Kiko and Boo’s Great Adventure to World Equestrian Bronze!

Enjoy this article by IDHSNA member Boo Fitch on her very great adventure representing the United States in the 2014 FEI World Para Equestrian Driving Championships on her own Kiko an Irish Draught Sport Horse!

After much planning, organizing, and packing we were ready to leave. June 10 dawned very early. Kiko and Gloria Ripperton left at 4:45 am for JFK Airport in New York. They arrived uneventfully about 2pm. They boarded the plane to Amsterdam about 10:30pm. I flew out of Dulles meeting another member of our team, Mary Garren, there as well. Kiko flew very well, but upon landing, Gloria said she whinnied and started pawing. I think the sentiment was "get me outta here we are on the ground now" Gloria and Kiko were picked up by a commercial van and hauled the rest of the way to Koos and Marie De Rondes farm. She arrived very tired and it took about 4 days of rest and hand walking and grazing to regain her energy.

Training camp started the following week. We worked on dressage and cones primarily. The ground was very hard and fairly slick so we had to use studs every time she went out. Kiko really appreciated them because she slipped once falling down completely prior to putting them in. Everyone improved each day by leaps and bounds during training camp. Sara Schmidt was our Coach. She was careful not to drill the horses. Just get an improved performance each day was a great strategy.

Once training week was over, we repacked again for England. Horse and stuff loaded in the De Rondes large lorry and trailer and we headed for the ferry at the Hook of Holland. The horses stayed on the large lorry for the night and rest of us had cabins overnight. The ferry was much like a small cruise ship. The following morning 6:30am we off loaded the ferry and drove on to Sandringham. The weather had been nice up to this point.

Coach Sara wanted the horses to go for a quiet drive around the grounds. Kiko had other plans. She was anything but quiet, taking in all the new sights and sounds. Then the rain settled in.....after that our regular show routine settled in. We did work with Coach Sara for one hour each day in the dressage ring. We had a standing 1pm meeting with the other members of the Team conducted by our Chef 'd Equip Marie De Ronde. Once the hazards were open we had a Team walking hazards session to look at all the routes and plan where we going.

It continued to rain off and on every day after we arrived. I must say the footing held up fairly well throughout the entire competition. Dressage day was no different. Kiko and I had to do our test in the pouring rain, lighting and thunder literally. Harriet Peterson who rode as groom on the back of my carriage, as required, said during the storm, "well this is a beautiful place to die" referring to being struck by lightning! We all survived and Kiko put in a brilliant test placing us 2nd after the dressage phase. One of the other 2 members of the US Team Bob Giles placed 3rd and the 3rd member Diane Kastama placed 10th. Her score was dropped and we were then 3rd in the team standings.

Marathon day came with morning rain but clearing somewhat in the afternoon. We all went in the afternoon. Kiko was strong and happy for marathon and literally would see the hazard up ahead and start galloping for it. We had no trouble making our overall time and the hazards got better as we went along. She was plenty fit and I was totally pleased with her performance. We placed 6th overall. Marathon is not Kiko’s strongest phase and I knew we would not hold our 2nd place. We were now in 4th place but I was still pleased nonetheless. Bob Giles was 2nd on the marathon. That is his strongest phase and he did not disappoint. The USA remained in 3rd place overall.

Cones day came with rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon. Finally sun! Kiko went great in cones even trying to drag me to a set of cones she eyed along the way on the course. Cones must be done in numerical order, but Kiko hadn't counted correctly, ha ha! Anyway we had 3 balls down but no time faults. Bob had 2 balls no time faults. We were in danger of losing 3rd place until Diane went. She was in last place overall but put in a double clear round. All balls up and no time penalties. That was just what we needed! We held on to our bronze medal. The entire competition really proved to be a Team effort. Kiko and I were selected for our dressage abilities, Bob Giles and the leased pony he drove for his Marathon skill and Diane came through with the great cones for a winning performance.

The closing ceremonies were full of speeches and announcements, all of which were loud and long. The winning horses had to stand in line with their carriages and people for 2 hours. They all behaved so well. Once all the awards had been given out they asked us for a victory round. The USA was asked to lead the field going 3 abreast. Kiko thought this was pretty exciting and by the third round as we were asked to do, control was slipping. I was very happy to get out of that ring with all those horses. I think Kiko felt the same. Again she was such a trooper.

We then packed up and got back to the ferry that evening about 9pm and went back to Holland. Kiko and Gloria would then travel to Liege Belgium for the flight back to NY. Once in NY Kiko would have to go to quarantine for 3 days and Gloria would rest and wait for her to be released. She was released on July 3rd and made the rest of the drive from NY to VA. Harriet and I flew from Amsterdam to Dulles on July 3rd as well. Surprisingly enough, Kiko, Gloria, and I all made it back to my farm within 30 minutes of each other about 10:30pm that night. Kiko looked good and was clearly glad to be home. Gloria and I hit the bed pretty quick as we were both quite tired. Gloria continued her journey back home to North Carolina the next day.

It truly was the trip of a lifetime. Gloria, Mary, Harriet all were great help and support and the trip could not have been accomplished without everyone's help. Kiko really put in a stellar performance and I was so proud of her. She really rose to the occasion in every way.

Virginia Boo Fitch

A big congratulations and thank you to Boo Fitch from the IDHSNA for sharing your adventure with all of us and showing the world your lovely Irish Draught Sport Horse mare.

Driving photos by Marie de Ronde-Ondemans

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