WEG 2010

My recap of the Driving Championship at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games:

When he came out of the dressage arena, having scored only 30.08 penalty points, Boyd Exell was nearly in tears. Rest assured, though—they were tears of joy.

During his test in the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Exell could barely stop himself from breaking out into a huge smile—his horses were going so well they were practically “doing it on their own,” he said. The fact that his team was feeling so “on” and self-sufficient was, it turned out, helpful in its own right, as he had broken a bone in his left hand the previous week—while practicing his newest hobby: cross-country jumping.

This was Exell’s fifth world championship in a decade of trying to win it all, and he was certainly off to a good start, with a dressage score that set a new record in world-championship competition.

He admitted later that, on each successive morning, he would tell himself that he had driven badly the day before, in order to push himself to do well on the marathon and cones courses.

This strategy seems to have worked. Following a third-place finish in the marathon phase, Exell stood in the lead after the first two phases and entered Sunday’s cones course with a very slight (1.72-point) lead over the reigning World Champion, Ijsbrand Chardon of The Netherlands.

With one ball down (but no time penalties), Chardon simultaneously secured the team gold medal for himself and his fellow Dutch drivers, and increased Exell’s lead by a few points. Taking advantage of the extra cushion afforded him by Chardon’s mistake, Exell was able to drive somewhat conservatively through Richard Nicoll’s complicated course. In the end, he had no course penalties but 3.52 time penalties. With that, he bested Chardon’s overall score by a mere 1.20 penalty points. Knowing that he had just won the individual gold medal, Exell saluted the nearly sold out crowd as he galloped out of the arena.

When asked what he planned to do after accomplishing his nearly-twenty-year goal of winning a world championship, Exell said that he particularly enjoys building teams of horses that work well together. “So we’ll build a new team and see where they go.”


in the spirit of Lexington's "Horse Mania," this blue horse was signed by every WEG medal winner; the horse will remain on display at the KY Horse Park




Medals for the Americans

Following two days of dressage, Chardon was tied for second place with U.S. driver Chester Weber (35.97 points each). Behind them, also tied (with 40.19 points apiece) were Tucker Johnson (USA) and Theo Timmerman of The Netherlands.

And, because each team of three drivers is able to drop one score for each phase and count only the two best scores, the U.S. and Dutch teams were tied for the gold-medal spot after dressage.

The marathon drove well, evidenced by the fact that there were no accidents or serious problems that day. The German team’s chef d’equipe said later that it was a “real championship course.” He wanted to thank Richard Nicoll, he said, “for creating a course that allowed championship drivers to drive like champions and allowed the lesser drivers to finish.”

Among the U.S. team, Johnson had the best drive through the marathon, finishing that phase in seventh place. Throughout the competition, the event announcer had been reminding the spectators and competitors that Johnson planned to retire from competition after this event. So as he exited the final marathon obstacle, he asked his navigator for an update on his time. With a couple of minutes to spare, he stood up and saluted the cheering crowd, which prompted them all to cheer even louder. Johnson said later that he could hear a large cheering section following him on the marathon course. In what must have been a bittersweet moment, he was able to pick out a single voice yelling, “Go, Daddy!” as he entered his final competitive marathon obstacle.

Johnson admitted later that he had found the marathon course to be a difficult one, especially considering the pressure he had placed on himself to have a clean round.

The day was not without problems, though, and the other two American team members didn’t have quite such a good run.

One of Fairclough’s grooms came off the carriage in the third obstacle and, with the resulting ten penalty points, he ended up in fourteenth place in the marathon standings.

In the end, his was not the team’s dropped score for that phase, as Weber accumulated a total of twenty-four penalty points on the course: two for knocking down a collapsible element, ten for a groom dismounting in the fifth obstacle, and then another twelve for a groom dismounting in the seventh obstacle. The result? Weber finished the marathon in nineteenth place out of twenty-five competitors.

Despite the Americans’ bad luck on the marathon, they finished that phase in fourth place among the seven nations vying for team medals.

On Sunday, the drivers faced the lengthy, complicated cones course and a malfunctioning timing clock. The problem with the timer led to several false starts and a delay of about an hour. With the clock fixed, the competition resumed with Weber, who posted the first double-clear round of the day (no balls down and no time penalties). Immediately following Weber, Fairclough tackled the course and claimed the second double-clear round. These two ended up winning first- and second-place ribbons in the cones phase, respectively.

As the competition wound toward its conclusion, the eventual individual medalists each faced the cones course, and each in turn secured their own and their teams’ medals. First of the three to go was Johnson, who had one ball down but no time penalties. Knowing that he had just secured his own individual bronze and the team silver for the U.S., and knowing that he was leaving his final competition, he stood up and saluted the cheering crowd of about five thousand people as he drove out of the arena.

