FEI World Pony Driving Championships
Minden, Germany
15-20 August 2017

Team GBR travel blog
by Ben Freer


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Sunday 20 August

Sunday - Cones day at the World pony driving championships. After a 6:30 a.m. course walk, the scene was set for a great spectacle of a day.

It was widely shared between the drivers that this course was one of the most tight and difficult ever designed, particularly for four-in-hands.

The order of the day was that each class would run in reverse order up to 11th place. The top 10 in each class would then drive later in the day.

First up for Great Britain was 14th place in the Single Pony class, Rosanna Walters-Symons. She drove a a great clear round that was just 1.7 seconds over the time allowed. After those that followed made errors, Rosanna moved into the clubhouse lead in 11th place, going into the top10 shootout later.

Rosanna Walters-Symons in the cones. Photo by Amy Mundell.

Next up was Sara Howe with her pony four-in-hand who also drove a very good, positive round. Unfortunately the difficulty of the course meant that Sara had one ball down and 9 time penalties but moved up to 18th place overall.

After the brief lunch break, the pony singles top10 shootout commenced. Robert Buck was third in but unfortunately he had 2 balls down and 4 time penalties, which moved him down to 17th placed overall and pushed Rosanna up into 10th where she finished the competition.

The class was won by the overnight leader, 21 year old Marlena Brenner of Germany, after a brilliant double clear round.

Next up was the pony pairs shootout with Tara Wilkinson of Great Britain the penultimate competitor to drive. She had one cone down and one time penalty to increase the margin of overnight leader Jan-Felix Pfeffer of Germany.

Tara Wilkinson

However, when Pfeffer hit one cone early on and was slightly down on time at the splits, it all looked very tight. Then, after cone 19, Pfeffer turned left to go to cone 20 (when most competitions had turned right) and drove his pair into the perimeter fence, costing him precious seconds that would eventually cost him the lead and award the Gold medal to Tara!

With barely time to congratulate Tara on her success, the final British competition, Roger Campbell, with his four-in-hand, entered the arena. He drove a brilliant clear round, with just 1.65 time penalties to place third in the cones and move up to 7th place overall at his first World Championships driving four-in-hand.

Roger Campbell in the Pony Fours.

The class was won by German team driver Michael B?ener after overnight leader Jannes Kinds of the Netherlands had four balls down.

Swiftly after the end of competition, the overall medal winners were paraded around the arena in three classic American cars, followed on foot by all of the Drivers who placed in the cones driving phase, including Rosanna Walters-Symons and Roger Campbell.

Tara's Gold medal winning pony pair. Photo Amy Mundell.

The Drivers accepted their awards under a torrential downpour, with Roger and Rosanna receiving bottles of local Korn spirit for their cones efforts and Tara receiving a set of Zilco pairs harness for winning individual Gold.

The medal ceremony then took place on the podium, with Tara receiving her Gold medal after being doused with Champagne by silver medallist Pfeffer after he himself received the same treatment from competition organiser and fellow German pony pairs driver Christof Wiehe.

After some time spent packing up, many of the GB camp sat down to dinner together to toast a successful Championships for the team, whilst the younger members of the team partied the night away in the Party Hall!

Home time tomorrow morning!

Tara Wilkinson wins individual Gold Medal in the Pony Pairs class.

Pony Singles:
Rosanna Walters-Symons - 10th
Robert Buck - 17th


Pony Fours:
Roger Campbell - 7th
Sara Howe - 18th

Final results & standings
see the final results including detailed results of all three phases and final standings

Photo by Amy Mundell


Saturday 19 August

Saturday was Marathon day with all drivers and backsteppers up early to walk the course one final time. Rain had fallen through the night leading to concerns about how slippery the ground would be.

Rosanna Walters-Symons was first of the Brits through, with her single pony Hurricain. She dispelled any concerns about the ground with fastest times at that point in the first two obstacles. Rosanna was eventually placed 7th on the marathon after experiencing some difficulties turning later in the round.

Rosanna Walters-Symons. Photo Amy Mundell.

Robert Buck followed soon after with a good round to place 11th on the Marathon.

Great Britain's sole pairs driver, Tara Wilkinson, followed in the afternoon with an event filled round!

Firstly, in obstacle 3, a small dog became loose on the course and chased Tara and her ponies around the hazard. It was very nearly caught out by the quick, sharp turns on a number of occasions but thankfully the dog escaped unhurt. However, it may have bitten our team trainer, Boyd Exell, as he tried to catch it on the way out!

After monsoon rains came down when Tara was in Obstacle 4, at Obstacle 7, whilst driving towards the E gate, Tara's ponies locked onto the finish gate and dragged her towards it. Fortunately, she just found the strength to pull them left before being taken through the finish, but had to hit one of the timing sensors and a bale of straw used as decoration.

Both of these items became lodged underneath the carriage as Tara went back to finish the E and F gates.

Tara battled round to eventually finish a brilliant 6th on the Marathon.

Roger Campbell

As soon as Tara finished, the four-in-hand teams of Roger Campbell and Sara Howe were beginning their Section B of the Marathon. Sara produced a good round to finish 19th while Roger Campbell had a brilliant drive to place 3rd, including top 5 fastest times in 7 of the 8 obstacles.

A good marathon day for GB saw all of the drivers move up the leader board.

Robert Buck moved up to 8th place in the Single Pony class, while Rosanna Walters-Symons moved up 18 places to 14th in the same class.

Tara's efforts saw her move up to the heights of 2nd place in the pairs class, going into the final cones phase whilst Roger Campbell and Sara Howe moved up to 9th and 19th respectively in the four-in-hand class.

A number of the GB supporters who had travelled out to Germany for the Championships were recruited as spotters on Marathon obstacles throughout the day. The purpose of this role is to feedback information to the team trainers as to which routes are driving faster on course so that this can be relayed to the drivers at the halt before they begin their section B.

We are hugely grateful to everyone who acted as a spotter today - your efforts are much appreciated!

The evening's entertainment began with a meal in the Party Hall. The Drivers had to swiftly finish theirs in order to go and walk the cones course at 2030hrs. By the time the cones walk came to a close it was dark, with some using phone lights to guide themselves round!

Once the divers returned, a short prize giving ceremony for the marathon was held in the packed Party Hall. Rosanna, Robert, Tara and Roger all received rosettes for their placings whilst Roger was also presented with a unicycle for his 3rd place effort!

Friday 18 August

Friday was an altogether more gloomy, cooler and wet affair than the days preceding, however that did not dampen the spirits and dedication of the British supporters on Four-in-Hand dressage day.

Roger Campbell was the first of the two Brits to go with his team of grey Welsh Sec. A and B ponies, returning a score of 62.83.

Later in the afternoon, Sara Howe drove a good test scoring 64.72. Both drivers were pleased with their performances.

With the marathon tomorrow, all teams were busy walking their marathon routes in the rain, including final course walks with Boyd Exell and Wilf Bowman-Ripley.

The evening's entertainment included a bus trip to the local Kaiser Wilhelm monument, perched on high ground with far reaching views over the town of Minden and beyond. It was here at the monument that the Dressage Prize Giving was held.

Great Britain's Pony Pair driver Tara Wilkinson was presented with her rosette for placing 8th in the Dressage phase yesterday. The day was then brought to a brilliant close by a fabulous fireworks display back at the showground!

Tomorrow is marathon day and with the wet weather that was had today it could make the ground here very slippery unless it dries substantially overnight, which will make for an interesting marathon on what are already tight and technical hazards with a high number of strategically placed knockdowns!

Dressage Results - Pony Fours

Thursday 17 August

Go to part 2 of the team blog