FEI World Pony Driving Championships
Ben Freer &
Amy Mundell
Sunday 29 September 
A change in weather and lots of movement in the placings today. The time of all classes had been increased as initially it looked unreachable.

The Brits went in meaning business! In a very tricky course with lots of turn backs and options to take risks going short, only 3 out of 36 singles achieved double clears.

For our single ponies, Chris was the best of the Brits in the cones with just one ball down and inside the time. Overall, Phillipa finished 13th, Rosanna 16th, Robert 20th and Chris 21st.

In the pairs class, there were no double clears! Everyone struggled with the time allowed and course technicalities.

Joseph finished 11th in the cones, moving him up to 16th overall. Averina finished the combined competition in 27th place.

Roger had an unlucky moment on the course, clocking up some penalties in an otherwise clear round which meant that he retained his overnight 4th place in the combined competition - a fantastic result just missing out on those medals! In the same class Sara Howe finished 16th and Rowena Moyse 20th.

Overall Team GBR finished 5th in the team competition. Finishing within reaching distance of the medals and whole team giving it their all until the very end, we look forward as the road to Le Pin 2021 begins!

Saturday 28 September 
To the ponies' advantage, we were graced with an overcast day reducing the temperatures for what was a very long marathon!

The single drivers were first on the course and all got home safety, with Phillipa flying around she managed to grab herself a worthy 8th place and make it into prize giving!

Rosanna, who finished 13th, also made it up to the front in the prize giving, after winning obstacle 6 in a time of 55.99.

Christof Weihe competitor, and the last world championship organiser donated an incentive of €100 for the winner of obstacles 6, 7 and 8 in each class, Rosanna was one of those successful.

Chris and Robert came home in 20th & 24th.

The pairs followed, Joseph first with his indoor pair who certainly proved they were game for outdoors too,  followed by Averina who had a slight carriage issue, losing a tyre half way around, luckily was still fine to continue and both turnouts finishing in 18th & 20th respectively.

There were a couple of incidents in the water, obstacle 6, so the decision was made by the TD to pull it out of the course for the four-in-hands.

Sara without any of her gingers was the first team into the hazards. Rowena came in not long after, battling Sara to the end to finish 19th and 20th.

Our final driver of the day was Roger who had a very interesting marathon. There was an accident on the course which stopped play for a good 40 minutes, Roger was held on his way to obstacle 4, joining the other top 10 team drivers in limbo.

On restart the ponies were on fire, setting some of the top times in the last obstacles which weren’t beaten until the leader Steffen Brauchle came through, finishing in a fantastic 3rd place.

This has put Roger 4th in the combined scores heading into the cones phases, all to play for tomorrow.

Friday 27 September 
A busy day for all in preparation for the marathon, which meant lots and lots of walking hazards. However for the Four-in-hands it was Dressage Day.

Rowena kicked off the day with a 71.09, Sara entered the arena a bit later driving a 65.76.

Last to go was Roger who achieved a 52.37, exactly the same score as the two drivers of the German team Dieter Höfs and Sven Kneifel, leaving them all in 7th position.

Unfortunately the grooms' games were cancelled in the evening. Our teams took the opportunity for a reasonably early night in preparation for the morning.

Rosanna will be 1st off at 09:24, followed by Phillipa 09:44, Chris 09:48, Robert 10:20, Joseph 11:56, Averina 12:20, Sara 14:00, Rowena 14:35 then finally Roger 15:00.

Lots to play for, so fingers crossed for some movement on the scoreboards!

Thursday 26 September 
Dressage day two for the Pairs.

The lead was taken early when the 3rd driver of the day Christof Weihe achieved a 42.45.

Joseph was the first of our two drivers to take to the main arena and he achieved 65.49 (35th place). Following was Averina in the last group of drivers finishing on a score of 59.43 (20th place).

Everyone else has been out and about in the obstacles getting comfortable with the routes they think works best for them.

Nothing planned for this evening as the Four-in-Hands prepare for their dressage tomorrow.

Roger and Sara both used their allocated arena times to finalise things prior to tomorrow. Rowena is at 10:03, Sara is at 10:47, Roger is at 14:02 - Local time.

Wednesday 25 September 
Last night all nations joined each other in the big beer tent to tuck into all the different delights.

At the British table, the Pimms, as always, was a favourite. We couldn’t pour them quick enough!

As a special touch from organiser Vilmos Jambor, all drivers and Chefs d’Equipe were presented with medals and mini goulash bowls as they took to the stage for a formal introduction of competitors.

Day one of Dressage was tough.

The judges were marking continuously hard across the morning and into the afternoon, with our drivers scoring: Phillipa 61.53 (24th place), Chris 66.78 (30th place), Rosanna 61.35 (23rd place) and Robert 53.45 (6th place).

