5 June 2023

Sam Couwenberg wins Saumur: “Awesome week”

Last weekend the international competition was held in Saumur, France. Sam Couwenberg (pony pair), Anna de Ronde (horse pair), Bram Chardon (horse team) and Edwin van der Graaf (horse team) started for the Netherlands. Sam, Anna and Bram made it to the podium.

“Enjoy where you are”

“It was a great week”, Sam Couwenberg looks back beaming. “Saumur is not just a competition, and it is very cool to be able to put it to your name. In dressage I had harnessed Bekveld’s Ronaldo and Nebus Rowan (nickname Sam). They felt really great in the warm up, so I went into the ring with a lot of confidence.” She won, with more than eight penalty points over Antoine Jeanson (FRA), the number two.

“I had explored the marathon very well and found good lines everywhere, but last year I was also in Saumur and Antoine drove a very fast marathon. When you go to Saumur you know you’re going to have a tough marathon ahead of you, but the ponies were fit. The day before my father said: “just drive and don’t worry, because the ponies are in great shape. They will run.” He was right. After the warm-up I went to obstacle 1. When I entered I let them go a bit, they turned on super fierce but remained easy to steer.” Because of the win in the dressage, she started last in the marathon. “When I went out of obstacle 1 I knew I had set the fastest time there. That gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to continue driving very nicely afterwards.” Sam finished second in the marathon. “I was only 0.19 penalty points slower than Antoine! So I finished second, but had given up little. I was very happy with that,” she says enthusiastically.

Many balls were driven in the cones. “I was about 8 penalties clear, so I could afford two balls. There was a large audience. When I started driving I saw a lot of cars and a lot of people next to the ring. I’m not used to that at all, only at the match in Oirschot is it so busy. That’s why my father said: ‘ When you enter the ring I would first drive around and look around you. Enjoy where you are for a while and then take your focus back. And enjoy, I certainly did! Antoine also had some balls and with a little bit of time I kept the first place with me. After the skill I was disappointed with the balls for a moment, but I knew I had won. Fortunately, there was soon room for happiness, because this was a very cool week!”

Sam Couwenberg
Photo: Melanie Guillamot

French dominate

In the single driving horse and ponies, the podium was completely occupied by the French. Johan Nijs (BEL) took second place between the places in the pony four-in-hand and Beat Schenk (SUI), and Anna de Ronde (NED) took place behind Francois Dutilloy (FRA) in the horse pairs.

Anna de Ronde started with her strong dressage score of 46.92 in third place after the first day. Due to ninth place in the marathon, she was just shy of the podium on Saturday, but due to her fourth place in the cones she still finished third.

“Quite a bit of competition”

Bram Chardon also moved up from fourth to third on Sunday thanks to his result in the cones. “There was quite a bit of competition here, Bram Chardon looks back. “I had therefore hoped for a podium place in advance, but I knew that winning would be difficult. That is also because I have changed a lot in my team lately.” He is referring to the two new leaders, which he had used in dressage and marathon. “Nevertheless, I delivered three steady performances. We showed very good things, but of course there was also room for improvement.” The competition in Saumur is known for its tough marathon. Eight obstacles are often run and when the terrain is dry, the course consists of heavy and deep loose sand. “This in combination with the warm temperatures made it tough for the horses. But a nice course had been set out, the horses arrived fit at the finish.”

Bram and his father IJsbrand don’t drive the same competitions this year. “My father went to Exloo, Kronenberg, Lähden and Windsor, I went to Kladruby and Saumur. We have recently helped each other with horses, but now we have to focus on both teams for the European Championships in Exloo at the end of the season. We are therefore both going to Aachen in a few weeks. The intention is that the teams we drive there will stay together until the championship”, Bram looks ahead.

Bram Chardon
Photo: Melanie Guillamot

Second team

Boyd Exell drove his second team in Saumur, but managed to win the four-in-hand horse class by about seven penalty points. In the dressage he finished second with a score of 41.05. Chester Weber (USA) won, with 36.86 penalty points. “I went to the Royal Windsor Horse Show with my good team, with whom I want to drive the World Championship. I am slowly training the second team. The horses are slightly smaller than my good team. I am very satisfied with the dressage. We still had some mistakes, but it’s definitely going in the right direction. In the marathon they were fast and in the cones they found the rhythm in the second half. In the beginning I was a bit more careful there, but soon I was able to pick up the pace a bit,” says Boyd. This team ran the international competition in Lähden at the end of April, and their second competition in Saumur. “In addition, I plan to take them to Beekbergen and one other competition. Then they have run a total of four this year. I went to Kladruby and Windsor with the good team and I want to take them to Aachen this year. I expect them to be ready for next year’s World Cup.”

Boyd Exell
Photo: Melanie Guillamot

“Happy with the courses”

Anne-Marie Turbé, President of CAIO Saumur: “We do our best to improve the terrain, the obstacles and the facilities every year and I think we showed that again this year. The large field of participants in the pair and four-in-hand horses and the happy participants are the result of this. In addition, I am very happy with how the marathon was built: nice to look at, horse-friendly and yet quite difficult for the drivers. A big compliment to Jacques Tamalet, the course designer!”

Click here for the results

Click here for the photos from Melanie Guillamot

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