world championships


Friday night at the World Four-in-Hand Championship featured a three-hour spectacle in the arena, with vaulters, trick riders, Spanish horses being ridden, Friesians being driven, the World Championship dressage awards ceremony, foxhounds from a local hunt, Pony Club riders, birds of prey, and more, including a huge display of local heavy-horse breeds. Some of these wonderful draft horses were hitched to carriages and wagons; some demonstrated old and newer horse-drawn farming equipment; and some of the various breed champions — stallions, broodmares, and foals — were shown in hand. 

Here are a few video clips I shot, featuring the heavy horses:

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If the embedded videos won’t work on your computer, you can see them on the CAA’s YouTube channel.

Even though we’re now practically two weeks after the fact, I wanted to wrap up the blog coverage of the recent World Four-in-Hand Championship with the awards ceremony. It was quite a spectacle.

First, all the competitors paraded into the arena and lined up in two long rows (medal winners in the front, and everyone else behind them). Then there were two medal ceremonies: one for the individual winners (gold: Boyd Exell, silver: Chester Weber, and bronze: Ysbrand Chardon) and then a second for the medal-winning teams (gold: the Netherlands, silver: Germany, and bronze: the USA). Finally, there was a huge “carousel” of teams driving around the arena and out, followed by a couple of victory laps by the winners. Throughout the entire spectacle, the crowd applauded in unison, cheered, and waved flags.

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… where we have a bit of dressage to catch up on, from the World Four-in-Hand Championship about two weeks ago. As you may remember, I spent most of the two dressage days watching the warmup arena instead of the dressage tests themselves, and I was (and remain) fascinated by the loooong, telescoping whips that the drivers use as they warm up. 

As you can see in these photos, the huge whips are usually carried by a groom and handed forward to the  driver as needed and then handed back. As they’re trotting smartly into the arena, the driver or groom either drops the whip or hands it off to a gate steward. It’s then folded back up and collected by a team member. Because so many of the modern whips used in dressage either are too short to reach the leaders or have the lash wrapped tightly around the shaft, I suppose this is a “new” way to be able to communicate (in the warmup arena, at least) with all four horses individually.

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First, we have Boyd Exell (the individual gold medalist), who drove his dressage test on Thursday.

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Next, from Friday: three photos of Koos de Ronde (a member of the Dutch gold-medal team) and then three photos of U.S. driver Jimmy Fairclough (a member of the bronze-medal team).

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Before we get to the awards ceremony, let’s take a look at Werner Ulrich’s drive through the cones. The Swiss driver was the thirty-sixth of forty-nine competitors to tackle the cones course, and the first of only two drivers to manage a double-clear round (no balls down and no time penalties).

After the drive-off, he ended up the winner of the cones phase.

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The only other double-clear round, by the way, was driven by Hungary’s Jozsef Dobrovitz.

I apologize for the late arrival of today’s blog post. I had to drive our van back to the airport this morning, and I’m now in a different hotel, where I’ve spent the afternoon sorting through photos. The internet connection here (or, at least, the free version that I’m *attempting* to use) is remarkably slow.

I’m starting a few days of vacation (yaaay!) tomorrow, so I was hoping to breeze through a few blog posts to have them all ready to go for the next several days. But we’ll see whether this internet connection will let me do that. Fingers crossed, everyone!

Here are some views of the cones competition … first, two of the U.S. drivers and then each of the Top Nine (I meant to get photos of all the Top Ten drivers, but missed Belgium’s Gert Schrijvers, who was standing in tenth place after the dressage and marathon phases). They’re all shown in the order in which they drove.

