Earlier this month Sally travelled to Hungary as Team Vet for the British Junior and Youth Carriage Driving Team at the European Championships at Kisber-Aszar near Budapest. Eight team members competed in three age categories (children’s, junior and young driver) against competitors from ten countries. Carriage-driving is a three day competition, like eventing; dressage on the first day, the marathon phase across country on day two and a timed cones course on the final day.
The biggest concerns for the ponies were the four day journey to and from the competition, and the heat. All the ponies travelled well and settled into the event stabling without any problems. Sally arrived the afternoon before the official FEI vet’s inspection, in time to check all the ponies and make sure they were sound for the trot-up the next morning. All the team ponies passed their inspections with flying colours – once that was out of the way the team could really start to focus on the competition ahead.
The dressage was split across two days due to the number of competitors – nice quiet days for the vet! The team put in some good performances to put themselves in a fairly good position overall.
On marathon day the temperature reached 39°C in the middle of the day – not ideal for the ponies, as the marathon phase consists of a 4km ‘roads and tracks’ section (section A), followed by a compulsory 10 minute halt (with a vet inspection) before section B –11km across country, with six timed obstacles. The target speed for section A is 11kmh, and 14kmh for section B. Each obstacle has six gates, A-F, which must be driven through in order (with red on the right and white on the left) against the clock, and without knocking down any penalty balls. The obstacles were very large and impressive-looking, and very challenging to drive! The difficulty of the obstacles quickly showed, with several damaged carriages and repairs needed to one of the obstacles! Fortunately all the ponies, drivers and backsteppers involved were unhurt.
The preparation put in at home really paid off – all the British ponies coped really well with the heat and humidity, and recovered quickly at the end of the marathon. Sally and the team used aggressive cooling to help them to cool down quickly and avoid their body temperatures getting dangerously high, but the time and hard work getting the ponies fit was readily apparent, as none of the team ponies got dangerously hot. Some of the team members had had to fit their Championship preparation in alongside GCSE and A-level exams! The team really shone in this phase, with everyone climbing the rankings by quite a few places, and winning first place in the junior age category (driving trials gives separate prizes for each phase, and then a final overall result).
The cones course on the final day was very technical and challenging – it really sorted the competitors out and produced a very exciting competition to watch! The British drivers put on another excellent performance, climbing higher up the rankings. The overall medal positions went right down to the wire in all three age categories – most excitingly in the junior category, where we came away with a British European gold medallist! Overall the team finished a close sixth out of the 11 countries taking part – pretty respectable!
It was a really exciting week – everyone came away with new friends and more experience, and most importantly with everyone and their ponies in one piece and looking forward to the next challenge.Back to news