Thursday, May. 23, 2024

WEG Driving Begins With Intense Battle Between Weber And Chardon

Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 7

Half of the world’s best four-in-hand drivers strutted their stuff in the dressage stadium today at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and two drivers added some real excitement to the elegance.

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Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 7

Half of the world’s best four-in-hand drivers strutted their stuff in the dressage stadium today at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and two drivers added some real excitement to the elegance.

Chester Weber, of the United States, and Ijsbrand Chardon, of the Netherlands, scored identical marks of 77.50 percent to head into the marathon on Saturday, Oct. 9, in a dead heat. Chardon’s fellow countryman Theo Timmerman lies third on a mark of 74.90, with German Christoph Sandemann on his heels at 74.60.

That leaves the Netherlands in the lead in the team competition over the United States, and Germany in third.
The other U.S. team member to drive today, James Fairclough, put his team through their paces to lay sixth, and Casey Zubek and William Long, driving for the United States as individuals, are eighth and tied for 10th respectively.

Weber got off to an auspicious start at the WEG, winning the driving presentation over teammates Fairclough and Tucker Johnson yesterday. Legions of driving fans, old and new, packed into the driving arena to watch his team of warmbloods work beautifully throughout the dressage test this afternoon, which was marred only by a bobble by one of his wheel horses during the reinback.

“I was quite pleased with my horses’ performance today, and I felt that their movement was fantastic—they really wake up in a stadium like that,” said Weber, of Ocala, Fla. “I was a bit disappointed in the back, which probably cost me necessary points to be in the lead. But I have big hopes for tomorrow. I’ve been watching my teammate Tucker Johnson training, and without a doubt his test is better than mine.”

Listen to an interview with Weber.

Four-time four-in-hand champion Chardon last won at the WEG in 2002 in Jerez, Spain, and he didn’t ship his team across the Atlantic for silver.

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“The horses were very good today, about the same as Chester’s,” he joked. “I had a little mistake in the walk, but that’s the game. Tomorrow will be great—we have Boyd Exell [yet to compete], and anything can happen.”

For once, Weber will have a home court advantage on marathon day, as the European drivers have to compete against him over a course he’s driven, in his words, “three or four times” in the last few years.

While Weber and Chardon agreed when Timmerman dubbed the course a bit shy of world championship level, they also said it will test their teams’ power across the hills of the Kentucky Horse Park.

Tomorrow’s big names taking to the dressage arena include Australian heavy-hitter Exell (who beat Chardon by a fraction of a point recently at Lähden, Germany), Dutch contender Koos de Ronde and Johnson, who spent the summer competing in Europe.

Individual and team standings are available at the official Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games site.

The Chronicle has all the news from the WEG in Kentucky. Catch up on the driving contenders, read about the first ever para dressage championships at a WEG, read about the surprises in show jumping and all about last week’s sports.

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