Three days of flawless and thrilling rounds culminated in victory in the FEI Driving World Cup Leg, held at Olympia, The London International Horse Show this week. Presented by Eurofip International, maestro Boyd Exell commented: “One of the most incredible things was the crowd, they are really loud and they are really with us.”
Dutch course designer Jeroen Houterman’s course included twisting but flowing obstacles and cones requiring accurate curving to remain faultless. However, there was plenty of places for gallops as well. “The plan was to keep everything as simple as possible. For most of the course they could go at 90 – 100% [speed],” said Jeroen. “But, when you go too fast, that’s when there is the risk of having a ball.”
And that was certainly the case in round one, where over half the field picked up additional time penalties, which decided the three going forward to the final.
The Netherlands’ Isjbrand Chardon was first to go. Having driven one of the steadier, but clean, first rounds, he was determined to better his time after an inauspicious start to the show. His speed certainly improved, knocking almost six seconds off his initial run’s time. However, this came at the expense of two early balls, leaving the door ajar.
“My first two days at the show were pretty bad,” said Ijsbrand, a multiple championship winner. “My mare Candy was in season at the Budapest show two weeks ago, and still wasn’t great here. I was training at 6am this morning, but it just didn’t work out the way I wanted.”
Following was fellow countryman Koos de Ronde, whose speed in round one gained him access to the drive-off despite having hit cone number two. “Some of the cones were a little tricky and I was mad with myself [in the first round]”, he said. “But, I was more focused in the second round.”
If the pressure was on multiple medallist Boyd to maintain his rank, he certainly didn’t show it here. However, Koos’ round wasn’t so steady that Boyd could relax. “There was less than a cone between Koos’ time and my time in the first round,” said Boyd, who is based in Valkenswaard in The Netherlands. “So I aimed to go for the same again.” It worked beautifully and secured the win.
Although this class carried points towards qualification for the FEI Driving World Cup™ final, Boyd was competing at Olympia on a Wild Card, so maximum points were passed down to Koos.
Britain’s Daniel Naprous, who has a busy schedule as a stunt rider, finished sixth having had a promising second place at Olympia earlier in the week.