Welcome to Bennington's Greven 2009 page!
The Bennington team, headed by Sue Mart driving Steppers Viceroy (Zac), are competing as individual competitors in the FEI World Combined Pony Championships in Greven, Germany, from August 13th to August 16th 2009.
The last three weeks have seen a huge preparatory effort from the team and their supporters - including vet checks, getting export documentation ready for Zac, carriage preparation, cleaning and preparing horse lorries, caravans, sorting transportation, accommodation and rest stops en route - and of course lots of training for Zac and the team - the list is endless! However, the team is in very high spirits and ready to leave for Germany on Sunday 9th August.
This page will provide regular updates on the latest news from the Bennington Team in Germany - so be sure to check back regularly!
Sunday 16th August: The Grand Finale
Sunday represented the climax of the competition, with the cones section providing the final challenge. Agility and speed would be tested today in the main dressage ring and ultimately would determine the overall positions of the competition.
The Single Pony class started at 8.30, with Sue Denney being first in the ring for Great Britain, giving a fantastic performance and achieving a time of 183.85 seconds with three penalties. Next in the ring for Team GB was Julie Camm, achieving a time of 193.22 seconds with nine penalities. The last British entrant was Team Bennington's Sue Mart.
Sue gave a sterling performance until the box section of the test, whereby a series of poles approximately 12" off the ground have to be negotiated - a mini "slalom" in essence. This is uncommon in UK competitions and was a first for Zac. Showing his showjumping routes, Zac made an attempt to jump one of the first poles, knocking it down. Thankfully, timing was stopped whilst the pole was resituated and then Sue was able to finish her round. A solid overall performance, Sue finished in a time of 186.54 with eight penalties. Fingernails were bitten until the end of the competition to finalise overall placing...
Pairs saw James Broome deliver a crowd pleasing performance, finishing in a time of 175.32 with six penalties. Anna Grayston followed James, again delivering a solid performance in 183.38 with twelve penalties. The last of the British competitors, Faith Szczuka, driving her team of four ponies, completed the course in 219.72 seconds with thirty three penalties.
For what seemed like an age, final scores were calculated before the final results and positions were published.
- Sue Mart: Single Pony -7th position overall and the highest placed British competitor
- Julie Camm: Single Pony - 17th position overall
- Sue Denney: Single Pony - 22nd position overall
- Anna Grayston: Pairs - 11th position overall
- James Broome: Pairs - 22nd position overall
- Faith Szczuka: Teams - 20th position overall
Overall, a fantastic result for Team GB and a spectacular result for our very own Sue, Wendy and Erica. Team GB, their ponies and supporters should be suitably thrilled with the result and whilst your roving journalist was sadly unable to join the evening festivities, we have reliable reports that Team GB partied long into the night, celebrating their mutual successes and enjoying the German hospitality.
If you've been following this blog and have never attended a carriage driving event, why not consider coming along to the National Carriage Driving Championships in September?
Saturday 15th August: The Marathon
Team Bennington awoke to glorious sunshine (and the sound of their alarms) at 5am. The "big day" was finally here and thousands upon thousands of visitors would be watching the marathon section of the event. Zac had a good rest overnight in the nearby stabling and was clearly keen to entertain the crowds. Carriage checked, harness on and fingers crossed, the team headed off for the preliminary sections of the marathon at 10.35 a.m. before arriving at Section E (The Obstacles) at 11.20 a.m.
Section E was awash with thousands of visitors and whilst the German and Dutch teams had the largest (and loudest!) supporters, Team GB supporters were very much in evidence. Union Jack flags, caps, polo shirts, sunglasses and even the odd fake Union Jack tattoo left little doubt that Team GB meant business. The obstacles were truly world class and a credit to the course designers who ensured that there were challenging for the competitor yet thrilling for the spectator. At many times, crowds were 10 deep at the edge of each obstacle and each completion of an obstacle was met by a stampede as the supporters ran from obstacle to obstacle to follow their team.
