19 May 2011

From 24 to 28 August, the village of Conty in the French rural region of Picardie will host the 15th edition of the FEI World Pair Driving Championship.

The course design of this prestigious event is in the hands of Great Britain?s Barry Hunter, who will make his debut as a World Championship course designer. Hunter can rely on the capable assistance of Alain Houard from Conty and Philippe Bloisier. Although Hunter has been designing courses since the late 90?s and was promoted to O-course designer in 2010, his name is not yet widely known in the Driving World. This will however change quickly as the World Championship approaches very fast.


The 62-year old former manager at a Further Education College and lecturer in Mathematics was pleasantly surprised when he was asked by the FEI to become the course designer in Conty. Barry has been an international course designer since 2004 and his work has been in the UK and the USA, including Lowther, Sandringham, Royal Windsor, Erddig, British National Championships, Live Oak, Sunshine State and Katydid events. Since his retirement, Barry spends the summer months in Europe and the winter months in Florida, USA.

Existing obstacles

Conty has hosted the FEI World Single Driving Championship in 2002 and has welcomed international drivers for more than ten years at their yearly international driving competition. Houard and his team will extend and alter the existing eight obstacles to prepare them for the very fast pair drivers at the World Championship. Barry first visited the competition site in March and will return at the start of June to check on the progress and to make sure the works take place according to the schedule.

Many options

?The object of my designs is to provide as many options as possible so that the drivers have a test of their judgement as well as driving skills. There will be options for flowing routes and technical turns; it will be a true test of the driver?s knowledge of their horses? capabilities. My designs also bear in mind the enjoyment for the spectators so there will be the opportunity for some exciting driving,? explains Barry. The Cones course will test the suppleness of the horses and the driver?s accuracy, there will be plenty of turns but here will be a flow so that the drivers can maintain a good pace. There will be options for taking shorter or longer routes. ?My goal in Conty is for all drivers and horses to finish safely but at the same time know that they have been in a true test of their abilities and the spectators have witnessed an exciting spectacle.?

Driving World Championship in Conty

The small town of Conty (in the Picardie region) will re-experience the wonderful adventure of 2002: a World Championship in Driving ! In 2002, single-horse team driving already attracted about 20,000 spectators, and this year the International Equestrian Federation confided a World Championship in pair driving to the driving centre of Conty.

This high-level sporting centre is carried by the Ateliers du Val de Selle, an establishment that helps and supports handicapped adults and is run by its founder Allain Houard, who is an international course designer himself. The World Championship also holds a festivity program such as a circus and equestrian shows, other competitions like national blacksmith contest and a draft horse competition and events for the disabled.

For the second time in nine years, this beautiful adventure will make Conty the centre of the driving world. Driving in pair is a very technical discipline, a sort of triathlon for two men and two horses lasting four days. The first two days are those of rigour and good taste where the horses have to prove concentration capabilities in a sequence of dressage figures, the carriage and the driver have to be perfect. The third day is the most sportive one, with a long marathon course across the countryside, finishing off with the crossing of obstacles of a rather clever track (Conty is known in the world for its three river passages), where the drivers must demonstrate precision and the horses must show courage. The fourth day is a class that seems to be uniquely designed to test the strength of nerves: manoeuvrability, a course peppered with little doors on top of which is a ball ? a ball drop means a penalty, and it can tear down the results of the precedent days!

The cherry on top is the fact that France is rather competitive in this sport and could be holding a nice surprise for us in this championship. The Dutch, the Hungarians and the Germans may have dominated the last World Championships that took place in Hungary in 2009, but it?s the French drivers? turn to try and aim for gold at home. And the meaning of ?at home? actually applies to three drivers that are based in Conty and coached by Allain Houard: Fran?is Dutilloy, the European Champion of 2008, as well as St?hane Chouzenoux who represented France in four-in-hand driving in Lexington and who will now return with two horses for an attempt to ?reintegrate the French team into the run for a team medal?, as he says. ?It?s a chance for French driving to host a World Championship, and a great opportunity for us, the drivers.? And last but not least: Franck Grimonprez, who won the bronze medal at the last French championships in pair driving.

This is but one example of the mobilization around this World Championship, which also holds a festivity program (circus, equestrian shows, driving parade), other competitions (national blacksmith contest, draft horse competition) and events of the disabled (symposium on equitherapy, contest of suitable driving). While this World Championship deserves a note in the International Equestrian Federation?s ?important stage?-calendar, it is also a time of solidarity and generosity that motivates a whole region to do its very best in order to welcome the world elite of this sport.

Article from: R&B Presse