I needed. My pony went super in all three phases of the competition and I will for sure keep driving him for the next two years.”

Ewoud Boom (NED), pair Champion: “I am so happy with this medal, it finally all came together! My dressage went well and I know I can do a better marathon than I did here, but my third place was good for my overall result. I started off at a good speed in the cones and was able to keep the speed up and make short turns. We training a lot of obstacle driving and it has all paid off now. I am not sure what the next two years will bring me. I have driven a pony from another owner the past one and a half years and the pony is going back next week, so I have to see what the future will bring me.”

Bram Chardon (NED), four-in-hand Champion: “I am very proud at my second gold medal. My ponies did a fantastic job. My goal after Lipica 2011 was to improve my dressage with 10 points and I succeeded. The marathon went perfect for me and the cones as well. I knew I had a big advantage but I also realized that the competition is only over when you pass the finish line. I am not sure yet what I will do next. I would like to start driving a team of horses, but my father competes at the top and to have two horse teams is a lot of work. I would also very much like to defend my title at the next World Championships at Breda 2015, so I will see.”

Click here for the results
Click here for the photoalbum thanks to Marie de Ronde-Oudemans