World gold for pony driver on championship debut

  • Pony pairs driver Tara Wilkinson has secured an individual gold for Great Britain at the FEI world driving championships for ponies in Minden, Germany (15-20 Aug).

    The 20-year-old was making her senior championship debut driving Emma Burge’s experienced Welsh section C ponies Capitola Mr Houdini, Belle Du Jour and Menai Lone Ranger.

    Lying seventh after the dressage, Tara managed to climb the leaderboard with a sixth-placed marathon performance to lie in silver going into the final phase, with a cone separating her from leader Jan-Felix Pfeffer (GER).

    One down for Tara plus one time-penalty enabled her to hold her rank, but when the German knocked one ball and added a costly six penalties, she stepped up to gold.

    “We weren’t expecting it but we always aim for it,” said Tara, who has been training with world champion Boyd Exell at his Dutch base. “It feels amazing to win on my senior championship debut and I’ll be looking for the next step now.”

    It was a second consecutive pony pairs gold for Britain; Tara following in the footsteps of Anna Grayston, who took the title in 2015.

    Britain has started to forge a strong track record at the pony championships, having also brought home an individual silver and individual bronze four years ago.

    Tara was Britain’s sole representative in the pairs class, after ill health forced Alan Clarke to step down and no FEI-qualified reserve was available.

    The loss meant Britain was unable to field a team but sent individuals Robert Buck (single pony); Rosanna Walters-Symons (single pony); Sara Howe (pony team) and Roger Campbell (pony team).

    “It was disappointing not to have a replacement combination for Alan as from the results we would more than likely have brought home a team medal,” said chef d’equipe Jill Holah. “We were confident going there that we stood a chance of bringing one home individually.”

    Roger Campbell — who is based at Minden — finished next best of the Brits with a seventh in the pony fours, while Robert Buck was 17th in the single pony driving the 19-year-old Welsh section D Thorneyside Emperor.

    Rosanna Walters-Symons had a slightly disappointing marathon with the relatively green German sports pony Hurricain but completed in tenth, while team stalwart Sara Howe — at her seventh world championships — was 18th in the pony fours.

    Germany took team gold followed by the Netherlands in silver and Belgium in bronze. Gold in the single pony went to Germany’s Marlena Brenner, while her fellow countryman Michael Bugener topped the podium in the pony fours.

    Don’t miss the current H&H (17 August) for our full European Championships preview and this week’s (24 August) for full coverage of the eventing from Strzegom.

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