When asked later to describe his feelings on leaving the competition arena for the final time, Johnson said that it “felt good; you don’t always get to end on such a high note.”

before leaving their final WEG press conference, the silver-medal winners in Driving -- the U.S. team -- each signed the blue horse; here: Tucker Johnson, who also won the individual bronze medal ...


… Jim Fairclough …


… and Chester Weber all added their signatures to the Horse Park’s blue horse as a permanent reminder of their medals won at the 2010 Alltech FEI WEG



The Dutch won the team gold medal, the U.S. won the team silver and, in a surprise finish, the Germans won the team bronze when the second of two drivers representing Sweden (in third place overall going into the cones phase) went off course and was eliminated.

The drivers representing the U.S. as individuals fared as follows. Josh Rector finished in sixteenth place; Gary Stover finished in eighteenth place; Mike McLennan finished in nineteenth place; Cindy O’Reilly finished in twentieth place; and, sadly, both Bill Long and Casey Zubek were eliminated during the marathon. The tenth and final driver chosen to represent the U.S., David Saunders, had two of his four horses refused in the first horse inspection, and he was unable to start the competition.

World Cup news from www.hoefnet.com:

The Dutch company Chr. Van den Heuvel Carriages will help the drivers who will compete at the first FEI World Cup qualifier this weekend in Hannover, Germany.

The ship’s container with carriages and equipment will arrive in Europe next month, from Kentucky, which means IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde will not be able to compete with their own carriages.

Van den Heuvel will put De Ronde’s old marathon carriage, which he used during the 2008/2009 season, at his disposal. He will therefore compete with a carriage that he knows well, which is an advantage to him because of the high speed of the indoor events.

IJsbrand Chardon will compete with a new marathon carriage: “Despite the fact that I have had this carriage for two years, I have not competed with it yet. I prefer to compete with my regular carriage because then I know exactly what to expect. As soon as the container arrives, my damaged marathon carriage will go immediately to Van den Heuvel for repair and check-up.”

The double World Cup Champion and World Champion, Boyd Exell from Australia, will borrow Robert Wilkinson’s carriage, which is the same model as his own carriage.

Tomas Eriksson’s carriage was flown from Kentucky, so the Swedish driver will use his own carriage. The competitors list in Hannover on October 30 and 31 is completed with Hungary’s Zoltan Lázar and József Dobrovitz, and wild card driver Christoph Sandmann of Germany.

From September 25 through October 10, there were

507,022 attendees;

16,800 feet of bike barricade;

8 miles of linear fencing;

396 temporary structures;

70 temporary power generators;

59 miles of electrical cable;

20,000 temporary seats;

more than 11,000 signs placed around the park;

500 flags;

30,000 feet of extension cord;

632 athletes;

752 horses;

58 countries;

more than 100,000 servings of Kentucky Ale brand beers poured;

1,734 Maker’s Mark bottles dipped in red wax at the station inside the Kentucky Experience;

175,220 pounds of recyclable and compostable materials removed from the park;

56 percent of waste diverted from landfills through green initiatives;

500 temporary toilet facilities;

7.6 million page views to the Games website from September 25 through October 10;

193 countries represented in website visitors;

62,707 school children visiting the Games, thanks to Alltech;

79,802 Facebook fans…and still counting;

6,000 volunteers;

1.1 million meals served to spectators, staff, athletes, and volunteers;

112,368 cars parked;

326,260 trips to and from the Games taken through the main entry transport mall; and

16,000 caps, 5,000 walking sticks, and 1,000 saddle pads sold in the merchandise store.

If you’ve been reading this blog for the past year or more (or if you’ve scrolled back through all the many “WEG 2010” posts) … you’ll know that I’ve been watching — and sharing with you — the progress over all that time on the construction of the marathon obstacles.

Other than a couple of references to individual people as they happened to show up in the photos, I’ve concentrated mostly on bits and pieces of the obstacles themselves and not on who’s been building them. So you’ve been left to wonder who built all those beautiful (and beautifully constructed) obstacles, haven’t you?

After the WEG driven dressage last Friday, a few of us photographers — and the course-building crew — gathered for a tour of some of the completed obstacles and a fun photo shoot in their work area.

hamming it up for the photographers and showing off their machinery: the marathon-course-building crew is, left to right, Levi Ryckewart, Aaron Beale, Mick Costello, Aaron Rust, Lenny Courtemanche, Dave Leonard, Isaac Bingham, and Tobiah Bingham


the builders basically invented the unique shape and construction method for the logs at the Squirrel Grove; left to right: Aaron Rust, Mick Costello, and Aaron Beale


the Bingham brothers (Tobiah on the left and Isaac on the right, with Lenny Courtemanche between them) created and constructed the decorative “crazy quilt” pattern of smaller branches between the larger logs in Spook Hollow


Isaac Bingham shows off the widemouth bass he carved (with a chainsaw!) for one of the two water obstacles

This is just a quick Thursday evening update to say that I’ll be starting to back off a bit from the frenzy of once-a-day or even several-times-a-day postings to the blog. With the WEG competitions over and the WEG infrastructure being packed up and carted away, there’s a lot of “regular” work to do here in the CAA office. So I’ll be settling back into my more usual several-times-a-week blog posting.