The other drivers took the opportunity to get out for some training when not up on the stand supporting fellow competitors.

Squeezed in between test-times, Wilf and Andrew headed over to the obstacles to tackle route queries and discuss what might work best.

After a first look from Roger, he feels that there will be a mixture of technical elements but also areas to push on and go long. All the obstacles are very big, double the size of most back home!

Tomorrow the focus is on our pairs drivers, where Joseph will drive at 11:40 and Averina at 15:20.

Tuesday 24 September 
It was a bright and early start for all as the trot-up commenced at 9am.

Two lanes were running simultaneously, so it was all systems go with singles and pairs in lane 1, four-in-hand in lane 2. Grooms were quick to the mark having prepared their ponies to perfection. All Brits are fit to compete!

The focus is now towards dressage, which covers the next three days. The singles are first up and today had allocated arena times. Great Britain was given 20 minutes to use the warm up arena. Jill got a lucky draw, Rosanna is very happy to be at 12:10 tomorrow and has good vibes for the test.

Phillipa 09:10, Chris 10:30, Rosanna 12:10, Robert 16:00.

The Opening Ceremony took place in the main arena. For the Howe’s this was a very special moment of the championships. Phillipa expressed how exciting it was to be able to stand next to her mum, both wearing their union jacks representing the country.

There was lots more going on, carriages carrying the nations flags, Hungarian riding and whip cracking. The championships are officially open and we wish our drivers the best of luck.

The British Camp are currently getting the Pimms ready for Nations night!

Monday 23 September 

On Monday, the squad was complete when Roger Campbell pulled up at 6:30am after making his way from Minden through the night. Much to his delight, the early arrival worked in his favour as if the German’s had beaten him to the gates there would have been no chance of him manoeuvring into his GB space.

Whilst the lorry park was filling up fast, our drivers had a relaxing rest day on site, with the occasional light exercise for the ponies.

Running throughout the day was pony measuring, so as and when we were called up, all ponies got their heights checked. Safe to say none of GB exceeded the limits!

Our trainers arrived late afternoon just in time to watch the mass football match which ended up Netherlands v the rest of the World. A great evening of entertainment and bonding between the nations, drivers and grooms.

Sunday 22 September 
After a much needed rest day in Austria on Saturday, the team set off early doors again on Sunday for the relatively short journey to the show ground in Hungary.

Team GBR have been assigned a great parking spot overlooking the training arenas, and one by one the drivers filed in and set up their camps, leaving just enough space for Roger to arrive in Monday morning..!

Sunday was also Rosanna Walters-Symons’ birthday, so in the afternoon the team came together for Pimms and cake. Chef D’Equipe Jill Holah bought two beautiful sachertorte from Vienna for the occasion.

Originally, one of the sachertorte was meant to be used for celebrating Joseph Adams’ birthday, which the FEI website said was on Monday, however his mother later clarified that it was in fact in March...so double cake it was!

Most drivers took the time to exercise their ponies in one form or another before settling down to a fairly relaxed evening.

Saturday 21 September 
The UK based contingent of TeamGBR all set off from their various corners of the country - Devon, Wales, Lancashire and everywhere in between - during the course of Wednesday, all converging on Kent for early sailings to Calais on Thursday.

The clear and sunny skies of Northern Europe provided great conditions for driving the 600km to the first stop over in Darmstadt, just south of Frankfurt, Germany.

Not everything went exactly to plan, however, with team Howe having a tyre blow-out on one of their two lorries, delaying their arrival until late into the night after a c.20 hour journey.

Friday brought more clear skies for the 750km drive down through Germany and into Austria towards our second stopover at the magnificent Magna Racino, just south of Vienna, Austria.

No lorry issues to report this time, just traffic jams! One particularly bad one near Nuremberg held up most of the team for 2 hours, although Teams Rosanna and Chris managed to divert off the motorway just in time to avoid the standstill.

All ponies and humans arrived fine and well in the end though, even if it was long after dark. If you’re going to arrive anywhere late and tired after 12+ hours on the road it’s this place, Magna Racino, which is a vast and near palatial equestrian facility.

On Saturday the team had a whole day to rest at Magna Racino before heading to the show ground on Sunday. All of the drivers and support crew have used the time wisely to walk, lunge, graze, clip and wash ponies, men’s lorries,watch some Grand Prix dressage, catch up on some much needed sleep and even partake in some Pilates!

Robert Buck and Joseph Adams joined up with the team today having flown into nearby Vienna airport, as did a number of additional support crew for various teams and our Chef D’Equipe, Jill Holah, and her assistant, Marissa Pinnock.

The final member of the team, Roger Campbell, who is based in Germany, has finally started packing on Saturday before beginning his drive to the show ground on Sunday.