World Ponies '09


To wrap up our coverage of last week’s FEI World Pony Driving Championships, let’s time-travel back to Sunday’s awards and medals ceremonies and watch the celebrations.

First were the awards ceremonies for the overall ribbon winners in each division. Each of these award ceremonies followed each division’s cones competition. This led to some confusion about the nature and the number of award ceremonies, but for the medal winners, it allowed for multiple celebrations. 

Melanie Becker, the 17-year-old Dutch driver competing as an individual, was ecstatic with her overall first-place finish in the single-pony division; the Dutch fans were rightly proud of her as well

Melanie Becker, the 17-year-old Dutch driver competing in the championships as an individual, was ecstatic with her overall first-place finish in the single-pony division; the Dutch fans were rightly proud of her as well

after finishing his cones course, Germany's Daniel Schneiders (competing in the championships as an individual) knew he had won the gold medal in the pairs division; after the ribbon ceremony, he participated in a radio interview and then was greeted by a number of fans who wanted to shake his hand and by a pack of giggling teenage girls (photo by A.J.)

after finishing his cones course, Germany’s Daniel Schneiders (competing in the championships as an individual) knew he had won the gold medal in the pairs division; after the ribbon ceremony, he participated in a radio interview and then was greeted by a number of fans who wanted to shake his hand and by a pack of giggling teenage girls

Germany's Steffan Brauchle finished in second place (winning the silver medal) in the four-in-hand division; both he and the gold-medal winner (Germany's Tobias Buecker) were enormously popular with the home crowd; Brauchle himself appeared to revel in the attention

Germany’s Steffan Brauchle finished in second place in the four-in-hand division; both he and the gold-medal winner (Germany’s Tobias Buecker) were enormously popular with the home crowd and Brauchle appeared to revel in the attention

After the cones competitions and all of their various awards ceremonies were over, the preparations for the medal ceremonies began. While the crowd waited along the long side of the arena, facing the medal podium, we photographers were herded between the side of the arena and small plastic barriers erected to keep the old cars and the ponies and carriages from running us over. And then the procession began. First came the party bus, with the red-sequined band from the competitors party on top, playing big band music, which blared from speakers on the bus.

the double-decker party bus

the double-decker party bus

And then came the officials and the teams’ chefs d’equipe, coaches, vets, etc. in a parade of old cars. At least one person in every car was carrying a flag, of course.

old cars 1

four of the antique cars in the medal-ceremony parade

a few more of the antique cars

a few more of the antique cars

The cars then all lined up on either side of the podium, facing the crowd, and in came the ponies and carriages of the drivers who had won both individual and team medals. The rest of each nation’s contingent came in on foot and gathered around their drivers or their cars.

The medal ceremonies for the individual winners were held first.

Suzy Stafford has wears her individual bronze medal and watches as Melanie Becker receives her gold medal

Suzy Stafford had received her individual bronze medal and watched as Melanie Becker receives her gold medal

the German fans were shouting and singing in anticipation of the medal ceremony for the pairs division, which was swept by German drivers; those same fans were ecstatic with the enormous flag the organizers produced for their gold-medal winner

the German fans were shouting and singing in anticipation of the medal ceremony for the pairs division, which was swept by German drivers; those same fans were ecstatic with the enormous flag the organizers produced for their gold-medal winner

the Germany gold-medal winner in the four-in-hand division, Tobias Buecker

Germany’s gold-medal winner (four-in-hands), Tobias Buecker

 And then, as you might imagine, the crowd was pleased with the awarding of the team medals:

the German team members (and the fans) all sang along to the German national anthem as the huge flag was raised over the podium

the German team members (and the fans) all sang along to the German national anthem as the huge flag was raised over the podium

"hats off!"

“hats off!”

more of the German team members, grooms, families, etc. ... standing next to the podium and watching the proceedings

more of the German team members, grooms, families, etc. … standing next to the podium and watching the proceedings (the judges are the ones in the front with hats on)

And then, finally, was yet one more lap of honor and a final parade of cars. And then it was time for all of us to say goodbye.Suzy Stafford on the lap of honor for all the medalists

leaving the 2009 FEI World Pony Driving Championships ...