But I hope you’ll keep checking in.

I have a couple more WEG-related stories planned.

And if you’re a regular reader of the blog (or if you read my recent mention of the tent line for Big Blue Madness tickets) … you’ll know to expect occasional reports on the University of Kentucky basketball team. The first of those reports may appear sooner than you would think it ought to, as basketball season obviously hasn’t started yet. But UK’s Big Blue Madness is TOMORROW night, and we have tickets!!

Otherwise, you can look forward to posts with old photos of carriages; stories on carriage- and driving-related history, destinations; interviews with people in the driving world; and more. Stay tuned!

Sunday’s awards ceremony for the Driving World Championship at the WEG may have started slowly (ribbons awarded to the top ten places in the marathon phase, then to the top ten places in the cones phase … each followed by a genteel victory lap), but it ended with a big, happy, noisy celebration in honor of the medal winners.

the lineup of winners in the marathon phase …


and, later, the lineup of winners in the cones phase (that’s Chester Weber, in first place, on the left, and Jim Fairclough, in second place, next to him)


Chester Weber (USA) on his victory lap after the awards ceremony for the cones phase


After these two ribbon ceremonies was the official medal ceremony for the individual winners …


… starting with Tucker Johnson (USA) receiving his individual bronze medal from Richard Nicoll, chair of the FEI Driving Committee …


… and saluting the crowd


all three individual medal winners gathered on the top step; left to right: Aidan Connolly (representing Alltech), Tucker Johnson (bronze), Boyd Exell (gold), and Ysbrand Chardon (silver)


Pony Club members were charged with holding on to the team medals before they were presented to the winners


after being presented with their silver medals, the U.S. team salutes the crowd; left to right: Jim Fairclough, Chester Weber, and Tucker Johnson


all the team medal winners salute the cheering crowd; on the ground: various officials and representatives of Alltech, and the Dutch chef d’equipe (in the unmistakable orange), and on the podium: the bronze-medal German team on the left, the gold-medal Dutch team in the center, and the silver-medal U.S. team on the right


after the official medal ceremony was finished, the music was turned up, and it was time for the victory laps … but first: Chardon ran over to the end of the arena where these Dutch fans were gathered and threw his sunflower bouquet into their midst


for the first time around the arena on their victory laps, each team trotted past the grandstands, three turnouts abreast (here, the Americans) …


… and here, the Dutch


… and then came the final spectacle (I watched the first two teams do this and only caught photos of the Dutch): each team turned down the center line and galloped for the exit gate, galloping through it one turnout at a time …


… with the music blaring over the loudspeakers and the crowd cheering


and then the individual gold-medal winner, Boyd Exell, took his own victory lap …


… and his own dramatic gallop out of the arena

Here are the promised photos from Sunday’s cones phase of this year’s Driving World Championship. These are presented in the order in which they were driven.


Mike McLennan (driving as an individual for the USA) was the fifth driver to attempt Richard Nicoll’s cones course; he had five balls down but was the first to complete the course within the time allowed; he finished the WEG in nineteenth place overall


Josh Rector (USA), competing in his first World Championship, finished in sixteenth place overall


Gavin Robson (AUS) finished in seventeenth place


representing Poland and having driven this team for only two weeks, Piotr Mazurek was the tenth driver to tackle the cones course; he was the first one with a clear round (although he did have quite a few time penalties); he finished in fourteenth place


Chester Weber (USA) had to wait for quite a while before driving the cones course, when the electronic timing stopped working; once he was finally able to go, he posted the first double-clear round (no course or time penalties) and won the cones competition


immediately following his teammate (above), Jim Fairclough posted the second double-clear round of the day; he finished the WEG in ninth place overall


Sweden’s Fredrick Persson finished the event in eighth place overall


representing Switzerland, Daniel Wuergler finished in seventh place overall


Germany’s Christoph Sandmann finished in fourth place individually and was a member of the German team that, in a surprise finish, won the team bronze medal when …


… Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson went off course and was eliminated, thereby taking his team out of medal contention


Theo Timmerman (NED) finished in sixth place overall


even with one ball down, Tucker Johnson secured the silver medal for Team USA and won the individual bronze medal; on his way out of the arena, he stood and saluted the cheering crowd


Chardon’s three course penalties (one ball down) gave Boyd Exell a bit of a cushion but nonetheless secured the gold medal for the Dutch team


the last to go, Boyd Exell drove safely through the cones course, recording 3.52 penalties (no balls down, but time faults) … and winning the individual gold medal


Keep checking the blog each day, as I still have awards-ceremony photos yet to post … and a few other WEG photos and stories to share.

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