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Joe Yoder (USA), in his first world championship, won a team bronze medal

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with just 1.29 time and no course penalties, James Fairclough helped the U.S. team win the bronze medal, and he finished the cones phase in tenth place after the drive-off

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Hungary’s Zoltan Lazar

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Koos de Ronde (NED) helped the Dutch team successfully defend their team gold medal

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Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson

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Christoph Sandmann, a member of the German silver-medal-winning team

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Theo Timmerman, also a member of the Dutch team

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Ysbrand Chardon (NED) finished with individual bronze and team gold medals

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Georg von Stein, also a member of the German team

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With a near-perfect drive on the cones course (just one ball down and no time penalties), Chester Weber secured his own individual silver medal and the U.S. team’s bronze medal.

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Boyd Exell went into the cones phase with enough of a lead that his 5.50 penalty points on the cones course couldn’t prevent him from successfully defending his individual gold medal.

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Boyd saluted the cheering crowd after he’d finished the cones course

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You can get all the results (for each phase, and for the overall individual and team championships) at hoefnet.com.

Before I left for Germany, I kept checking the extended forecast for this area. At the time, the weather people were predicting sunny weather with temperatures in the mid-70s. “Ahhhh,” I thought. How nice that was going to be after our long, hot summer at home. And then, just a day or so before my flight, the temperature predictions jumped up to the low 80s.

And so, of course, after the cold, wet summer they’ve had here, this week has been quite warm. Yesterday, unbelievably, it was nearly 90 degrees.

Perhaps because of the heat, or the sheer difficulty of getting through the crowds, there didn’t seem to be as many hordes of national fans as we often see, running between obstacles to support their drivers. But there sure were an awful lot of people everywhere. It looked like every “local” horse fan from near and far had come out to enjoy the day.

In the end, Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson won the marathon phase, Australia’s Boyd Exell (the reigning gold medalist) came in second, and Germany’s Georg von Stein finished in third. I heard that Georg drove a cracking fast marathon and would’ve won except that he had a few penalties in one of the obstacles.

Overall, Boyd is now in the lead, eleven points ahead of Chester Weber. Georg von Stein is in third place so far.

Going into today’s cones competition, the Dutch are in the gold-medal position. Germany is in second place, Sweden is in third, and the USA is in fourth.

Here are some of my favorite photos from yesterday’s marathon, in the order that the competitors drove:

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Chester Weber’s lovely leaders

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Chester Weber in obstacle 6

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Boyd Exell in obstacle 6

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Georg von Stein on his way to obstacle 4; he got a huge cheer from the German crowd as he drove past and turned the corner

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Joe Yoder (USA) at obstacle 2

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Hungary’s Zoltan Lazar at obstacle 2

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Koos de Ronde (NED) in obstacle 2

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… and Koos (see the orange dots in the distance?) making his way to obstacle 3 through the crowds, which, unbelievably, were not kept off the track here

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Germany’s Christoph Sandmann entering obstacle 7

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Jimmy Fairclough (USA) entering obstacle 7

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some of the crowd at obstacle 8 … the man with the Hungarian flag must’ve spent the day walking from obstacle to obstacle to support his fellow countrymen

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Hungary’s Jozsef Dobrovitz in obstacle 8

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Ysbrand Chardon (NED) at the end of the marathon course

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I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but (in case you missed mention of it in my Twitter feed over to the right on this page): if you’d like instant updates, tidbits, results, etc. … you can follow me on the CAA’s Twitter page as well.

We’re heading out to the marathon course early this morning, to try to get good viewing spots at whichever obstacle each of us particularly wants to see (or to start at). There will probably be tens of thousands of spectators on the course today.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve taken a look at most of the obstacles:

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obstacle 1

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obstacle 2

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obstacle 3

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obstacle 4

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In trying to find obstacle 6, I got slightly lost in the woods, but I had a lovely long walk in the cool, sweet-smelling shade.

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And then I found it, sitting quietly in the woods. I’ll be here first thing today, and I’m sure it won’t be quiet anymore, what with the huge crowd, drivers yelling encouragement and instruction to their horses, and the sound of hooves and wheels on these big wooden bridges!

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And, just because there haven’t been any horses yet in this blog post and because I think they’re gorgeous, here are a few more views of the Spanish horses of Juan Robles Marchena of Sevilla.

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