FEI World Driving Championships for Four-In-Hand Latest Victim of COVD

Saturday, October 3, 2020
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Everyone runs this risk everywhere we go to show in today’s world. At any moment someone can tap you on the shoulder and say 'the show is over'. And that is exactly what happened in Valkenswaard (NED) October 1, just 6 days from the beginning of the FEI World Driving Championships for Horses. 

The original location was for Limburg 2020, Kronenberg was cancelled due to COVD concerns. In July the FEI gave permission to DVI Valkenswaard, the driving and training facility owned and operated by reigning World Champion Boyd Exell.

There was documented push back in the equestrian media expressing concerns of Excell having an unfair advantage, holding the World Championships at his own training facility, as well as the ever changing unknowns of the Corona virus spiking in the region. But the organization was optimistic and put forth a huge effort "for the good of the sport" to create the opportunity for the Championships to happen. 

Not all countries could participate, because of travel restrictions but there 13 nations lined up to take part, including eight with full teams. The United States, the reigning Gold Medal team sent just one driver, Misdee Wrigley Miller, longtime client of Excell, who maintains a residence in the town. The USEF had been working tirelessly to obtain all the proper waivers for the horses, athletes, and support crew to travel. Reigning individual Silver medalist, US Driver Chester Weber, opted not to risk the travel given the ever changing international travel restrictions. 

With the number of entries declared, over 600 participants would be camped on the grounds for 6-10 days. Even with no spectators the numbers caused concern for the local municipality. The independent Dutch newspaper, De Telegraf investigated and reported (use google translate) not all required permits had been obtained, as had been reported by equestrian news media. All required permits were in place, but with the ever changing status of the conditions of the virus, the local municipality had no choice but to cancel the event.

The global COVD Virus is not going away any time soon.The Netherlands had very recently tightened all corona measures as they are struggling with the second wave of COVD, as are other parts of Europe raising more cause for concerns. Their measures are now stricter than during the first wave. Sport events can only continue without audience. Until this week the Dutch allowed spectators. Even with no spectators the numbers involved in the required people to manage each 4-in-hand team can be up to ten, all living and working together in a very close environment. 

The Tops International Arena, just across the street from Exell had recently wrapped up a major CSI5*competition September 10-13. Now on the main page of their website, they have announced all events for this season have ended. 

Television Video interview on Dutch TV with Boyd Exell, Misdee Wrigley, organizer, and the Mayor of Valkenswaard Anton Ederveen.

Tonight at Studio Sport, documentary maker Annette van Trigt took a look at the grounds of the World Championships Four-in-Hand in Valkenswaard. The championship was canceled at the last minute on Friday, because the safety region withdrew the permit. International drivers and the organization were deeply disappointed, as can be seen in the report.

Ludo Hertroijs, chairman of the event, responds: “Broken, still in tears ” when asked for a response. In the report, organizer and reigning world champion Boyd Exell also says that he is very disappointed. He suggests that the statements made by Dutch drivers in the media led to the withdrawal of the license. This refers to the interviews that Koos de Ronde and IJsbrand Chardon gave to De Telegraaf at the end of last week, in which they questioned whether the event could take place Covid-proof.

Mayor: "It turned out to be impossible to comply with the rules" The mayor of Valkenswaard, Anton Ederveen, contradicts that. He says in the report that “with the current design, accommodation and number of participants” it turned out to be impossible to comply with the stricter measures. “We do not allow the decisions to be influenced by the media discussion. I know that the organization and the volunteers really did everything possible. I have to deal with the testing and the emergency ordinance - and then it is no longer possible.