Driving World Championship in Conty (Picardie), August 24th-28th, 2011 - The small town of Conty (in the Picardie region) will re-experience the wonderful adventure of 2002: a World Championship in Driving!
In 2002, single-horse team driving already attracted about 20 000 spectators, and this year the International Equestrian Federation confided a World Championship in pair driving to the driving center of Conty. This high-level sporting center is carried by the Ateliers du Val de Selle, an establishment that helps and supports handicapped adults and is cherished by its founder Allain Houard. For the second time in nine years, this beautiful adventure will make Conty the center of the driving world.
Driving in pair is a very technical discipline, a sort of triathlon for two men and two horses lasting four days. The first two days are those of rigour and good taste where the horses have to prove concentration capabilities in a sequence of dressage figures, the carriage and the driver have to be perfect. The third day is the most sportive one, with a long marathon course across the countryside, finishing off with the crossing of obstacles of a rather clever track (Conty is known in the world for its three river passages), where the drivers must demonstrate precision and the horses must show courage. The fourth day is a class that seems to be uniquely designed to test the strength of nerves: manoeuvrability, a course peppered with little doors on top of which is a ball – a ball drop means a penalty, and it can tear down the results of the precedent days!
The cherry on top is the fact that France is rather competitive in this sport and could be holding a nice surprise for us in this championship. The Dutch, the Hungarians and the Germans may have dominated the last World Championships that took place in Hungary in 2009, but it’s the French drivers’ turn to try and aim for gold at home.
And the meaning of “at home” actually applies to three drivers that are based in Conty and coached by Allain Houard: François Dutilloy, the European Champion of 2008, as well as Stéphane Chouzenoux who represented France in four-in-hand driving in Lexington and who will now return with two horses for an attempt to “reintegrate the French team into the run for a team medal”, as he says. “It’s a chance for French driving to host a World Championship, and a great opportunity for us, the drivers.” And last but not least: Franck Grimonprez, who won the bronze medal at the last French championships in pair driving.
This is but one example of the mobilization around this World Championship, which also holds a festivity program (circus, equestrian shows, driving parade), other competitions (national blacksmith contest, draft horse competition) and events of the disabled (symposium on equitherapy, contest of suitable driving). While this World Championship deserves a note in the International Equestrian Federation’s “important stage”-calendar, it is also a time of solidarity and generosity that motivates a whole region to do its very best in order to welcome the world elite of this sport.