It was a family affair among top three Dutch placings at the final four-in-hand show down before the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 at Aachen.
The exciting and practically impossible looking sport of combined driving with four-in-hand horses doing dressage, marathon, and the final test of ultimate skill in the intricate cones course was played out to a sold out crowd.
The marathon course was spread out over the large property across the street from the stadium. Organizers had to put a stop to ticket sales as the crowd swelled to capacity to watch the drama unfold among the top four-in-hand drivers and teams in Europe.
Boyd Exell Rises to the Challenge
The leader after Dressage with a strong score of 34.68, multiple World Champion Boyd Exell drove the entire event with a broken right ankle. Just two weeks from the injury he sustained jumping from a carriage while coaching a student at a competiton, Exell knew the importance of getting his team out at Aachen the last competion before the World Equestrian Games Tryon in September.
"Even if I wasn't in top form my horses needed this outing." said Exell in the video interview shown below. After adjusting his carriages to have his left foot work the brake, Exell had his right leg propped in a mount, giving a whole new meaning to the Dr's instuctions to "Keep your foot elevated." In spite of the admitted limitations Exell still finished second overall with just one point out from the winner Ijsbrand Chardon.
Father , Son, Daughters and Sisters Make it a Chardon Show at Aachen
The father and son duo of Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon, stayed within points of each other throughout the week’s competition. Bram, who in 2015 won his third consecutive Pony World Championships, moved into horse teams the following year, rapidly gaining ground and skills.
His tight work in the marathon and speed skills in handling the reins of four horses moved him into first place for awhile keeping him just 1.35 points ahead of his father. Located near Rotterdam, Netherlands the Chardon family has a full training facility not just for driving but dressage and eventing the sport and passion of the Chardon sisters. The youngest sister Lianne is brother Bram's long time top step navigator, while the oldest sister event rider Jeannette went with her Dad.
Having been at Aachen since a child, Bram has been on his father's back step through many marathons throughout the world, but never in the driver's seat. Moving into the lead in the marathon as one of the last to go, Bram was able to watch part of his father's round before the final competitor, Dutch teammate Koos deRonde took to the course.
But the best marathon was the last as Koos de Ronde had a smooth and solid round pushing him 2.77 points ahead to win one of the most challenging marathons in driving sport. His wife Marie in her usual top step position on the carriage helped to keep her husband on track. Joined by his daughter, Anna on the carriage for Dressage and cones, the deRonde family helped to round out the support crew for the event. Son Pieter had Mom's camera, capturing some of the day's best images.
In the final phase, the cones course Chardon Sr. turned in the only “double clear” round of the day, no balls down in the 20 cones combination and within the time. Chardon Sr took the top Preis der Familie Richard Talbot just one point ahead of World Champion Boyd Exell, who drove the entire week with a broken foot. Son Bram finished in third a mere .3 point ahead of the Boyd’s Belgian protege Edouard Simonet.
The final outcome on Sunday following the cones would put the Dutch team into the lead for the Nations’ Cup win.
The only American to muddy the German waters was Chester Weber, whose strong start in the dressage phase had him going into the marathon in third place. But there were some glitches on the tight but tidy course that dropped him to 14th. However, the second best cones of the day with no balls and just a slight bit of time rallied the American National Champion into 5th place.
Watch the videos starting with an interview with Boyd Exell's brilliant dressage test followed by and interview explaining his experience competing at Aachen with a broken foot.