After four days of intense sport, the outcome of the driving world championship for singles was decided during cones competition.

On the menu, for the 71 drivers competing, a course designed by the Dutch Johan Jacobs, 650m long, composed of 20 doors of 1,60m wide materialized by cones surmounted by a ball not to be pushed under penalty of 3 points, the whole to be completed at a speed of 250m/min, in a time of 2’36”. Concentration, precision, speed and agility are essential!

The drivers followed one another in the opposite direction of the provisional ranking in the castle’s arena.  If the first to present themselves had a cumulative score of 244 points after the dressage and the marathon, the contenders for the title, who were the last to start, had scores of less than 130 points, hence the tension that became more and more palpable as the hours passed before the final outcome and the awarding of individual and team medals.

This event was not as selective as one might have thought since 20 of the leaders did not leave any ball on the ground, and 8 of them completed a double clear round in the time allowed. The victory on this phase goes to the French leader Jean Michel Olive to the guides of Aleja de Mesenguy, in a breathtaking time of 2’28”35. He is ahead of the Austrian Alexander Bösch /Finesse 374, who completes the course in 2’32”47, while the French Clément Deschamps, associated with Brume de Chablis, takes the 3rd place in 2’32”98. Mario Gondolfo/Favella finished 4th (2’33”07) and Claire Lefort with Darwin de Féline finished 5th in 2’33”39.

While the French clan was ready to cheer its champion and world number 1, Marion Vignaud, in the lead from beginning to end of this championship, the disappointment was bitter as much for the leader herself, as for the federal staff and the public, because three balls ended up on the ground, hence a penalty of 9 points which propels her to the end of the table for this final phase.

In the final ranking of the three tests, the individual world title goes to the reigning champion, the Dutch Saskia Siebers, with her faithful Axel, who totals 135.16 points. Marion Vignaud associated with First Quality has to be satisfied with the silver medal with a score of 136,46pts, while the bronze goes to the Canadian Kelly Houtappels Bruder, who was leading Flip (139,64pts).

In the team ranking, France, which dominated this competition, won the gold medal, thanks to Claire Lefort, Fabrice Martin and Marion Vignaud, with a final score of 267.88 points. The Dutch team, composed of Eline Houterman, Saskia Siebers and Frank Van der Doelen, won silver with a final score of 281.05 points. On the third step of the podium, Germany (Dieter Lauterbach, Marie Tischer and Anne Unzeitig) with a total of 290.98 points.

Quotes  

 

Saskia Siebers

I love cones competition, it’s my favorite playground, I love the fact that I’m both tense and having fun, it’s challenging. I did everything I could, my horse, my husband John who is everything to me and myself we are a great team. I don’t think we realize what’s coming yet. I started by being third, then second, first and this is my second world gold medal, it’s a great progression, and it’s especially incredible to do these performances with the same horse. I didn’t expect it, I was very happy to get the silver. They always say that the competition is not over until the last competitor goes through the last gate, but this time we didn’t expect it to be so. We are very happy because Axel was injured during the year, stopped for three months, and he was back only four weeks ago!  

Marion Vignaud

I don’t know why I completely missed this test, the horse was very good and very available at the warm up, we did the ideal warmup without any fault, I didn’t have the feeling of having a higher pressure than usual, especially as the course was feasible, we could see all day that there were very few balls on the ground. Once in the arena , I didn’t realize the first fault, my groom warned me of the second, and I thought I was hanging on to the lead when I crossed the finish line. I realized when I heard the disappointment of the audience.

Kelly Houtappels Bruder (CAN)

We are delighted to win the bronze medal, it was a demanding and difficult championship in many ways, but my horse was just fantastic, so responsive, including on the cones competition, where the turns were quite tight and in quick succession. In the end I am delighted, and I can  say it now, I dared to hope for a medal!

Claire Lefort

I am delighted with our cones competition, so proud of my horse for his first championship. I could have done a better marathon by avoiding a loop in the 2 fence and a ball in the n°8 which cost me 4 points. It is rectifiable, we still have room for improvement. I’m aiming for the world championships with a pony next year.   

Team Leader France – Quentin Simonet

We are first in the team competition, second in the individual competition with Marion Vignaud, everyone is in the first half of the ranking, I am very satisfied with the overall performance of the team. Obviously we can always find some points to improve, but we would have signed up for this result. You have to forgive us for the possible small frustrations, but I want to congratulate the work of all, who delivered a very good championship, as well as the organization team of the Haras du Pin, which delivered a very beautiful event. It is positive for the discipline in France.

Team Leader Netherlands – Ad Aarts

Unbelievable!  I am delighted with Saskia’s title, I didn’t think it was possible, usually Marion is very good at handling, maybe she was under pressure, especially as the course, even though the time was short, was not very difficult in itself, or even not difficult enough. 

Team Leader Germany – Rainer Bruelheide

We had a wonderful team this year, and we are delighted to get the bronze medal. We had both established and up-and-coming horses, mostly from German breeding farms. The trainers and drivers did a great job in preparation. They performed very well in all three phases and deserve their medal.

Jean Michel Olive

I am delighted because we have won almost all the maneuvers of the year, especially since I have had the mare for six months. Yesterday the end of the marathon was a bit difficult, but this test is quite short, it is her test, she had to go out on the day, it’s done, we are happy. We will work on our dressage and physical condition, we are in the Top 15, which is already good.

Clément Deschamps

Yesterday was hard, the handling is easier for us, I’m happy that the mare has recovered well. She was 100% available. I think I can improve the physical condition of the horses when we come to very technical sites like this one, but in any case it was a very formative experience. From tomorrow we will go back to work.

Jacques Tamalet

French national driving coach during twenty seven years, Jacques Tamalet  explains it, the course is very well made.  It is composed of simple obstacles, possibly with a slight slant, oxers (a succession of two gates 1.80m apart, to be approached very straight) and others 5 cm narrower than the average (1.60m). In all cases, the layout will force the drivers to slow down a lot in several places, and the time allowed is relatively short compared to the distance to be covered. The only concern is that the ground is very smooth and sometimes allows the pins to slide a few centimeters without the balls falling. The course designer could have slightly increased the difficulty.