The 2002 European Pony Team Driving Championships promise great entertainment for all the family

Britain is hosting the 2002 FEI European Pony Four-in-Hand Driving Championships, sponsored by Bernard Matthews, at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, Norfolk on 28-30 June.

It will be the first international driving championship in England since the World Horse Pairs Championships in 1985.

The event, which waspostponed from last year due to FMD, is expected to be one of the most open in recent years with reigning champion, Georgina Thrift, absent from the British team. Georgina is presently without a team for international competitions after selling her highly successful Welsh team to the USA. She is currently producing a new team of Connemara ponies.

Instead British team hopes will be carried by Ursula Hirschberg, Philippa Gammell and Emily Bennett, while Anna Grayson, John Pickford, The Duke of Edinburgh, Beverley Mellstrom, Helen Cruickshank and Sarah-Jane Cook are competing as individuals. Anna and John have been named as team reserves.

This strong British contingent will be competing against top pony team drivers from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland for the title of European Champion.

The marathon

Visitors to this year’s event can look forward to watching some of the best pony team drivers in the world negotiate eight specially re-designed obstacles in the marathon’s final section.

Austrian course-designer Christian Iseli and George Prince have produced some exciting and challenging designs, which provide easy viewing for spectators.

Large crowds can be expected around obstacle three, the water hazard, which has been rebuilt complete with fountain and floral centrepiece. The new design will see the majority of teams negotiate the water at speed.

Visitors with a phobia of spiders should be warned that obstacle five is aptly named “Arachnophobia 2 – the return“. Based on a sculpture of a spider by Louise Bourgeois at London’s Tate Modern galley, the obstacle received rave reviews on its first outing at Henbury Hall last year.

Continuing the patriotic theme started by the World Cup and Queen’s Golden Jubilee, obstacle four is based around a massive Union Jack. Other highlights of the course include “The Flower Garden”, which includes 300m of flowers, while a ramp and water splash post the final challenge at obstacle eight.

Taking place alongside a national driving event and country show, which includes a spectacular display by The Kings Troop, the European Driving Championships will provide great entertainment for horse and country lovers of all ages.

For more information visit www.sandringhamdriving.co.uk

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