Dutch carriage-driver Ijsbrand Chardon stood up in his carriage and waved to a madly cheering audience at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, after winning the FEI World Cup™ Driving Leg presented by Dodson & Horrell.
Ijsbrand had achieved the seemingly impossible in overhauling the hitherto unbeatable world number one Boyd Exell, who was competing on a wild card at Olympia, and is now guaranteed a place in the final in Bordeaux, France, in February.
Koos de Ronde, also from the Netherlands, finished third, despite a tip-up after crossing the finish line in the final round. His horses, however, were none the worse for the spill and were able to perform in the traditionally rousing prize-giving ceremony.
Showing the camaraderie for which the sport is renowned, all the other drivers rushed to help. Boyd commented: ‘No one likes accidents to happen but it is good for spectators to see how difficult our sport is.’
He added sportingly: ‘It is good for the sport for someone else to win – this certainly won’t ruin my Christmas!’
Ijsbrand’s victory was all the more remarkable because he had to switch his usual lead horse, Aladin, due to the horse having a cough. Instead, he drove the more experienced but harder to manage Lipizzaner Inci.
‘The feeling was just great,’ said a visibly elated Ijsbrand, a man who has dominated the sport of carriage-driving for three decades. ‘I know that Inci has to grow in competition; he just needs a bit of time. My horses felt super and I haven’t knocked any balls down for three days, which is brilliant.’
The British representative Daniel Naprous, whose ‘day job’ is as a stuntman on the film Wonder Woman, put up a good performance with his team of Lipizzaner horses. He was disappointed to finish last, but acknowledged that the overseas drivers are very hard to beat.
The sell-out house was also treated to a spectacular competition from the Kennel Club Large Senior Dog Agility Finals where Greg Derrett and Devongem Rehab Sproglett went clear in an impressive time of 32.78secs to clinch the title.
In the showjumping, Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher continued his run of form when emerging victorious in the fast and thrilling Shelley Ashman International Ltd, K M Rogers (Transport) Ltd Father Christmas Stakes on Callisto.
The long-time leader of this accumulator competition was John Whitaker on Lord of Arabia, ahead of his younger brother Michael (Right Now Semilly). ‘Watching John’s round was a big advantage for me because I was able to create a good plan,’ said Hans-Dieter. ‘It was a fast course, with short turns, and I had to go for it. Luckily, my horse is very careful.’
Next, Ben Maher produced a superb display of power jumping on new ride Boomerang to scoop €15,000 in the winner-takes-all Christmas Masters.
This fascinating competition, which is all about tactics and clearing huge fences, is open to the seven riders currently heading the H & M Leading Rider of Show table. Each clear round means another €500 in the prize pot, the fences keep going up, and a rail down spells elimination.
By the end of the fourth round, only Switzerland’s formidable Pius Schwizer (Leonard de la Ferme CH), Ben and Jur Vreiling were left to jump off against the clock for the jackpot.
Pius had a fence down and Ben went clear, but in a time that was slow enough to leave the door open yet fast enough to put pressure on the Dutch Olympian, who hit the second fence.
‘There’s an enormous amount of tactics, and I think this sort of competition is a way that the sport could develop,’ commented Ben. ‘They’re probably the biggest jumps we’ll see this week and the crowd loves it.
‘We have an agreement beforehand that the winner buys everyone drinks – and no doubt the others will take me up on it!’
Ben has acquired the ride on the nine-year-old Boomerang, and also on Quabble, through Danish rider Emilie Martinsen, who is taking a break from competing. ‘Everything is new territory with this horse – he’s still has to be led into the ring,’ explained Ben. ‘But although he’s now quite tired after five rounds, he’s learned a lot. It’s a great way to end the year.’
There was yet another British win in the Christmas Tree Stakes, in which William Whitaker and his uncle John finished first and third, split by Finnish visitor Anna-Julia Kontio on her beautiful grey Fardon.
Thirteen of the 21 starters went through to a mammoth jump-off, but there were only five clears, of which William’s was the fastest on Balibu – keeping it in the family, the 10-year-old chestnut by Baloubet is owned by another uncle, Michael.
‘I’m thrilled with the way he has come on,’ said William. ‘Even though it was quite a small class I knew it would be tight because there were so many good combinations.’
Uncle John, beaten by about 1/100th of a second, admitted he was ‘sick as a parrot’, but pointed out that his mare, Ornellaia, hadn’t got the biggest of strides.
‘Every fence came up perfectly and I don’t think anyone was faster than me at the second to last fence, but William did the last in six strides and I intended to do the same, but she just didn’t seem to get there,’ he explained.
There’s two more days of exciting competition to come but, for now, John, the senior rider at Olympia, has the satisfaction of heading the H & M Leading Rider of Show leaderboard.
To view the full results click HERE.
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Olympia, The London International Horse Show
The first international horse show took place in the Olympia halls in 1907. Olympia, The London International Horse Show, the event we see today, was started by Raymond Brooks-Ward in 1971. This year’s show takes place on 15-21 December 2015 in the Olympia Exhibition Hall, located in West Kensington London. The show will play host to a packed timetable of all things equestrian and is expected to welcome over 90,000 visitors. It is regarded as one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious equine competitions. The show mixes top class equestrian action, including FEI World Cup™ Jumping, Dressage and Driving with family entertainment, such as the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National and The Kennel Club Dog Agility.