Here (finally!) are video clips of each of the U.S. drivers in one of the eight marathon obstacles at the World Pony Driving Championships. Several of these were shot at the same obstacle (number 2), so you can see the different paths that each driver chose). In the background, you can hear the cheers, applause, and whistles of spectators at the obstacle being filmed and at other nearby obstacles; the announcer; and even a few snippets of the eighties-era music that blared from the loudspeakers all day. Enjoy!

If you scroll down to the Aug. 14 post (“dressage awards parades — in motion”), I’ve added the video clips of the pair and four-in-hand laps of honor after the dressage awards presentations.

After this current post, we’ll have at least one more post featuring the final (overall) awards and medal ceremonies, so keep checking in with us each day!

[Guest post by Jennifer’s husband, A.J., written on Tuesday, Aug. 17.]

A.J. here. We’re on the flight back from Amsterdam, having taken the train yesterday from Münster. Jennifer will be posting additional blog entries and photos from the competition and the CAA’s trip to the 2009 World Pony Championships throughout the week, so tune in later for those. But how could I pass up the opportunity to share with you my German “driving” experiences with the infamous “Green Machine”? (Remembering the primary audience for this blog – we’re talking automobile – I myself am not a carriage driver – I have taken a class in it; but for the most part – I’m “carriage by marriage.”)

With only a smallish CAA group attending the World Pony Championships, Jill and Jennifer had asked if I would mind “driving” the group. It would give us more flexibility and at a smaller cost; besides, for me, it would be my first opportunity to drive outside the United States or Canada. After agreeing, I was then told what I would be driving …

The picture below is not what I was driving. Mine was far less sporty … no, this was the red Ferrari being test-driven at Vischering Castle, which Jennifer and I visited before we picked up the CAA group at the Münster Hauptbahnhof (main train station). Not enough seats for the whole group … I guess I could have traded up and simply made plenty of (fast … very fast) trips back and forth between the hotel and the competition site – though luggage space would have been a problem.…

the fabulous-looking Ferrari that A.J. wanted to trade for the mini-bus; the hood in back is open as potential test-drivers admire the engine

the fabulous-looking Ferrari that A.J. wanted to trade for the mini-bus; the hood in back is open as potential test-drivers admire the engine

And the picture below is also not what I was driving. Mine was far less classic … no, this classic Ford roadster was at the competition site. This was reminiscent of the various classic cars used by the teams in the medal ceremony. Jennifer’s certain to show you some photos of those later in the week. But as for this Ford, no luggage room either – more seats though less speed than the Ferrari … but far more stylish than the “Green Machine.”….

a beautiful old Ford roadster, standing with all the other, "regular" cars in the championship's parking lot

a beautiful old Ford roadster, standing with all the other, “regular” cars in the championship’s parking lot

No … after all that build up of raw European sports-car power and classic American car style, THIS … is what I was driving … my Mercedes mini-bus. Diesel, six-speed manual transmission, with a sliding passenger door. Seats for nine. Sporty – no. Stylish – no. Utilitarian – most definitely.

this is the mini-bus affectionately dubbed the "Green Machine" (photo by A.J.)

this is the mini-bus affectionately dubbed the “Green Machine”

Now, I don’t want to be disrespectful to the “Green Machine.” Like a good hound dog, it was dependable and loyal. It got us … all of us … everywhere we wanted to go. After a half day of bonding, it and I became one … without hesitation, we were successfully navigating the tight streets of downtown Münster and the glorious country lanes of Westphalian horse-country. We conquered narrow parking garages and numerous traffic circles like we were coasting penalty-free through a cones course. Together, in Münster rush-hour traffic, we courageously rescued the incoming CAA crew from the Münster train station to whisk them away to the safety of Saerbeck. (Bear with me, it’s hard to be surrounded by such historic churches and castles and not envision a more chivalrous time than our own.)

