Valkenswaard was the centre of the international driving sport last month. The organisation decided to run the event without spectators but did everything possible to make it a top event as drivers from 16 nations competed for the prizes.

More than 90 turnouts started their competition with dressage phase on Thursday and Friday. Marathon Day on the Saturday saw nine beautifully dressed obstacles. “Although we don’t have spectators, we do not want to make any concessions to the standard of our event,” said chairman Ludo Hertroijs.

The show grounds and obstacles looked pristine. The competitors all drove eight obstacles. The last obstacle for the horse teams was a different one than for the horse pairs. The special ‘In Memory Prince Philip obstacle’ was dressed with beautiful photographs of the late The Duke of Edinburgh, who was one of the founders of the four-in-hand sport.

The marathon proved extremely exciting, and the standings changed after each phase of the competition. The horse pairs class was won by reigning World Champion Martin Hölle from Hungary, Australia’s Tor van den Berge finished in second place and Dutch driver Stan van Eijk came third. The event was an important competition for drivers in this class, as it was one of the last tests before the upcoming World Championship.

Event host Boyd Exell won the four-in-hand class, followed by Dutch drivers IJsbrand and Bram Chardon who contributed to the golden team medal for the Netherlands in the Nations Cup competition.

Exell said although he was happy with his victory, he was even more happy with the success of the event: “I am very pleased with the group of people who helped organise this event. We only want the best for the competitors, and we set high standard within the show grounds and with the obstacles. Listening to the reactions of the competitors, I believe we have succeeded.” He explained that being an organiser and competing at the same time was a big challenge: “I am happy with my performance, but especially grateful for all the help from the people in my team. It was an exciting week.”

After last year’s late cancellation of the World Four-in-Hand Championship in Valkenswaard, the organising committee was very happy with the success of this event as Ludo Hertroijs explains: “We do hope that we will be able to run the event next year with spectators again. We did miss them this year! The competitors know that they can compete at a fantastic competition at DVI, and we would like to welcome them again in June. And we keep our ambition to host a World Championship in the future.”

Image credit: Krisztina Horvàth.