Reigning champion Boyd Exell from Australia is among 46 four-in-hand drivers from 17 nations vying for honours when competition gets under way at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on September 4.
Exell will be facing a tough competition in Normandy as his greatest opponent, Chester Weber from the USA, has made his mark this season, with victories at key international events including Windsor (GBR), Saumur (FRA) and Aachen (GER). The 2012 silver medalist, who recently became father of a baby son, Douglas, also won the test event at Caen in 2013.
But Australia’s Exell has proven to be an excellent competitor in all circumstances and is able to keep a cool head under pressure, which guarantees a nail-biting competition until the very last phase.
Dutch driver Theo Timmerman is also aiming for a place on the individual podium. The 2013 European four-in-hand champion won in Riesenbeck (GER) and finished second at the CAI3* events in Horst (NED) and Saumur. Timmerman is in great form and is determined to improve on his individual fourth place at the FEI World Four-in-Hand Championships in 2012.
Timmerman’s teammates IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde will do everything not only to defend their team gold, which has been in Dutch hands since 2008, but will also be battling it out for the individual honours. De Ronde finished third at Windsor, Saumur, Aachen and Riesenbeck, while Chardon had top-five placings at Windsor, Vecsés and Riesenbeck, while testing the right combination of horses for his four-in-hand team.
Add to the mix Germany’s leading driver Christoph Sandmann, Hungarians József Dobrovitz and Zoltán Lázár, and former world champion Werner Ulrich from Switzerland, and the outcome of the competition for the individual medals is anyone’s guess.
Host nation France is well represented with eight competitors – three team members and five individuals – who are expected to put up strong performances in the individual phases.
A special spotlight will be on the Lusitano stallion Xisto, from the team of Portuguese driver Manuel Campilho. Xisto was photographed by Portuguese photographer Filipa Scarpa, who won the top prize in the FEI Solidarity World Photo Grand Prix for her stunning image of the 11-year-old stallion.
- 14 nations will line up in the team competition, in which the Netherlands is the defending champion.
- This is the world championship debut for 22-year-old Josef Leibetseder jr, (AUT), 24-year-old Edouard Simonet (BEL), 35-year-old Sébastien Mourier (FRA), 27-year-old Sébastien Vincent (FRA) and 41-year-old François Vogel (FRA).
- At 22, Hungary’s József Dobrovitz Jr. is the youngest driver, whereas Carlo Mascheroni (ITA) is, at 74, the oldest athlete of the entire Games.
- The course designer is Richard Nicoll (USA), former chairman of the FEI Driving Committee, who was in charge of the course at the 2010 Kentucky Games.
- Dr Klaus Christ from Germany, also a member of the FEI Driving Committee, leads the Ground Jury.
- Wednesday, 3 September: Horse Inspection
- Thursday, 4 September: Dressage Part 1
- Friday, 5 September: Dressage Part 2
- Saturday, 6 September: Marathon
- Sunday, 7 September: Obstacle Driving Competition