German traffic signs and driving rules took a little getting used to, but not much.  The speed limit signs were easily understood and, quite simply, made sense.  I also liked the way the stop lights worked.. Sitting at the red light, you wait until the light goes both red and yellow.  This lets you know that “green is coming.”  And with traffic circles, you simply yield to the cars in the circle … and always yield to pedestrians (and bicycles, especially in Münster and the surrounding environs … they are EVERYWHERE).

The “Green Machine” and I also knew our limits. We did not venture onto the famous Autobahn. I’d seen the speeds at which even the “smartest” of cars drove on the Autobahn. I had no doubt that once the “Machine” got up to speed, it would have no problem at least keeping pace in the right-hand lane; however, I also knew that you could clock us going 0 to 60 with a sundial. You see, it was the “getting up to speed” – first and second gear – that caused me pause. And so, we wrote a haiku by which to remember the experience:

Six gears and nine seats.
Do I dare try the Autobahn?
The hamsters say no.

And yes, I did pass a couple of vehicles … plenty of bicycles (this is Germany’s bicycle capital … it was inevitable); a couple of service vehicles and fellow mini-buses; and mopeds were no match for the power of the “Machine.”

But what looked to be our greatest triumph quickly became our worst defeat. On Friday of the competition, two of us had to sprint back to the hotel for a change of clothes for the dressage awards ceremony. Time was short and we were (relatively speaking) booking it. On the return trip, we were at a stop light – first in line on the left. To my right, a service vehicle. Behind it, another mini-bus. Red light turned to red and yellow. Clutch in. First gear. Red and yellow to green. Clutch out, gas down. Away we sped, easily besting both the service vehicle and the mini-bus. It was time to finish off the two. Looking back to make sure I was clear, I started to edge over.

Then I saw her in my rear view mirror. She was silver. She was fast – very fast. New Porsche 911. No sooner had I spotted her, than with a VROOOMMMHHHH, she smoked past me in flash. And before I knew it, she was gone. I was going about 100 km/hr at the time. I can only guess she was easily going about 160 km/hr. Even now, I don’t know what was more impressive – the sight of something moving that fast or the sound it made when it smoked past.

Sunday: another glorious sunny day, full of exciting 3-minute (or so) drives through Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf’s cones course. There were zig-zags, a sunken-road-type thing, a box, some really tight turns, and quite a few long galloping runs.

Standing in second place and going next to last in the single-pony cones competition, Suzy Stafford couldn’t afford to make a mistake. She was behind the leader by only .69 of a point, and the seventeen-year-old (!!) Dutch driver standing in third place, Melanie Becker, was only .99 of a point behind Suzy. Unfortunately, Suzy had two balls down and time faults, dropping her down to fourth place. But then Arjo van Kekem (NED) had a shocking four balls down (he was clear on the time though, which didn’t happen very often throughout the day). And with that, Melanie won the gold (and the Dutch fans went wild!) and Suzy was bumped back up to the bronze-medal spot. Germany’s Franz-Josef Lehmkuhl won the silver medal.

Suzy Stafford and Courage to Lead on the cones course, on their way to a bronze medal

Suzy Stafford and Courage to Lead on the cones course, on their way to a bronze medal

the young Dutch driver Melanie Becker won the gold medal

the young Dutch driver Melanie Becker won the gold medal

Sara Schmitt, who had been eliminated from the overall competition after missing a gate on the marathon, had 21.88 penalties in the cones competition. Sherri Dolan’s pony unfortunately came up lame, and she didn’t compete in the cones.

The cones competition didn’t alter the standings at the very top of the leader board in the pair division. Tracey Morgan, however, did move up to fifth place overall from ninth. In this division, all three medal winners were German drivers. Gold: Daniel Schneiders, silver: Stephan Koch, and bronze: Steffen Abicht. Randy Cadwell (the defending pair pony champion) and Katie Whaley both moved up a few spots as well, to nineteenth and twentieth, respectively.