Sue Denney driving "Roly" kicked off with some scorching performances through obstacles 1 to 8 and got the Team GB supporters shouting, whistling and clapping. Julie Camm, driving Thorneyside Emperor, followed later, again setting some scorching times and giving a fantastic, crowd pleasing performance. Julie was followed by a single Dutch competitor before it was Sue Mart's turn - and the crowd erupted with cheers as Sue appeared at the start of obstacle 1.
Zac performed magnificently and demonstrated why Sue and the team had placed so much faith in him and trained him to get to a standard fit for world class competition. Fluid, agile and extremely powerful, Sue and Wendy were at times seemingly hanging on for dear life as Zac played to the crowd, giving it his all and pulling the Bennington XL carriage around with ease. The dry, sandy soil provided a very easy surface to drive on - although the clouds of dust kicked up soon caused most of the supporters to have a darker tan than expected!
Zac continued to perform magnificently in spite of the increasing temperatures and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Sue had completed Section E and Zac was taken back to the stabling area. Holly, Nicola and the rest of the support team were there to check Zac from head to toe before strapping ice packs to his legs, giving him a wash down and awarding him a polo mint for being such a fantastic competitor.
As all Marathon events were to be completed on Saturday, scores weren't officially published until later the last competitor had finished, leaving team Bennington and the rest of Team GB anxious about placing. However, at around 6pm, the final scores were published and Sue, Wendy and Zac were delighted to have achieved 6th place - out of a class of 36 - a fantastic result for Sue and team and the highest placed British competitor.
The evening ceremony was a fantastic affair - a live band and dancers plus close to a thousand people crammed into the main marquee. After the opportunity for a swift congratulatory G&T, Sue and Wendy were presented with their award in front of an ecstatic Team GB support crew. Julie Camm, finishing 9th in the class, was also awarded her award to the whistles and screams of the ecstatic British crowd. All prize winners were treated to a celebratory dance with members of the dance troupe that were entertaining the crowd. Photo's will be uploaded to the Greven 2009 Gallery very soon - do keep checking back!
Friday 14th August: A hectic day!
Another sunny, busy day for Team Bennington here in Greven. Whilst not competing today, the usual seemingly endless list of tasks remained for the team and their supporters.
Today focused on preparation for the marathon. Sue, Wendy and Erica spent a significant proportion of the day walking the obstacles, determining how to get through them safely in the quickest possible time. The obstacles here are big - much bigger than most found in the UK - and are extremely challenging.
When not walking the obstacles, the team were busy using diagrams of each obstacle to double check each route and to confirm plans with team trainer Wilf Bowman-Ripley.We are all looking forward to what will undoubtedly be a thrilling spectacle on Saturday.
Whilst the girls were busy, the Bennington "support crew" were busy cleaning the Bennington Presentation Carriage in readiness for the evening presentation. At 5.30 p.m. the winners in the dressage competition were recognised with a presentation in the main dressage arena. Sue, coming 6th in the dressage in her class, was thrilled to be able to attend, receiving her prize in front of a sea of union jack waving Team GB supporters. Anna Grayston was also in attendance, winning a fantastic 3rd place in her dressage class and again, being celebrated by the Team GB supporters.
A full set of detailed results can be found on the Greven 2009 website and photos can also be found on the Bennington Carriages website under 2009 Greven Gallery.For more information, why not also read Kerry Bowness' diary on the BHDTA website?
Thursday 13th August: Dressage
The Bennington team leapt into action at 5am in readiness for the first of the three components of the competition - dressage.
Finishing touches were made to Zac, carriage and team - cleaning, buffing and polishing every inch of metalwork, upholstery, hoof and hide. Warm-up began at about 8am, giving the Bennington team just over an hour to get Zac "in the zone". Thankfully, the facilities are wonderful and a large practice arena is provided to each competitor. Julie Camm was the first of the British entries at 9am and soon it was time for Sue and Wendy to enter the ring.
Your roving journalist spoke to Sue and Wendy to get some feedback on their performance..... "Zac performed marvellously - world class! He was confident and calm in front of the 5 judges and took everything in his stride. We have to remember we are competing against the best teams in the world from as far afield as Australia, the USA and of course the exceptional "local" nations such as Germany and Holland - yet we were able to finish 6th out of 36 teams and be the leading British team in our class. An absolutely brilliant start!!!!"
