Bad luck at the World Driving Championships Lipica

Posted: 03-10-2017

On Sunday morning the 17th of September 2017, Tristan started his truck for a long journey to the World Championships for Pairs at Lipica, Slovenia.

The outward journey went smoothly. After an intermediate break at the racetrack of München in Germany, Team Verheijen continued with the last half of their trip on Monday. Upon arrival at the World Championship, team Verheijen searched for an appropriate place to settle for the entire week. Once the horses were nicely stabled, and all their stuff put in place, the team was ready for the competition to begin.

Team Verheijen spent the Monday and Tuesday on the training of their horses. On Wednesday, all horses were assessed “fit to compete” by the jury. Good news because this meant that Team Verheijen was allowed to compete in the first stage of the combined driving competition, i.e. the dressage.

Tristan was scheduled to present the quality of his horses to the jury on Friday, as first competitor of the second day. “We were as ready as one can be: the horses felt great, even better than at home. I was confident that we would leave the dressage arena as the best Dutch competitor”, Tristan says. Unfortunately, his actual performance did not turn out as expected. One of his horses became distracted and tensed. It was difficult for Tristan to communicate with him. Tristan adjusted his driving accordingly, he drove less actively and took fewer risks. He managed to keep his horse calm and to avoid big mistakes, but his safe way of driving could not be rewarded with a top score; Team Verheijen was finally ranked at the 37th position (out of 81 participants) with 58,47 points. “My performance was not bad, but too modest when you drive on a world championship level. Unfortunately this was the only way I could handle my anxious horse. However, when you are on the 37th position after the dressage, everything can happen though; even a top 10 position is still within reach. Compared to the other competitors, the differences in results are minor.”  

After a good night’s sleep, Team Verheijen appeared at the start of the marathon on Saturday at 13:18 hrs. They first drove a trajectory among the meadows of the enormous property of the Lipica Stud Farm. Fresh and full of energy, the horses arrived at the second section, i.e. the obstacle course with 8 obstacles. The first obstacle was situated only 100 meters after the start – much to the surprise of the horses. Tristan reassured his horses quickly and managed to negotiate the obstacle smoothly. Likewise, the second and third obstacles were taken easily. Until the fourth obstacle, then their luck turned. Driving around the last fence, the carriage hit a post and was lifted to the left side and Tristan fell off.  He luckily managed to land on his feet and was not injured, but a driver leaving his vehicle is regulatory punished by 20 penalty points. Groom Jitske had to leave the carriage too to stop and calm the horses. This caused 5 extra penalty points. So in total Tristan completed the fourth obstacle with 25 extra penalty points. Since the carriage had not completely landed on its side, they were allowed to continue and complete the marathon. In the end, Team Verheijen was ranked at the 72th place in the marathon, which resulted in a 70th place after dressage plus marathon. “Normally you can anticipate the carriage to lift, and you automatically put your weight to the other side. But this time I did not see it coming at all and I was on the floor before I knew what happened”, Tristan says. “Due to this accident we lost our concentration. We did manage to complete the next four obstacles but drove with the awareness that winning was not an option anymore”. Of course this was a big disappointment for Tristan and his team. Also for the national team, that Tristan represented, since the penalty points caused a lower score for the Dutch national team result as well. “I drove with the ambition to win, and when a misfortune like this happens, especially when it is as innocuous as this accident, my first feeling was to leave and go back home”, says Tristan.

After the disappointing marathon, the team nevertheless regained their motivation and concentration for the third phase, the Cones Course. Their starting time was early, at 9 a.m. The cone’s course test was complicated and had to be driven with high speed. Tristan managed to negotiate the course without hitting any ball. Unfortunately they were not fast enough and got 7.11 penalty points for exceeding the time limit. “I had the feeling that we were driving fast enough, but one really had to excel to meet the challenging time requirement”, Tristan explains. Right after Tristan’s performance, it started to rain in Slovenia. Due to the heavy rainfall, the cones’ arena became flooded. The organisation even had to interrupt and stop the competition for 45 minutes. “Luckily we were ready and the horses were safe and dry at their stables”, Tristan laughs. Team Verheijen was ranked on the 22nd position in the cones and improved their final result. They completed the World Championship Driving Lipica 2017 at the 56th place.  

Tristan: ''I would like to thank everyone who enabled me and my team to participate in the world championships. Without their support our participation would not have been possible. Again, many many thanks!”