Caen, France—Sept. 7
Often the cones phase is filled with penalties and leaderboard switches, but at today’s conclusion of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games combined driving event, the top nine finished the overall competition in the same ranking as when they ended the marathon phase. Boyd Exell took individual gold, while U.S. driver Chester Weber earned silver and Theo Timmerman bronze for the Netherlands.
But according to Exell, the cones phase was deceptively tricky. It was held on a stone dust surface, and the drivers’ carriages slid around.
“It walked quite easy, but it actually drove a little more difficult,” he said. “Everything came really quickly, and there was no relief. If you didn’t get the time in the first four cones, there was no getting it back.”
Weber won the dressage lead, but he relinquished it on yesterday’s marathon. Today he finished on 128.6 behind Exell’s 125.83. Exell also won individual gold at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.) and at the 2012 Four-In-Hand World Driving Championships (Germany).
“I honestly think I have the best cones team in the world,” Weber said of the horses owned by Jane Clark. “This was a day for me to make up some points, but there were a lot of clear rounds today. But I couldn’t ask for more. I was able to put pressure on on the last day, and that’s what sport is all about.”
He’s familiar with the silver medal spot as he also won team silver with the United States at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, individual silver at the 2012 Four-In-Hand World Driving Championships and individual silver at the 2008 Four-In-Hand World Driving Championships (the Netherlands).
“Some people call that the bridesmaid’s award, but I am really pleased with it,” Weber said. “I’m so pleased with the horses, and I wouldn’t trade them for any other group of horses here. I’ll be back in two years.”
Weber’s day included a bit of drama as well. When he exited the arena after cones, his left leader appeared to be bleeding from the mouth. After a close examination, it was determined the horse’s placing could stand. Fédération Equestre Internationale driving rules state that, “In minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding on limbs, after investigation the athlete may be authorized to continue.”
The Dutch team’s strong performance—Ijsbrand Chardon finished fourth, Koos de Ronde sixth and Timmerman won the individual bronze—easily boosted them to the top team medal on 263.19. Germany picked up silver (283.56) and Hungary bronze.
“I think that the course was a little too easy,” said de Ronde. “Normally today is more exciting. But I’m glad, since we were in the lead, that it wasn’t too hard.”
The U.S. team finished fourth, a strong showing considering it’s composed of two new horse four-in-hand drivers. Both Misdee Wrigley-Miller and Lisa Stroud are competing in their first world championship at the level. Wrigley-Miller, who finished 37th individually, had two balls down and 0.20 time penalties in her round.
“We just bumped [the cone at 19],” said Wrigley-Miller. “I had too much brake going around that corner, and my carriage slid a little bit. But what a thrill, wow! The horse were really, really good. Except for my left leader, who’s a good campaigner that I bought a month ago, they are all so young. The two leaders, this is the first time they have been in a competition together, so I think we have a really bright future together as a team.”
Stroud was slightly disappointed with her cones trip. She had three balls down and a little time to finish 28th overall.
“Cones is a hard phase for me because I have been spending so much time on the first two,” said Stroud. “It’s hard to get all three phases in such a short time. It’s difficult for me to get the rhythm for that. It’s difficult on this track because the carriage moves on the slippery stuff. Our sport is on grass. Everything about this event has been on an artificial surface, and we’re trying to adapt for that, and also maybe I’m just a little bit too novice.”
Check out all the Chronicle’s driving coverage here, and follow along with all the news from all the sports at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.