The Bennington Team extend their sincerest thanks for the long list of cards, e-mails and text messages expressing your best wishes to the team. Sue, Wendy and Erica very much appreciate your support and will undoubtedly be sharing their stories with you on their return.
Within minutes of leaving the dressage, Greven was met by a torrential downpour. However, this didn't dampen spirits and the team remained focussed on walking the hazards in preparation for Saturday's marathon event and preparing for the opening ceremony.
7pm saw the opening ceremony and guests were treated to a spectacular display of ridden dressage, local Westphalian heavy horses and then the main event - the competitors parade - before retiring to the main hospitality marquee for drinks to the sound of a local 20 piece jazz orchestra. A fantastic day for Team Bennington.
Wednesday 12th August: Vet Check Complete
Today was "vet check day", with the beautifully turned out Team GB ponies being trotted up by the Team GB team. Many positive comments were received about the turnout - the ponies looked wonderful - all cleaned and plaited - as did Team GB drivers and support crew, who were dressed in full team colours. The whole team passed the vet check - another hurdle cleared.
Dressage practice was the order of the afternoon, with Wilf Bowman-Ripley providing his expert coaching to all of Team GB. Sadly he was unable to improve the weather which has been a mix of sun and showers all day.
Chef D'Equipe Jill Holah attended a meeting to watch dressage times being drawn. Julie Camm begins Team GB's entry at 9am, followed soon afterwards by Sue Mart at 9.20 a.m. who is followed by Sue Denny at 12.55. Times for the rest of Team GB (Anna Grayson, James Broome and Faith Szczuka) will be decided tomorrow morning.
Tonight saw the "Evening of Nations" event where each competing nation offers traditional fayre to the other competitors. Team GB had a wonderful spread of quintessentially British food and drink - Pimms, Welsh Cakes, Scotch Whisky, Cheddar, Stilton and of course, the Team GB pork pie courtesy of Team Bennington's Erica.
Sadly, the team aren't able to have too late a night as the alarm is set for 5am in readiness for dressage at 9.20. Good luck Sue and the rest of Team GB!
Tuesday 10th August: Early to rise!
The team were up at 6am and met with good weather. Zac was given a good drive in the nearby woods and all went well - although the short road sections were a first for Zac - driving on the wrong side of the road!
Breakfast was followed by finalising Camp GB, which is now a sea of flags and bunting, before the first of the team dressage training sessions with team trainer Wilf Bowman-Ripley. All went well, with each Team GB member getting a 20 minute slot with Wilf.
Early evening saw Team GB put each of the British ponies through a mock trot up - eagerly observed by Wilf, Holly the Team GB vet and equine physiotherapist Nicola. Everybody was pleased with the results and this was enhanced by feedback from Jill Holah, Chef D'Equipe, who reported back from her meeting that all was going to plan and there were no issues or surprises! All are ready for the formal inspection tomorrow.
The team are busy trying to learn a little German between activities and Sue has apparently mastered the phrase "Ein Gin und Tonikum bitte....." We'll leave you to work that one out!
Monday 10th August: Greetings from Greven!
Sunday morning saw the Bennington team of Sue, Wendy & Erica (and of course Zac...) make the journey to the ferry at Dover. After a 5 hour journey, passports and documents were checked and the Bennington lorry was safely loaded on the top deck. Zac's first sea voyage was remarkably smooth and drama free (we think that Zac secretly enjoyed the sea air!)
Once disembarked at Calais, the Bennington team headed to the overnight rest stop where the team would meet James Broome. Sadly James didn't arrive until midnight after suffering a tyre blowout on his horsebox.
After dinner and a team G&T (for medicinal purposes of course...), the whole team managed to get a decent nights sleep before leaving for Greven at 8 a.m. 7 hours later, the team arrived safely, with Zac enjoying a good stretch before heading to his stable - which is thankfully very pleasant. The weather is warm and there is a gentle breeze.
Currently the team are busy unpacking and getting ready for a busy week. Flags are being raised and Union Jack bunting being strung between the Team GB lorries. Spirits are high and the the first hurdle - getting Zac and the team to Greven safely - has been cleared!