British Horse Driving Trials Association
European Four-in-Hand Championships 2011
1-4 September 2011
Chef d'Equipe: Simon Heath
|Team GBR travel blog||
by team Chef d'Equipe
Team clothing supplied by
Equestrian supplies from
|Monday 5 September|
Everyone is safely home. Wow, ... and I now know the results after checking the results on the BHDTA website when I got home. I am overtired and awake before the alarm, which is frustrating but there is a busy week ahead and a lot to think over so the brain (what's left of it) is restless. So 6th overall, well done Team GB. Just ahead of Belgium with 4th and 5th in sight.
Summing up then as Chef, I am pleased with the result. I always felt that a sound result was important and I believe the team has delivered that. We had our problems through the four days but these are experienced competitors and they dealt with them. Realistically we were not competing for medals but I didn't want to be last.
The pace and pressure of such competitions should always be understood. The drivers need a good team around them and that includes the Chef. Saturday produced a tough day. Extreme heat, deep sand, tight times and a couple of other issues all combined to making it demanding on everyone, especially the horses. Our fitness was there but it emphasises again how important the preparation is.
And leading on from that, some countries are already preparing for the World Championships next year. The sheer logistics, expense, manpower and skill involved at Horse Team level has always intrigued me, what a sport it is, and we should be proud of our drivers and their achievement this weekend.
Please indulge me as I must thank the following. Vic Kusin for bringing you my blog so wonderfully, Sarah Meredith for her inspiration and enthusing me to try and follow her, the Council for their support, Mary Bassett and Malcolm Ladell for their invaluable help on Saturday, Rick Velstra and Eyk Backer, our Dutch friends, all the team members for their help and assistance, Cindy Timmer who was just so supportive, Jill Holah and Derrick Mayes for their invaluable advice and support and finally my drivers for their support while I was most definitely learning this role.
The FEI General Regulations Article 120 (page 25) describes the official duties of a Chef D'Equipe, but like most things the reality is quite different. What have I learnt:
I was pleased with pretty much everything until Saturday post marathon, when I later decided I had ''fallen behind the drag curve'' as we say in aviation. I was dealing with a couple of issues that are not for the blog and trying to manage expectations is demanding. There is a Golden Hour post the posting of the official results and a Chef's meeting after that so the workload at that point was high. Everyone is very busy just then with welfare of the horses important and general post marathon tension relief - you know what it's like.
So I seemed to be short of information and was unable to answer questions from drivers. It's not an excuse but my pigeon hole was very empty compared to the information available the next morning. So that's when I ran out of time and when I needed an assistant. It wasn't until Sunday lunchtime that everything was resolved but communications are two way and a Chef needs to know in good time exactly what a driver requires - especially when he or she hasn't done it before. My apologies.
At times it can be understandably difficult to get drivers, let alone everyone else, together at the appointed time, so please drivers (and I am talking generally) send a deputy if you can't make it. I would definitely call the drivers together post marathon (or their deputy!) in future because if horseboxes are spread about one can waste too much time trying to find them, (the drivers, in the 'good ole days' they were at the bar) just when you need to be in a couple of other places. This whole process has taken just three weeks or so for me so it has been a jump in half way down the pool. So scary, no. Challenging, yes. Rewarding, definitely, do it again? One must have the support and consensus of your drivers, and a vet and trainer might be nice at a championships, and blogging and Chefing is a tall order, so if asked .........
Lastly (thank heavens you cry) we look forward to the National Championships and supporting our fantastic Pony Team at Lipica. Good luck to you all, and good luck GB.
|Sunday 4 September|
It is 8 o'clock and I am sitting in Calais on the Sea France ferry with all of Pippa's crew and Andrew and Kim from Robert's. We have all made good time from Breda in just over three hours and have all enjoyed a good meal .
You will know more about the results than I do at the moment, as we left straight after Georgina's cones and she continued driving expertly to go clear with six time faults or so. She was pleased with that and I still don't know where the team ended up. Someone please leave a message!
Pippa, Robert and Dan all had a couple of cones down and a few time faults. The time of 190 was tight but I think there were a couple of double clears including the World and now European Champion.
The ferry is sailing. More and finally tomorrow.
