The Dutch four-in-hand drivers have dominated the dressage phase at the FEI European Driving Championships for Four-in-Hand in Aachen, which got underway yesterday with all 180 horses and 36 competitors.

The four-time world champion IJsbrand Chardon (NED) won this first phase of the Championships, ahead of his compatriot and defending European champion Theo Timmerman.
Spain’s Juan Antonio Real Garcia broke the “Orange domination” by finishing in third place, followed by the third Dutch team member Koos de Ronde in fourth.
With three Dutch drivers now in the top four, The Netherlands has taken an early lead, with Hungary and Belgium lying second and third respectively in the team standings.

Winning test
IJsbrand Chardon was second to go this morning and the 26-time Dutch Champion put down the winning test, despite a small mistake in the second walk when his right leader horse trotted. “I am very pleased with my performance, apart from the walk. The horses formed a nice team together and my wheeler horses were very good today. If the walk had gone well as well, this would have been my best test of the season,” said Chardon.

New wheeler horses
Defending European individual and team champion Theo Timmerman is competing with two new horses in the wheel of his team this season. The start to the season has not been easy, but today in the sunny and beautiful Deutsche Bank Stadion, it all worked out for him. “Our goal this season was to prepare for the FEI World Championships 2016 in Breda. If things had not worked out, that would have been our own choice. We decided not to start in Riesenbeck earlier this month, and we drove a national competition instead to build the four-in-hand even more. It went very well there and also in the training session with our national coach Harry de Ruyter, who kept faith in us. It is super that it worked out well today!” explained Timmerman.

Spain excels
Juan Antonio Real Garcia, the first starter today and finishing third, is trained by triple world champion Boyd Exell (AUS). A multiple four-in-hand champion, Real Garcia is competing with two horses from Exell’s four-in-hand gold medal winning team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014. “I am very pleased with my test, despite two small mistakes. One of my leaders had a break in the walk and during the one-handed circle, which was a pity,” said Real Garcia.

Close scores
Hungarian drivers Zoltán Lázár and József Dobrovitz set the same score in the dressage today, finishing fifth and putting Team Hungary in second place.
The most experienced Belgian driver Felix-Marie Brasseur and his young compatriot Edouard Simonet finished in 7th and 8th respectively, and with very close scores of 48.79 and 48.90.
Michael Brauchle, whose best phase is normally the marathon, put down the best German performance in the dressage phase. Brauchle finished ninth, followed by his team mates Georg von Stein and Christoph Sandmann.

Friday cones
The FEI European Driving Championships 2015 will enter the second phase tomorrow (21 August), with the cones competition. As with Saturday’s final marathon stage, tomorrow’s cones phase will see athletes start in reverse order of results.

Driving individual results – dressage phase:
1. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 38.81
2. Theo Timmerman (NED) 39.88
3. Juan Antonio Real Garcia (ESP) 44.07

Driving team results – dressage phase:
1. The Netherlands 77.69
2. Hungary 95.80
3. Belgium 97.69