For the final phase of the first selection trial for the four-in-hand teams for the 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games, the cones course, designed by Joe Gilliland was intricate with many twists, turns, a serpentine, and a deviated line, the sort of course which could decide the new world champions in October. “It was difficult, but a good course for the teams” said US Four in hand Team coach Peter Tischer from Germany, referring to the four-in-hands that are here trying to qualify for the World Equestrian Games. It gave them information on what needed work in their cones training as none of the teams went without a ball down and only four of the twelve went without a time penalty. A clinic was planned for Monday, where participants could try again and learn from their mistakes.
Earlier in the day even the Singles and Pairs were having trouble making double clear rounds. Only six drivers managed the cones both free of balls down and free of time penalties. In the Intermediate Single Pony division Sara Schmitt was able to win the division on the strength of her double clean round in cones. In fact this division had the most double clear rounds of any division.
The cones made a huge difference in the FEI Four-In-Hand Team competition. Jimmy Fairclough made this tough course look almost easy as he won the cones phase with only one ball down and no time penalties moving “Team Clark” up from fourth after Dressage and Hazards to second. Michael Freund from Germany driving kept his lead and won the overall division even with three balls down and a placing of third in the cones phase. Robson Gavin from Australia was second in the cones phase with a fast run but had 2 balls down. This good effort in the cones moved him from sixth after dressage and hazards into third place overall.
This course had very few straight lines or generous curves and that kept most drivers from cantering on course. It seemed that most of the competitors were so close in penalty points that they sacrificed speed for accuracy in order to hold on to their placing.
Awards ceremonies were held after the pony divisions, the horse divisions and then the FEI Teams division. What a beautiful end to a great show seeing twelve gleaming four-in-hand teams hitched to their magnificent carriages standing side by side. Not a site easily forgotten.
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