Randy Cadwell finished nineteenth overall

Randy Cadwell’s hat blew off during a fast gallop down the cones course

Katie Whaley was pleased with her twentieth-place finish, as the ponies she drove are still quite new to the sport

Katie Whaley was pleased with her twentieth-place finish, as the ponies she drove are still quite new to the sport

Germany's Daniel Schneiders won the gold medal

Germany’s Daniel Schneiders won the gold medal

Judging by the crowd’s reaction, the two young German four-in-hand drivers who won gold (Tobias Bücker) and silver (Steffen Brauchle) are VERY popular here. During the cones course, after their rounds, and during the awards and medal ceremonies, both were met with cheers, song, huge applause, little children yelling their names, and giggling teenage girls. Belgium’s Tinne Bax won the bronze medal. Laurie Astegiano finished in eleventh place, and Lisa Stroud finished in sixteenth place.

Laurie Astegiano, who lives in France but drives for the U.S., finished in eleventh place

Laurie Astegiano, who lives in France but drives for the U.S., finished in eleventh place

Lisa Stroud finished in sixteenth place overall

Lisa Stroud finished in sixteenth place overall

Host-nation favorite Tobias Buecker won the gold medal

host-nation favorite Tobias Buecker won the gold medal

In the team competition, Germany won the gold medal, the Netherlands won the silver, Belgium won the bronze, and the USA finished in fourth place.

Stay tuned for our report on the multiple and extensive ribbon and medal ceremonies. There was a lot of celebrating on Sunday!

Marathon Saturday was a glorious day of sunshine, blue skies, and cool breezes. Strangely, despite all the rain we had a few days ago, it was also really dusty. The marathon went off beautifully, with only two accidents that I know of … both involving Belgian drivers. Despite the hold caused by one of the turnovers while the navigator was taken to the hospital, we’ve heard that everyone is fine. [edited to add that, on Sunday, an announcement was made that the Belgian groom was doing better but was still in the hospital for observation and that she would be taken home to Belgium on Monday]

Ponies were flying all day. The report is, in fact, that Britain’s Susan Denney flew so fast through the hazards (which she certainly did) that she also flew through the rest of the course and ended up with a bunch of time penalties for being too early. Ooops!

As is usual on marathon day at a world championship, the venue was filled with packs, often verging on hordes, of national fans, dressed in their country’s or driver’s colors, sporting funny hats, and carrying all sorts of flags, noise makers, and the like. At this particular venue, the obstacles were so close together (as far as the spectators were concerned) that two were in one area and then six were just down the road with a hill in the middle and the six grouped around … allowing for the fans to walk between obstacles to follow their drivers rather than station themselves at one obstacle or run between them.

In the single pony division, Arjo van Kekam (NED) is in the lead after the marathon, with Suzy Stafford (Go Team USA!!!) currently in second place, and Melanie Becker (NED) currently in third. Suzy, then, will go next-to-last in this morning’s cones competition. Sherri Dolan is currently in 22nd place, and Sara Schmitt was unfortunately eliminated for missing a gate in one of the obstacles (number 2, I think).

Suzy Stafford in obstacle number 4 (photo by A.J.)

Suzy Stafford in obstacle number 4

Sherri Dolan and her very enthusiastic navigator, Claudia, in a marathon obstacle (photo by A.J.)

Sherri Dolan and her enthusiastic navigator, Claudia, in an obstacle

Sara Schmitt in the final obstacle, one of two with water

Sara Schmitt in the final obstacle, one of two with water

In the pairs, Daniel Schneiders (GER) is in the lead, Stephan Koch (GER) is in second, and Steffen Abicht (GER) is in third. Tracey Morgan is now in ninth place overall, Randy Cadwell (who finished seventh in the marathon) is now in 24th place overall, and Katie Whaley is in 25th place overall.

Tracey Morgan in obstacle number four

Tracey Morgan in obstacle number 4

Randy Cadwell in the "hill" obstacle

Randy Cadwell in the “hill” obstacle

Katie Whaley splashing through the final water obstacle

Katie Whaley splashing through the final water obstacle

In the four-in-hand division, Germany’s Tobias Buecker is in the lead, Steffen Brauchle (GER) is in second, and Jan de Boer (NED) is in third. Laurie Astegiano has moved up one spot and is now in eighth place overall. Lisa Stroud is in seventeenth place at the moment.

