Breda, The Netherlands – The 2016 FEI World Driving Championships for Four-in-Hand came to its conclusion on Sunday with the cones phase deciding the final placings. Under the guidance of Chef d’Equipe Ed Young, the U.S. Driving Team of James Fairclough, Allison Stroud, and Chester Weber, along with individual Misdee Wrigley Miller, put forth a solid effort at the championship. Weber secured an impressive fourth-place finish with a score of 192.11, while the U.S. Driving Team finished in sixth place with a score of 435.38. The Netherlands led from start-to-finish to claim the Team Gold medal with a score of 365.09. Hungary earned the Team Silver medal with a score of 390.22, and Germany received the Team Bronze medal with a score of 394.79.
Weber (Ocala, Fla.) was determined from the start of the competition to have a quality performance with his own and Jane Clark’s KWPN geldings. They began the championship with a lovely dressage test that earned a score of 40.94 from the Ground Jury of Andrew Counsell (GBR), Jiri Kunat (CZE), Hanspeter Ruschlin (SUI), Henk van Amerongen (NED), and Reiner Wannenwetsch (GER), placing third in the first phase. In Saturday’s marathon phase, Weber and his team tackled Jeroen Houterman (NED)’s challenging course, having great performances in obstacles one, two, four, and six to finish the phase in 21st place with 146.98 penalty points. They were lying in fifth place heading into Sunday’s cones phase, and they did not disappoint. Weber and his team laid down an excellent cones round over Houterman’s tricky track, knocking down a single ball at obstacle nine and collecting 1.19 time penalties for a total of 4.19 penalty points, which made them tie for fifth place in the phase. At the end of the day, Weber finished fifth overall on a score of 192.11 to be the top U.S. driver in the championship.
“It was super challenging course, evidenced by the one double-clear round, but I am really pleased with my group of horses and with our top-four finish,” Weber said. “We went into this thinking we could drive for a medal, but with more time to train before the 2018 [FEI World Equestrian Games], hopefully we can do that next time.”
Stroud (West Grove, Pa.) and Willow Star LLC’s KWPN geldings had a harmonious dressage test to earn a score of 47.37 for eighth place after the dressage phase. They had a steady performance in the marathon phase, collecting 188.26 penalty points and finishing the phase in 40th place. Stroud and her team had three balls down and 13.73 time penalties to place 37th in the cones phase with 22.73 penalty points, finishing in 32nd place overall with a score of 258.36.
Fairclough (Newton, N.J.) had a respectable dressage test with his mixed team of Warmbloods to slot into 17th place in the first phase with a score of 54.63. They had some good moments in the marathon phase. However, they finished in 45th place with 225.92 penalty points. Fairclough and his team had a fantastic cones round with a single ball down at obstacle 17 and 4.64 time penalties. They finished the cones phase in ninth place with 7.64 penalties points, thus finishing on a final score of 288.19, 40th place overall.
Individually, Wrigley Miller (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) performed a stellar dressage test with her own and Marco Freund’s team to place sixth after the first phase with a score of 46.43. She started off slow on the marathon course but picked up the pace towards the end to finish strong, tallying 280.59 penalty points for 49th place in the phase. In the cones phase, Wrigley Miller recovered well from a disobedience at obstacle nine when a horse did not go through a cone. They finished with 58.04 penalty points for 52nd place. Overall, she and her team finished in 48th place on a score of 385.06.
Boyd Exell (AUS) never relinquished his lead from the start to win Individual Gold with an overall score of 158.40. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) earned Individual Silver with a score of 183.13 and Koos de Ronde (NED) collected Individual Bronze with a score of 185.26.