Fabian Gänshirt (GER), Anna Grayston (GBR) and Bram Chardon (NED) all took world championship crowns home from Breda (NED), which was host to the seventh edition of the FEI World Driving Championships for pony singles, pairs and four-in-hands this weekend. The Dutch team claimed the gold medal for the second consecutive time.
A total of 87 competitors from 16 nations fought for the honours at the Prinsenhoeve Estate, venue for the Outdoor Brabant Horse Show, with eight teams battling it out in the nations competition. It was the first time in the history of pony driving that the World Championships had been held in the Netherlands, but the choice of Breda was a natural one as this venue hosted the first ever FEI European Championships for pony four-in-hands in 1995. Unfortunately heavy rain showers battered the competition site from the start, which affected the footing in the dressage arena as well as the marathon phases and the obstacles.
It was the first time that the nations teams were composed differently compared to the previous World Pony Driving Championships. According to the new rules a Nations Team is composed of 2-3 singles, 2-3 pairs and 1-2 four-in-hands. The scores per phase of the two best singles, two pairs and one four-in-hand counts towards the team result.
Fabian Gänshirt (GER), 26, finished fifth in dressage and third in the very heavy marathon to take the lead in the standings after the first two disciplines. In the final obstacle driving competition he had just a handful of time penalties and was absolutely thrilled to secure gold at his first ever World Championship.
Gänshirt, who won the CAIO Minden this year with his eight-year-old German riding pony David L, was very happy: “The dressage went ok for me, but I know my pony can do better”, he said. “The atmosphere in Breda was different and caused some tension with my pony. In the marathon I started quite modest but after obstacle one went well, I started driving and fully went for it which resulted in fast times.”
He felt the pressure before he went into the cones arena after Martin Hölle drove clear: “I said to myself ‘stay cool’! This pony is unbelievable, this is only the second year that I drive him and the first season that we compete at this level.”
The silver medal went to defending World Champion Martin Hölle (HUN), who competed with his World Championship pony Apache de la Licorne. Hölle won the dressage but dropped to second after the marathon in the day-long heavy rain showers.
The 18-year old student really went for it in the cones: “I came here for first place, so in the cones I felt I had nothing to lose, only something to win.” Hölle is planning to compete with a horse pair from next season but he will go on competing in the single pony class at the same time so that he can compete again in the 2017 FEI World Pony Driving Championships.
Second German team member Katja Helpertz took home the bronze medal, driving her New Forest pony Nordstern´s Stoertebecker. The 23-year-old law student moved up to the third place in the standings after finishing second in the marathon. Both Hölle and Helpertz are trained by Dutch trainers.
Individual results Pony Singles
1. Fabian Gänshirt (GER) 156.88
2. Martin Hölle (HUN) 157.55
3. Katja Helpertz (GER) 158.94
1. Netherlands 832.55
2. Germany 841.01
3. Great Britain 885.04