Final placings for team GBR (out of a total of 37 competitors):
Georgina Hunt - 15th
Team GBR - 6th (out of 9 countries)
Boyd Exell wins individual competition
Boyd Exell drove a double-clear in the cones, while IJsbrand Chardon had one knock-down, which dropped him down to second place. In third place was Hungarian driver Jozsef Dobrovitz. Because Exell is not a European national, the Championship title goes to Chardon. The Dutch team won the Gold Medal in the team competition, with Hungary getting silver and Germany bronze.
Wilf Bowman Ripley finishes in second place
In the International Pony Fours competition (CAIP-A 4), Wilf Bowman-Ripley had completed the cones course with no time penalties and only one knock down, incurring just 3 penalties in total. Second placed Steffen Brauchle from Germany had two knockdowns, which dropped him down below Wilf to third place. The class leader Aart van de Kamp Jr drove a double clear, which meant that he retained his lead position, with Wilf finishing in second place.
Wilf will be one of the competitors on Team GBR representing Britain at the forthcoming World Combined Pony Championships in Lipica, Slovenia on 21-25 September.
|Saturday 3 September|
My thanks to Robert Wilkinson for the cycle ride into Breda with Mel, Kim, (wasn't that a group?) Andrew and myself and a very very enjoyable meal in Breda centre. A very balmy night after a very hot and humid day.
Marathon then ...
Dan was away first and drove in an attacking role. With Rick Velstra and Timmy on the back, some local knowledge was guaranteed and they were not the only Dutchmen helping the British cause today. Dan overshot a couple of gates but finished on a score of 118.21, which left him in 24th place on the marathon, but only 65 seconds or so away from the top ten. This included a few time penalties after ending up behind a pony team on section E, but we had no evidence and conceded the points. What price helmet cams - it will be common place very soon I feel.
Dan reported heavy going. It was close to 30 degrees today on the showground, higher than the temperatures predicted. Pippa went second. I watched them through obstacles 2, 4 and 5 and was dismayed to see her young leader shy and take the team through an F gate after just driving A. The ground was too soft to attempt a back-up, so there it was - 20 penalties. Pippa corrected and went on to do her best but such an event is always disappointing.
Next was Robert who drove consistently and with skill, ending up with 120.89 in 27th place. I made sure I was at the end of section E in case of issues and noticed that horses were coming in tired. Daniel had indeed warned of the heat and, as usual, the depth of sand always present at Breda. These two combined meant one horse collapsed later (Spanish Team) and tonight one of Faith's ponies on a precautionary drip. It was hard on horses today, but in competition at this level drivers will be competitive. Maybe a relaxation of the time in E may have helped but as usual hindsight is a wonderful thing. These are personal opinions folks - not official ones of any kind.
At the end of section E there was a 15 minute cooling off period in the carriage walking around before vetting. Some were referred back in-hand after another 15 minutes for high temperatures. That then demonstrates the challenges of one of those very hot days that we occasionally face.
Last to go then was Georgina who was aware of her team mates performances and went on to drive beautifully calmly, putting in some comfortable times to finish in 16th out of 37 in the marathon. In other words she was just over 11 points shy of Chardon, some 70 seconds overall behind, but a couple of her obstacles were slower while others were completely in touch with some of the fastest times produced by the leaders Boyd and Chardon. I suggested that it would be good to have two scores count and Georgina delivered that while not overstretching herself or her horses, so I was grateful. A scary moment with her green card gave a Section D start time 1 minute 34 seconds before the finish time of Section A. Quite impossible, but once again we had the assistance of Georgina's backstepper, Eyk Backer, a Dutchman who was helping Karen and Pippa 30 years ago.
The obstacles were long and technical, reportedly more so even than those at Aachen. Some of the routes driven would have been in excess of 250 metres, placing more demand on the section E time. I saw a few teams actually galloping on the course - a very rare sight.
So where are we ? Overall we are playing in the Continental back yard, they don't play in ours much and the sport at this level has changed. We have everyone safe, four finishers, some good experiences and useful learning. The GB team are in 7th place still, with 6th place Belgium some four cones ahead. And we are here and adding to the competition. Next year we have a World Championships and we need to be thinking about that now.