Laurie Astegiano navigating through "the ruins" (obstacle number 4)

Laurie Astegiano navigating through “the ruins” (obstacle number 4)

Lisa Stroud galloping into an obstacle (photo by A.J.)

Lisa Stroud galloping into an obstacle

We’ll see what happens in today’s cones competition … but, first, enjoy some of the sights and faces of yesterday’s marathon:

Austrian fans decked out in red and white (photo by A.J.)

Austrian fans decked out in red and white

a couple of goofy Dutch hats ... bright orange, of course (photo by A.J.)

a couple of goofy Dutch hats … bright orange, of course

a German fan getting into the spirit of the day

a German fan getting into the spirit of the day

some French fans carried this flag around all day (photo by A.J.)

some French fans carried this flag around all day

this many, and more, Dutch fans followed each of their drivers from obstacle to obstacle and offered their support all day (photo by A.J.)

this many, and more, Dutch fans followed each of their drivers from obstacle to obstacle and offered their support all day

a Hungarian driver and his navigator urging their pair of ponies on (photo by A.J.)

a Hungarian driver and his navigator urging their pair of ponies on

Dressage is finished here at the 2009 World Pony Driving Championships. The rest of the pairs and all of the four-in-hand teams went yesterday (Friday).

Tracey Morgan finished the dressage phase in sixth place (53.50). Katie Whaley, who’s competing as an individual, finished tied with two other drivers for eleventh place (57.34). Unfortunately, Randy Cadwell didn’t have a very good dressage test, and she finished next to last, in thirty-third place, with a score of 71.68.

Katie Whaley

Katie Whaley

Randy Cadwell

Randy Cadwell

The leaders in the pairs division after dressage: Stephan Koch of Germany currently stands in first place, with a score of 40.83; Steffen Abicht of Germany (44.42) is in second; and Anna Grayston of Great Britain is in third.

The four-in-hand division is the smallest, with only twenty entries. The leader here after dressage, Tobias Bücker of Germany, scored 42.75 for a dressage test that everyone was talking about long after he’d finished, it was that nicely done. Currently standing in second place is Tinne Bax of Belgium (44.67), and currently in third is Steffen Brauchle of, guess where, Germany (50.30).

Our two U.S. drivers are in the middle of the pack. Laurie Astegiano (an American driver who lives in France) is in ninth place with a score of 58.37. As the sad note in an otherwise nice test, Lisa Stroud went off course and accrued five extra penalty points, putting her at 65.54 (sixteenth place) for the day.

Laurie Astegiano

Laurie Astegiano

Lisa Stroud

Lisa Stroud

In the team competition, eight teams are competing for top honors. There are eighteen nations represented here, but only eight of those have sent enough drivers to field a full team, which consists of two drivers in each division. The U.S. team members are Sara Schmitt and Suzy Stafford (singles), Rand Cadwell and Tracey Morgan (pairs), and Laurie Astegiano and Lisa Stroud (four-in-hand). The other U.S. drivers are all competing as individuals and are, of course, eligible for individual prizes but not the team medals. At any rate, the U.S. currently stands in fourth place in the team standings after dressage. We’re a mere 1.01 behind the Dutch. Ahead of them by about ten points are the Belgians and, unfortunately for everybody else, the Germans are in first place by about thirteen points.

Suzy Stafford (in fourth place, our best U.S. finisher in the dressage phase) and Chef d'Equipe Chester Weber share a laugh during the dressage awards ceremony (photo by A.J.)

Suzy Stafford (in fourth place, our best U.S. finisher in dressage) and Chef d’Equipe Chester Weber share a laugh during the dressage awards ceremony

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous but it’s getting quite warm in the sun. Fingers crossed that it’s not too hot today on the marathon course!

So that you, too, can enjoy the excitement, the flags, and the cheers, applause, whistles, barking dogs, and swing music from this evening’s dressage awards presentation, here are the laps of honor for the various divisions (first, the singles, then the pairs, and then the four-in-hand teams). Enjoy!

 

 

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