Team GBR Diary
World Combined Pony Championships

St. Martin Greven-Bockholt, Germany
by Kerry Bowness


Sunday 16 August 2009
The British may not have won any medals at this year?s World Combined Pony Driving Championships, but the Team GBR members have been very supportive to one another and learned a lot from their experiences.

Individual singles driver and Worlds first-timer Sue Mart finished best of the Brits taking seventh place overall. A marvellous result for her, especially as she only found out she was coming here three weeks ago. In the team ranking,

Sue Denney?s 4.93 penalties in cones (5th in the phase) counted towards the final score and she rose six places to 22nd individually. Sadly for Sue, yesterday?s penalties robbed her of individual silver.

Julie Camm finished 17th in the combined competition having collected 15.61 penalties this morning. Dutch driver Melanie Becker won the class with her Dutch-bred New Forest pony Ostara?s Sandor.

In pairs, James Broome, another Brit contesting his first World Championship, had two cones down to climb five places to 22nd. His marks counted towards the team total, but Anna Grayston slipped to 11th having gained 14.69 penalties. Home drivers Daniel Schneiders, Stephan Koch and Steffen Abicht took the top three places, three of the seven medals won by Germany.

Photos: Sue Mart in the cones (top) and Faith Szczuka in the cones (above)

In the fours division, won by Germany?s Tobias Bucker, Faith Szczuka, also at her first Worlds, finished 21st in cones. Her completion meant Britain had a finishing score, unlike Sweden, whose only fours driver was eliminated yesterday. Team GBR finished eighth overall, with Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium taking the top three places.

Tonight, the British team are packing as much as they can for an early getaway in the morning. Some have, however, been invited to drown their sorrows with the other nations who did not do so well. So perhaps they will be leaving nearer midday! It?s a shame that they are coming home with nothing more than they left with, but all of them tried their hardest. The event is finished and the clean up operation has already begun, so now the team can start making plans for their big comeback in 2011.

Saturday 15 August 2009
Last night, the Team GBR were full of hope for a team medal. Lying in fifth place after dressage, just 3 penalties behind the bronze positioned Dutch team, they had a good chance of being in the final shake up, as long as everything went to plan on the marathon.

Sadly, for some of the British drivers, it did not. First out was singles driver Sue Denney, with her Welsh-Arab pony Rolls Silver Spirit. She drove with typical gusto and ?Roly? charged around the obstacles finishing third fastest overall. It should have put her in sixth place overall, a single cone behind the new leader and marathon winner Arjo Van Kekem of the Netherlands. But then came a devastating blow. A miscalculation of the time it would take to get from obstacle seven to the finish beyond number eight resulted in Sue, her backstepper Simon Willis and Roly coming home over a minute early. This cost them dearly and they were penalised by 26.6 marks dropping them to 28th in the phase and overall. There?s not a lot you can say to anyone to ease that sort of disappointment, but Team Denney should be proud of the way their little grey pony tackled the tough course.

The second Brit on course, Julie Camm, and her Welsh section D Thorneyside Emperor had a trouble free round. She finished ninth, climbing four places to 12th overall and recording Britain?s singles score for the phase (81.75pen).

Individual driver Sue Mart was the most successful of the British singles drivers, and she and Steppers Viceroy were sixth, retaining their sixth place in the totalled standings. Sue, of Bennington Carriages, still has a good chance of gaining her own medal. She?s just 3.06 penalties behind Arjo going into cones.

Pony pairs dressage specialist Anna Grayston completed a smooth but steady round with Bluewillow Johnny Reb and King?s Irish Son. She finished 23rd (91.48 pen), but her strong dressage score means she is still within a cone of a medal in seventh place.

Britain?s marathon specialist in the pairs division James Broome also had a disappointing hiccup with Beechwood Bracken and Penraven Prince. In obstacle seven, a rein got hooked over a post and his backstepper Alix Hortin had to dismount, meaning additional penalties. German?s Daniel Schneiders, Stephan Koch and Steffen Abicht now hold the top three places in the class.

