On Wednesday afternoon, to kick off the Driving portion of this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, seventeen of the drivers took part in the optional Presentation competition, which was sponsored by the Carriage Association of America.

Through the generous support of a number of donors, the CAA offered cash prizes, awards for the winner, and ribbons through tenth place. Each of the seventeen participants received a bottle of champagne upon leaving the arena.

Each participant’s grooms spent hours cleaning harness, polishing carriages, and grooming horses. Then, each turnout spent three minutes at each of three judging stations, where every aspect of the turnout was carefully inspected. The judges – George Bowman (GBR), Jack Pemberton (CAN), and Steve Holm (USA) – looked at the clothing and the actions of the driver, passenger, and grooms; the fit and cleanliness of the harness; the cleanliness and suitability of the horses; and the cleanliness and completeness of the vehicle itself. In addition, they were looking to see how correct and appropriate the harness and grooms’ clothing were to each carriage. Attention to detail is paramount.

Judge Steve Holm said that the drivers who competed in the Presentation had all worked toward a very high standard but that the top five finishers had prepared so well they were able to separate themselves from the rest of the group.

With a score of 49.50 out of a possible 50 points, and a perfect score from one judge, Chester Weber (USA) emerged the winner. He drove a formal presentation vehicle—the same one he will use in the dressage and cones phases of the Driving competition—and complemented it with beautifully turned out horses in formal, full-collar harness and grooms in formal attire.

Weber was followed by Jim Fairclough (USA) in second place (48.33), Tucker Johnson (USA) in third (48.17), Daniel Würgler (SUI) in fourth (45.67), and Boyd Exell (AUS) in fifth (44.83). Rounding out the top ten: Cindy O’Reilly (USA) in sixth (43.50), Gary Stover (USA) in seventh (42.83), Werner Ulrich (SUI) in eighth (42.00), Bill Long (USA) in ninth (41.83), and Josh Rector (USA) in tenth (41.67).

Because the Presentation is an optional competition, separate from the four phases of the Driving World Championship, these scores do not carry over to the rest of the competition. The championship begins with two days of dressage, which are followed by the exciting marathon and cones phases.

A few photos from the afternoon:

Jack Pemberton inspects Werner Ulrich’s mixed team

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George Bowman looks carefully at Boyd Exell’s horses and harness

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during his close inspection, Steve Holm walks around Daniel Wuergler’s carriage

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Steve Holm looks carefully at Tucker Johnson’s horses, which are hitched to a Shooting Break belonging to Misdee Miller

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Steve Holm looks carefully at Chester Weber’s harness

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a full view of Chester Weber’s winning turnout, which was, according to judge Steve Holm, “about as close to perfect as you can get”