In an elegant display, Germany’s leading lady Mareike Harm put herself into first place with a score of 38.52 in her bid for European titles, despite some heavy rain. As one of the last drivers of the day, she had a long wait and witnessed the top order change as defending champion Bram Chardon (NED) broke through the sub-40 barrier with an exceptional test to finish on 39.52. With a mere one point between them, as soon as they could, they returned to walking the obstacles with their trainers, leaving nothing to chance before the Marathon.
“It wasn’t so good at the start for me this afternoon, because everything had been cleaned for days; all the harness and the horses were so shiny, but as just as we walked out of the stables, it started to really rain. But my horses gave everything and were so easy to drive and fantastic – they did nothing wrong,” said Harm.
Mareike’s teammate Anna Sandmann was the first of the competitors to gain consistently high marks from the five judges to gain a low score of 42.58 and 3rd place. Their total puts the German team ahead on 81.10, dropping Michael Brauchle’s overnight leading score.
The Dutch just missed an early lead in the team competition because of a harness malfunction at the start of Ijsbrand Chardon’s test. The penultimate driver to go, a frustrating loose strap on the right leader meant that the grooms had to dismount to correct the situation which added 5 penalties to his otherwise competitive score of 40.99. Showing all his years of practice and a cool head, Ijsbrand halted and raised his whip, pausing his test for a few moments before producing a commanding performance, which was to the judges’ liking. Ending the day in 4th, he keeps himself in medal contention and contributes to the team score of 85.51.
Dries Degrieck was another who drove a mature test and tallied 51.04 to add to Tom Stokmans’ score from the previous day to give 108.81 and put the Belgians into 3rd for the teams.
For most of the day, it was overcast in Exloo but just as Fredrik Persson entered the arena, the weather broke and the torrential downpour began. Despite the challenging conditions, he drove a fine quality test to finish on 48.31, which was good enough for 5th and put the Swedish team into 4th on 112.01, ahead of France in 5th on 113.48.
Meanwhile, the Para Drivers made the most of their day off from the competition to finalise their routes through the obstacles. Course builder Jeroen Houterman (NED) commented that he had to prioritise the routes for the horse fours, because of the overall length of the turnouts, but include options for the single horses and ponies. He is also delighted to see how many times they are being examined, which for him means he has presented plenty of alternatives for both championships.
Ahead of her bid to retain her Grade I gold medal and keep the American team in podium contention, Tracy Bowman stated, “The beginning looks amazing – it’s fast, it’s inviting, it’s flowing – even the water looks great! Number 7 will be tougher, especially for Lars, as he’s a pony who really likes to power through, so I might need to take a slightly different approach.”
by Sarah Dance