Thanks are due to Harry Luff, Mary Bassett and Malcolm for attending the halt and watching the obstacles I couldn't. I brought radios from work and they made a big difference. Congratulations to Wilf who we will all be supporting very soon and fingers crossed he can finish well tomorrow. Our Aussie friend is also doing quite well, we wish him well too.
Tomorrow is cones and I have to check out in the morning. With sadly no requirement expected to attend prize giving, I expect we shall be on the road as soon as possible so whether I get the chance to blog I don't know. Keep an eye on the results and if not I will wrap up on Monday.
Thanks again for the messages and encouragement and support.
Placings after Dressage and Marathon:
Georgina Hunt -
Team GBR - 7th
British driver Wilf Bowman-Ripley, who is competing at Breda in the International Pony Fours class, has finished in second place in the marathon. With a 5th placing in the dressage yesterday, this puts him in a very strong position at the top of the class, where he is lying third with only five penalty points behind the leader, Aart van de Kamp Jr. from the Netherlands.
Boyd Exell is in overall lead in the European Championship. Having won the dressage ahead of Dutch driver IJsbrand Chardon by just one penalty point, his lead has narrowed to only one-tenth of a penalty after the marathon phase. A second Dutch driver, Koos de Ronde is in third place, giving the Netherlands a comfortable lead in the Team competition. If Exell does win the competition, he will not be presented with a Gold medal, because he is representing Australia in this European Championship.
|Friday 2 September|
Friday night ...
Phew, a breeze at sundown, but it dropped and the evening has been very warm, humid and pleasant. A real summers evening. As you know GB is in 7th place, but only 10 penalties behind the Swedish Team in 5th. Tomorrow will be interesting. Further obstacle walking is planned in for 8 a.m. with the obstacles not closing until 11 a.m. our time.
A Pimm's party at Pippa's kindly organised by Malcolm and Matthew saw some happy socialising, with a birthday cake following on.
I was a little disappointed at Georgina's Dressage score, but she admitted to a couple of mistakes and was content with the score leaving her in 17th. I have been attending International events for thirty years and the standard of the horses is amazing compared with just a few years ago.
Partying is moderate tonight with the big day tomorrow. The Chefs' meeting stressed high humid temperatures (25+ C), so a careful eye will need to be kept on the horses tomorrow. I shall position myself at the end of E and have Malcolm Ladell at the halt for me. Hopefully the radios I borrowed will be sufficient, though the phones work well here.
Thanks for reading, fingers crossed ...
Thanks to all of you for the messages of support received via texts to my phone (+44 7850 121122) or by e-mail. I am passing them all on to the drivers and they thank you for them. Keep them coming please - it is motivational stuff!
Today is hot and sunny. Robert started just after ten but had an error of course, which cost him marks but I hope not confidence. He repaired it brilliantly however.
You can see the results for yourselves and I spent time in the commentary box with Philippe Lienart, the scorer. Certainly the latest programme is very fast with dressage scores being promulgated about two minutes after the test. Two minutes later they are on the internet just like at Conty. I certainly appreciated it last week at home and hopefully you are too.
Pippa was philosophical about her score. A young leader seems to have an attention deficit disorder, appears to see it as his duty to check out each Judges box and stick his tongue out at them as he passes. He is called Nando, but I have another name for him...
Dan's test was different to Pippa's in my eyes, and although I rushed up to the hotel to blog and haven't spoken to him, I hope he is content. From my perspective we have two scores in the bank, with Georgina to go in one hour - I don't have long. I have a feeling she is going to drive a good test - we shall see.
The Chef's meeting is at 1930 and I have called the drivers together for 2000 hrs. Pippa's groom Samantha van der Sande (Dutch Grandfather) has her birthday today so there is a drink planned for all about the same time.
In the meantime the drivers walked the obstacles at 0800 this morning and I think found it interesting. The obstacles are looking tremendous, with the water obstacles being filled all day from the mains. If it stays this hot we must ensure that teams are on hand at the halt. Thanks for reading and your messages ....
Team GBR after dressage (37 competitors):
Georgina Hunt - 17th
Team GBR is 7th (out of 9 teams)
|Thursday 1 September|
Thursday night ...
The good news is that Robert has arrived and drove all the way with his top down (on the car). That gives some idea of the lovely day here. Vic has done wonders on uploading start times for tomorrow. Do check here or at Hoefnet for the latest results. I am expecting a busy day tomorrow.
