Sandringham Estate (GBR), the much-loved country retreat of HM The Queen, provided the gorgeous backdrop for the ninth FEI World Para Equestrian Driving Championships which took place last weekend. Germany was the strongest nation taking home the team title as well as individual gold in Grade II thanks to the 27-year old Alexandra Röder. Jacques Poppen representing The Netherlands was crowned champion in Grade I and added a second world title to the one won in 2008.
During three days, 24 competitors from eight nations took part in the FEI World Para Equestrian Driving Championship at Sandringham, located in Nothfolk, 150 km north of London. The beautiful estate is well used to Driving competitions, having hosted FEI World Championships on two occasions: the first time in 1985 followed by the first edition of the FEI World Championship for pony four-in-hand drivers held in 2001.
Germany won team gold followed by The Netherlands in silver and the USA who took the bronze.
Alexandra Röder (GER) and the exceptional 11-year old mare Evi 29 were unbeatable in Grade II. They took the lead from the very beginning and won the dressage competition. Röder was also the best in the marathon and with three knockdowns in the cones on Sunday, she took home a well deserved individual gold for the first time in her career. “This is a dream come true,” the 2013 German champion said. “Of course I knew I had medal chances but this was more than I ever expected.”
US-driver Robert Giles, who makes a living as a driving horse trainer, surprised everyone by winning individual silver in Grade II with the Dutch pony Solo, which he leased. ‘For me it is financially not possible to bring my own horse,” he commented. “Winning individual silver and team bronze with a leased horse is just amazing, this is everything I came to Sandringham for. It won’t be a once in a lifetime experience however. My medal collection doesn’t contain gold, so I want to come back. This was thrilling,’ he pointed out.
The bronze in Grade II went to Mick Ward representing the home side. Ward, who won the British Para-Driving Open Championships at Sandingham in 2013, moved up from sixth after the marathon onto the podium by scoring the second best performance in the cones.
Defending champion Heiner Lehrter from Germany was eager to keep his title in Grade I but after the dressage, the difference between him and Jacques Poppen driving the Arabo-Friesian PP was huge. Lehrter, who has competed at all previous FEI World Para Equestrian Driving Championships, won the marathon with the 11-year-old gelding Dashwood. This brought him closer to Poppen in the standings, but with a perfect double clear round, the Dutch driver came out on top in Grade I. Lehrter took silver followed by teammate Markus Beerhues in bronze.
Princess Haya Hand in Hand Trophy
Teams combining para-equestrian and able-bodied drivers competed for the HRH Princess Haya Hand-in-Hand Trophy. Donated by FEI President, the trophy depicts holding hands and was presented to the pair formed by para-driver Lindsey Tyas Paice (GBR) and Barry Capstick (IRL), who competed in the CAI2* held at Sandringham at the same time as the world championships. The winning pair’s combined scores were the lowest of the competition.
1. Jacques Poppen (NED) 107,18
2. Heiner Lehrter (GER) 118,46
3. Markus Beerhues (GER) 124,25
1. Alexandra Roeder (GER 111,61
2. Robert Giles (USA) 125,21
3. Mike Ward (GBR) 127,25
1. Germany 227,07
2. Netherlands 243,03
3. USA 248,03
4. Great Britain 264,91
Official results here.