The four-in-hand division was won by The Netherlands Aart Van Der Kamp junior, who he now heads the class. Faith Szczuka finished 21st, with a score of 138.08pen, dropping her 10 places to 20th.

The British team has now dropped to seventh, almost 70pen behind the USA, which now holds bronze medal position. Germany leads on 396.35, with the Dutch close behind (398.53). Tonight will be a night for reflection. Some Brits are happy, and some not so. Hopefully they?ll be able to show their rivals some of what they are made of tomorrow.

Friday 14 August 2009
Today was the final day of dressage at the World Combined Pony Driving Championships in St Martin Greven-Bockholt, Germany (13-16 August) and for the British team, it?s been busy.

Last night, the team members who?d completed their dressage had a chance to let their hair down. By the end of the evening, only the Brits, Germans and a few French team members were left dancing to the ?Big Band?. Even if Britain doesn?t win anything else here, a medal for partying is a dead cert.

Our final pairs driver, James Broome, drove his test this morning. Those watching all agreed he drove a nice test, but disappointingly, he only scored 62.21 (22nd overall). Even members of rival teams commented that they thought he was marked a little harshly. However, Anna Grayston?s good score yesterday of 45.57 has left her in third overall, with her result counting towards the team tally. Germans Stephan Koch and Steffen Abicht lead the division.

Faith Szczuka, Britain?s fours driver, was also competing in the dressage phase today. She gained a score of 60.54 (10th), which means the British team currently lies in fifth with 162.3pen behind Germany 136.06; 2, Belgium 149.51, The Netherlands 159.37 and the USA 160.38.

Photos: James Broome (top) and Faith Szczuka (above) in the dressage.

Throughout the day, drivers have been walking their obstacle routes for tomorrow?s marathon and all of the grooms have been on a drive to show them the marathon route. The start of section A is quite a distance from the stables and there?s a lot of roadwork. Obstacle decoration has just been completed and the organisers have confessed that they are concerned about people helping themselves to the fruit and vegetables on the ?market obstacle? ? it does look rather tempting, though!

Tonight will be quiet for the British, with most planning to be in bed before this evening?s entertainment even starts. Tomorrow?s marathon could see a big shake up in the standings, so everybody wants to make sure all goes to plan. Personally, I?ve been trying to find the best places to take pictures from on the marathon. But it?s hard to predict where people will go, because there are so many route options in the obstacles. I?m hoping that the British have found all the best ones.

Thursday 13 August 2009
Although most of the competitors for the World Combined Pony Driving Championships (13-16 August) arrived at the venue at St Martin Greven-Bockholt on Monday evening, the atmosphere of the event really began to build last night. The ?Evening of Nations? is the first social gathering for drivers, grooms, supporters and officials and, as has become a custom at these championships, each team offered samples of its homeland's food and drink. Personally, I can recommend Luxemburg?s honey liquor, Germany?s schnapps, Belgium?s kirsch and, of course, Switzerland?s chocolate.

Some of the nations chose to show off their prowess on stage, too. It would seem that the Danes, Germans and French are extremely talented in the art of striptease! The evening was a resounding success and the hosts were very welcoming to everyone. The British camp has, however, been infiltrated by an inflatable kangaroo, which was kidnapped from Australian Jessica Meredith?s table by Anna Grayston?s Ozzie groom Hannah Harris, or Bruce as she is better known. ?Skippy? is currently hugging a Union flag on top of Anna?s lorry.

Dressage judging began this morning at 8.30am, with the first British single pony driver Julie Camm performing her test at 9.00am. She scored 57.47 (16th after the phase). Individual Sue Mart followed 10 minutes later gaining 51.19 (sixth) while the remaining Brit, Sue Denney, was judged almost 3.5hr afterwards. She recorded the first British team score of 56.19 (15th overall). Germany?s Franz-Josef Lhmekuhl leads on 44.8, ahead of reigning World champion Peter Koux of Denmark (46.46).