Fortunately there is no prize giving in the evening, so Georgina's late dressage though not ideal will allow her the day to watch some other tests and work up to a peaceful evening dressage.
Various supporters have arrived tonight, all caught in the Antwerp traffic, but spirits are high. The Opening Ceremony was really a champagne reception and allowed some good bonding between Dan, Georgina and Pippa. It was a simple affair but very well attended and with the tight time schedules actually quite fitting.
International competition always places extra demand on the drivers and as they become more focussed on the task ahead the additional responsibilities required is where I come in - hopefully to some affect.
The draw went well and I am pleased with the placings, save Georgina's, but she has the capacity to deal with that without problem. Wilf and Zoe are also over here, and very much part of the team spirit. Both as usual are very supportive, as is Boyd.
Thursday afternoon ...
Today dawned bright and clear and as so often it seems at Breda, the weather is perfect. There is some bad news insofar that one of Daniel's Lipizanners failed the vet check, so he is down to four horses. This horse is normally very reliable so Dan was quite disappointed.
Everyone else went through OK which was a relief, and even though I spared Pippa from driving her own horsebox to ensure she was rested, she worried me through looking a little puffed after running up the last of her five. Probably just the temperature ....
I have been around the marathon course which is very pleasant. The draw for positions takes place at 1730 local (1630 BST) and I have called the Brits together for a casual meet, more photos and my briefing at 1815.
At 1900 there is a modest on-foot Opening Ceremony, though numbers are restricted. That means that Pippa and Georgina are very lucky in being able to escort Dan and me. It's tough at the top people.
I have popped back to the hotel to update you all and after driving post vetting, to make use of the rings, everyone else is either inspecting the marathon course or walking and learning obstacles. (I hope)
Dan has Rick Velstra as navigator .. a little local knowledge is not a bad thing. The Dutch, as normal, are delighted to see us and I gather they are impressed that we have four forward. I must go folks,
Thanks for reading and more later...
|Wednesday 31 August|
Breda, 22:40 local time.
Thankfully all have has arrived safe and sound, with perhaps the worst thing affecting everyone being a reported LGV incident in the Kennedy Tunnel around Antwerp. Up to 2 hours was spent in traffic, with Boyd and Wilf taking to the town itself. A slow fuel pump at Clacket Lane and the Sea France ferry requiring fuel also meant that Pippa's team was travelling last and therefore Harry Luff (bless him) managed to phone us and we elected to drive around Antwerp on the other ring road. (18 Euro toll, by the way).
The benefit for me ( wearing my new hat ) meant that everyone was in front of us and all camps were set by the time we arrived. Overall though, slow journeys over here for most.
I attended my first Chefs d'Equipe meeting, but with Harry, Philip, Cindy Timmer and Alison Stroud from the USA all being there, it felt like being at home. Breda is my favourite European show and once again the organisation is very impressive so far. There were a few housekeeping points to pass on to my drivers but nothing major.
Tomorrow includes the Vet check, marathon course inspection, exercising the horses and walking obstacles with the draw taking place at 17:30 hrs. We also look forward to friends and family making the trip over.
Despite being on horseboxes all day, there are no reports of any problems from our four legged friends, and with the horsebox field covered with lush 8 inch grass, heads went straight down, dragging various folk around while boots etc. were removed. I am sure they know they receive a little indulgence at times like these.
Thanks for reading, more tomorrow night.
|Tuesday 30 August|
All team members report horses and humans fit tonight, with
Andrew Williams leaving Rolleston at 0200hrs, Dan making for the
0640 ferry and Pippa and Georgina leaving at 0500 hrs. I am
travelling with Pippa and Harry Luff is travelling with Georgina
and acting as unofficial assistant to our own Philip Bateman in
I popped along to the Edenbridge and Oxted agricultural show near Lingfield on Bank Holiday Monday to ensure that no harm came to Dan, (breaking poles, chariot racing and losing wheels, as well it appeared to me cheating in the race), Pippa, showing Gump, her enormous Shire Horse (5th, won last year) and Georgina, smoothly driving to win the coaching marathon. It just goes to prove some of the wide talent and diversification of this team.
Hopefully everybody will travel well and I will endeavour to remember the laptop and log on from the Novotel at Breda tomorrow night.