Four-time world four-in-hand champion IJsbrand Chardon (NED) has added a new title to his long list of successes. Chardon won the first FEI Open European Driving Championships for Four-in-Hand since 1981, which were held in Breda, the Netherlands this weekend. Jozsef Dobrovitz from Hungary won the silver medal; the bronze medal went to Chardon’s fellow country- and teammate Koos de Ronde. The Dutch team took the lead from the very beginning and won the European team gold ahead of Hungary and Germany. Reigning world champion Boyd Exell from Australia won the Open category.
Although the emphasis of the competition was obviously on the European Championships, IJsbrand Chardon had another goal in Breda and that was to beat Boyd Exell. Exell managed to beat Chardon at every event where both drivers competed this year. Chardon is a winner at heart and is determined to beat Exell. In Breda, he came very close. Exell took the lead after a beautiful Dressage test whereas Chardon won the marathon. The difference between the rivals after the Dressage and Marathon competitions was only 0.10 penalty points in favour of Exell. In the final obstacle driving competition, second to last starter Chardon knocked a ball off the last pair of cones which gave Exell a wider margin, which the world champion did not even need in the end. Exell drove an excellent clear round within the time allowed and was declared winner of the Open category of FEI European Driving Championships for Four-in-Hands.
IJsbrand Chardon had mixed feelings afterwards. On one hand, he was happy to have won his first European Championships and on the other he was not pleased with his second place behind Boyd Exell. “I am a top sportsman and I like to win,” Chardon said. “I opened the attack on Boyd and focussed completely on beating him, which was very risky. Luckily, it went well and I did not loose but I would have preferred to compete against him in an equal battle.” Chardon, whose eldest daughter Jeannette rode in the two-star Eventing competition at Breda at the same time, competed with the 15-year-old Swedish warmblood Tango and the KWPN geldings Whooper, Zion and Darco in Dressage. KWPN-gelding Tomasson replaced Zion in the Marathon and Cones competitions.
Jozsef Dobrovitz was extremely happy with his first ever individual Championship medal. The professional driving instructor has been switching horses in his team from the start of this season and it finally came together for him at Breda. With four KWPN horses and one Lipizzaner on his team, his silver medal had an orange hue to it. Only two weeks ago, Dobrovitz got the nine-year-old mare Volinda from one of his Romanian students. With Sagel, Vigour and Conversano, Dobrovitz set the basis for his silver medal by taking the third place in Dressage. His ninth place in the Marathon, in which the KWPN-gelding Vivaldo replaced Volinda, made him drop one place. But the organiser of the yearly CAIO competition at his home in Vecsés finished the competition with a double clear cones round. His son Jozsef jr. did the same and father and son contributed to the silver medal for the Hungarian team, which was completed by Zoltan Lazar, who drove a clear round as well.
Despite the fact that the 1.10 penalty points for exceeding the time allowed in the cones course made him go from silver to bronze, Koos de Ronde was also very happy with his first individual medal. “I did not loose silver, I won bronze,” De Ronde, who has been member of the very successful Dutch team for several years, pointed out. “I did not want to take any risk to drop a ball because then I could have missed a podium place.” De Ronde started off in ninth place after Dressage but climbed up to third after a very fast Marathon in which he came second. De Ronde has been trying new and younger horses on his team this season. The 10-year old KWPN-gelding Ultra only competed in second Marathon in Breda. “Ultra has been part of my four-in-hand since Windsor and I tried him in a Marathon at a national competition two weeks ago,” De Ronde explained. “He was so good that I decided to take him to Breda.” De Ronde, whose younger brother Peter and father Piet also competed in Breda, drove with the KWPN-geldings Nietje, Mauritz, Santana, Bilbo and Ultra.
Dutch O-course designer Johan Jacobs has been responsible for the courses in Breda for many years, including the course for the 2010 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships. He was the assistant course designer at the FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championships in Beesd (NED) in 2008. This weekend’s course at Breda was well appreciated by the competitors; it was a true testing championship course and it had its difficulties. “The sand footing and the hot weather made it heavy for the horses,” Jacobs explained. “I wanted the Drivers to perform at the highest possible level and I believe I have succeeded. The marathon obstacles were technical with many options and I included over 30 knock downs in the eight obstacles to avoid the horses having to hit the posts.”
Results European Championships:
1. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 137,72
2. Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) 152,49
3. Koos de Ronde (NED) 152,70
4. Christoph Sandmann (GER) 153,98
5. Zoltan Lazar (HUN) 157,39
1. Netherlands 284,0
2. Hungary 309,9
3. Germany 312,0
4. Switzerland 331,8
5. Sweden 333,6
1. Boyd Exell (AUS) 134,62
2. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 137,72
3. Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) 152,49
4. Koos de Ronde (NED) 152,70
5. Christoph Sandmann (GER) 153,98
The complete results are available at www.hoefnet.com
Photo caption: Dutch champion IJsbrand Chardon won his first European four-in-hand title in Breda this weekend. © Rinaldo de Craen.