By Cindy Timmer
After four days of sport, Samba Lott, Valenzio FST and Nesqu GB claimed the three titles on offer at the second edition of the FEI World Driving Championships for young horses in Mezőhegyes, Hungary.
The competition took place under very sunny skies at the Mezőhegyes State Stud, renowned for breeding the Nónius horse and the Mezőhegyes Sport Horse. Dr Klaus Christ (GER) chaired the international Ground Jury, with members Jan-Erik Pålsson (SWE), Joaquin Medina Garcia (ESP) and Anne Marie Turbé (FRA). The Organizing Committee counted 15 minutes for each dressage test, which allowed the Ground Jury to discuss each test. The President of the Ground Jury announced the points and the comments via microphone to the drivers and the spectators, which gave everybody a good overview of the judging. This was also done during the combined marathon competition on the Final day, much to the appreciation of the competitors, their trainers and the driving fans on site.
The 10 horses in the five-year-old category battled it out over three days in combined dressage and cones competitions. The horses were judged on the basic paces in dressage, the level of training appropriate to the age of the horse and overall impression to include character and education of the driving horse in the dressage and the cones. The most influential point was the character of the horse and the horse’s drivability.
The Sachsen-Thüringen heavy warm blood horse Samba Lott and German driver Steffen Horn put down their first steps on the victory path by driving the best test on the first qualification day. The mare showed very good impulsion and regularity, which put them in the lead. After the qualifying round, the top five drove their Final on Saturday. This included a combined dressage and cones test. Samba Lott was unbeatable again and took home the gold:
“This is a dream come true,” tells Steffen Horn. “Last year I drove a different horse and I didn’t even make it to the Final. But Samba Lott (v. Celtis) is a completely different league. I have owned her for several years already and trained her carefully because I saw what kind of power and eagerness she had. After several small combined driving competitions I knew she was ready for this World Championship. She completely met my expectations, both in the Qualification and in the Final. It is a fantastic feeling to drive this horse, she has so much power.”
The silver medal went to the Silesian mare Rebelia, driven by the successful Polish driver Bartlomiej Kwiatek. Rebelia (v. Hutor) won the CAI-YH1 I Boguslawice at the start of July and made it to the Final through the ‘last chance’ qualification round, which she won with distance. In the Final, in which all started from scratch again, Rebelia scored 7,07 points and stayed clear in the cones, which led them to silver. The Westfalen mare Fiderella 2, driven by Germany’s Ulrich Hengemühl, took home the bronze medal in this class. An extraordinary performance since Mezőhegyes was the first international experience for both driver and horse.
The 8 starters in the six-year-old horse-class had four days of competition, with two days of combined dressage and cones, and then the top five going through to the dressage final. The last day consisted of a combined marathon and cones competition, which included two marathon obstacles, a water passage and several cones.
Germany’s Dirk Hofmann, a Driving Instructor at the Saxon State School for Riding and Driving, impressed with the Saxon Thüringer heavy warm blood stallion Valenzio FST in the qualification round, which they won. Valenzio FST showed a beautiful walk and the general impression was awarded with a 9.0 from the jury. Last year's World Champion in the 5 year-old category Enfado P with Jovanca Marie Kessler finished second, ahead of the nice moving Lipizzaner gelding Conversano Csalo, driven by Austrian driving talent Vinzenz Dobretsberger, who schooled and trained Csalo himself.
The top three of the qualification would remain unchanged after the Dressage Final and the Combined Marathon on the Final Day, so Valenzio FST won the gold medal untouched, while Enfado P took the silver and Conversano Csalo went home with bronze.
“To me it was already a fantastic success to compete at these World Championships with the breeding stallions of the Moritzburg state stud where I work,” says Dirk. “I trained them both myself but last year I was not allowed to travel with them because of equine infectious anaemia. This year I received the green light. I won the German ‘Bundeschampionat’ last year with Valenzio FST and he was just amazing. He gave everything for me. We received a 10 for the perspective of this horse in the sport and I felt we really deserved this. I am very happy!”
The seven-year-old division was the biggest class of the championships, with 13 starters that took on the same competition format as the six-year-olds. In contrary to the six-year-olds, the competition in the seven-year-olds class remained open until the end.
After his fourth place in the qualification, won by Bazyli with Bartlomiej Kwiatek, Swiss driver Giacomin Barbüda drove his own-bred Freiberger gelding Nesqu GB to the first place in the Dressage Final. The duo secured their gold medal by winning the Combined Marathon competition in which they received the highest points from the Jury as well:
“My horse is unique,” tells Giacomin, who is a pensioned carpenter and horse breeder. “ The Freiberger is really a cold blood breed, but Nesqu is very special. I have been competing with him at very small national events since he was three years old. His movements are amazing, can you imagine he received an 8 for extended trot in the Dressage Final, which is just fantastic! During the combined marathon he was absolutely marvellous. He went so fluently and attacked, I hardly had to do anything. This is only our second competition at international level, I am 67 years old but today I feel like I am twenty years old again!”
After the second place in the Dressage Final and the third place in the Combined Marathon, Weronika Kwiatek from Poland claimed the silver medal with the Silesian stallion Epilog. Her brother Bartlomiej drove the half brother of Epilog, 2015 gold medallist Bazyli, to bronze.
Final results FEI World Driving Championships for Young Horses Mezőhegyes
1. Steffen Horn (Ger) – Samba Lott - 8,71
2. Bartlomiej Kwiatek (Pol) – Rebelia - 7,07
3. Ulrich Hengemühl (Ger) – Fiderella 2 – 7,00
1. Dirk Hofmann (Ger) – Valenzio FST - 18,21
2. Jovanca Marie Kessler (Ger) – Enfado P - 16,56
3. Vinzenz Dobretsberger (Aut) – Conversano Csalo - 16,00
1. Giacomin Barbüda (Sui) – Nesqu GB - 16,47
2. Weronika Kwiatek (Pol) – Epilog - 14,47
3. Bartlomiej Kwiatek (Pol) – Bazyli - 14,33