Only one of the British pairs drivers, Anna Grayston, has competed today and drove a beautiful test finishing on 45.57. She is currently second to Germany?s Steffen Abicht, whose score was 44.42. James Broome will drive his pair in the morning and Faith Szczuka is drawn near the end of tomorrow?s fours class.

With only two of the British team competing tomorrow, chef and assistant chef d'Equipe Jill Holah and Sara Howe will have a slightly less stressful day. Meanwhile, drivers and grooms will be finalising their routes through the marathon obstacles.

It?s the official opening ceremony this evening and all the teams will be parading on carriages supplied by the host nation, followed by another party. Let?s hope the German?s bring along a few more bottles of that schnapps!

Wednesday 12 August 2009
Today began with preparations for the trot up at the World Combined Pony Driving Championships in St Martin Greven-Bockholt, Germany. With ponies cleaned and plaited, and drivers and grooms dressed in their official kit, Team GBR assembled with other nations in the holding area. The field was filled with hundreds of ponies from the competing countries, all being walked in mass circles. It kind of resembled the large classes they have in the main arena of the Royal Welsh Show.

Team GBR - Anna Grayston (pairs), James Broome (pairs), Sue Denney (singles), Julie Camm (singles), Faith Szczuka (fours) and individual driver Sue Mart (singles) - were called to the trot up holding area and all of the ponies behaved impeccably as a Danish stallion in the next field escaped its handler. The ponies remained calm again as the Hungarian team joined them in the trot up waiting field and decided to show off their aerial acrobatics.

The Brits were called forward and all of the animals passed with ease. Afterwards, drivers, ponies, grooms and supporters gathered for a team photograph before the obstacles opened for walking.

Sue Denney in the trot-up

Team GBR in Greven after the trot-up. Click the picture for a larger view.

The obstacles here are big, with an energy sapping water complex - the first of two - as number three, followed by a mound at five, in which the gates all involve uphill pulls and steep downhill turns. There are plenty of options and course designer Wolfgang Assendorf has strategically placed a few gates to catch out those who don?t know their routes thoroughly.

Chef d'Equipe Jill Holah will be attending the draw this evening, to find out where our drivers will go in dressage. Tomorrow all of the singles will be completing their tests, but pairs drivers James and Anna will have to wait until later to find out if they?ll be on tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning. Faith will compete on Friday.

Tonight is the ?Evening of Nations?, so while the drivers trained with Wilf Bowman-Ripley this afternoon, supporters spent their time cutting up cheese, fruit and salmon, and decorating the British table in the marquee. The plan is to get the opposition so drunk on Pimms and Scotch that they will be too hung over to drive their dressage tests ? but don?t tell anyone !

Tuesday 11 August 2009

The British competitors all arrived safely last night at St Martin Greven-Bockholt, Germany, for the fourth World Combined Pony Championships (13-16 August) and ponies settled in to their homes for the next week.

The five team members - Anna Grayston (pairs), James Broome (pairs), Sue Denney (singles), Julie Camm (singles) and Faith Szczuka (fours) - and individual driver Sue Mart (singles) spent the afternoon having dressage training sessions with team coach Wilf Bowman-Ripley. Vet Holly Applewhite and equine physiotherapist put the team members through a mock trot up in the early evening, while Jill Holah attended the first chefs d'Equipe meeting.

What the trot up proved was that the British ponies are certainly much fitter than their drivers! While the two Sues and Julie had it fairly easy with one pony each, James and Anna had to run their three ponies while Faith really got the short straw with five. She had started to look a little tired by the time she finished with her fourth, prompting team mate James to suggest that ?she may have to ride the last one !?

Jill has just been given the times for tomorrow?s official trot ups with the Brits on at 9.30 am (8.30 am British time). Tonight, the cleaning of show vehicles continues?

Right - James Broome in the mock trot-up
Below: Anna Grayston exercising

Visit the Pony Championships Team GBR page
Who's in the team ? Read the press release.