The Driving world will gather in the Picardie region in France this week (24-28 August), when the Ateliers du Val de Selle will host the 15th FEI World Pairs Driving Championship in Conty. Sixty-nine competitors from 24 nations, will battle against each other for the individual and team medals, with 18 nations fielding teams and six countries sending individuals.
Amongst the competitors is reigning World Champion Harrie Verstappen (NED), who will not only defend his individual gold medal, but also help defend the Dutch team title, won at the 2009 FEI World Pair Driving Championship in Kecskemét (HUN). The 2009 silver medallist Beat Schenk (SUI) is one of the many medal favourites, as well as Vilmos Lazar (HUN), who has just recovered from several broken ribs.
The youngest competitor in Conty is the 15-year-old Anna Sandmann (GER), daughter of successful international four-in-hand driver Christoph Sandmann, who will act as her navigator in the marathon. Anna is competing as an individual.
The course design in Conty is in the capable hands of Barry Hunter (GBR), who is making his World Championship debut. Barry has been an international course designer since 2004 and has worked in the UK and the USA, including Lowther, Sandringham, Royal Windsor, Erddig, British National Championships, Live Oak, Sunshine State and Katydid events.
The Ground Jury is chaired by Dr Klaus Christ (GER) and the members are Anne-Marie Turbe (FRA), Bert Jambon (BEL), Hanspeter Rüschlin (SUI) and Diana Brownlie (GBR).
Conty has a long history in equestrian events, including the FEI World Single Driving Championship in 2002 and the international combined driving event (CAI) that takes place in Conty every year.
The high-level sporting centre in Conty is managed by the Ateliers du Val de Selle, an establishment that helps and supports handicapped adults and is cherished by its founder Allain Houard, who is an international course designer himself. The World Championship also holds a festivity programme including circus acts and equestrian shows, other competitions such as national farriery contests, a draft horse competition and an international friendly driving event for disabled people.
Thursday 25 August: dressage (first part)
Friday 26 August: dressage (second part)
Saturday 27 August: marathon
Sunday 28 August: obstacle driving competition and medal ceremony
Photo caption: Reigning World Champion Harrie Verstappen (NED) will defend his gold medal in Conty. Image: Rinaldo de Craen/FEI.