The thousands of spectators who flocked to the Domaine de Sers to encourage the best riders and drivers in the world made the right decision in staying until the end of this 31st edition of the event.

There were some very high-level sports performances in both carriage driving and eventing. The morning was dedicated to the driving marathon, where World No.1 Marion Vignaud and the French team finished in first place, and the afternoon saw New Zealander Tim Price ride to victory after a flawless weekend with his mount Falco. Maxime Livio, bronze medallist in the 2018 team event at the World Equestrian Games, produced the best French performance, ranking 5th at the end of the day.

Pascal Sayous, president of the 5 Etoiles de Pau, gave a very positive review of a week of magnificent sportsmanship at the highest level, attended by over 40,000 visitors.

The course designed by Yann Royant in the main arena made for a nail-biting final. Top of the provisional leaderboard, Tim Price had just one knockdown’s leeway to maintain his lead ahead of Kevin McNab in 3rd place. Two rails down, and he would be relegated to 9th place. The time allocated to complete the course was barely enough, and many competitors incurred penalties in their attempt to beat the clock.

Completing a clear round was a sure-fire way of making the final top 10, and Tom McEwen had no doubt about it. The British rider and double medallist in Tokyo (gold in the team event and silver in the individual event), made the best comeback of the day, climbing 20th to 2nd place, just ahead of Jonelle Price (NZL). Tim Price, current World No.3, won the third CCI5*L of his career, after Luhmühlen (GER) in 2014 and 2019.

The riders’ reactions

Tim Price (NZL), winner of the 31st edition of the 5 Etoiles de Pau: “This is the first year that Falco has actually decided to toe the line! I intended to come to Pau so that he could gain a bit of experience at this level, and we’ve come away with a win. My horse seemed a little more tired than usual, but he was just fantastic on the show-jumping course. Falco is going to get a well-deserved rest now and then we’ll decide on a plan for next year. I think it’s great to have the carriage driving competition at the same time as the eventing, it helps us understand the similarities between the two disciplines.”

Tom McEwen (GBR) 2nd: “It was my mare’s first 5* competition, and you don’t actually know if they have it in them until you’ve completed the event. I’m really happy with my result and I’m hoping to go to the CCI5*-L in Badminton (GBR) next year. “

Jonelle Price (NZL), 3rd: “If someone had told me that I’d be in the top three today, I’d have signed up straight away. I’m very proud of how Falco, Tim’s horse, performed. I’d really like to thank Pascal Sayous for organizing this amazing event in such wonderful conditions. “

Final ranking
1- Tim Price (NZL) / Falco / 22,5 pts
2- Tom McEwen (GBR) / CHF Cooliser / 29,6 pts
3- Jonelle Price (NZL) / McClaren / 29,6 pts
4- Kevin McNab (AUS) / Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend / 30,2 pts
5- Maxime Livio (FRA) / Vitorio du Montet / 30,6 pts

CAIO4*: A close competition at the top

The marathon course, the last test in this year’s Driving World Cup, gave the spectators an outstanding show. With seven obstacles located at different points over the entire Domaine de Sers, the course designed by Jacques Tamalet played a decisive role in the final victory. Each obstacle consisted of a series of six gates numbered from A to F, which had to be negotiated in an allocated time, and that was more than enough to urge the competitors to take the maximum risk.

Marion Vignaud was the out-and-out best, confirming her status as the world leader in the discipline. Thanks to a seamless drive, she finished behind her team-mate Claire Lefort, taking advantage of Canadian Kelly Houtappels-Bruder’s slip-up to grab 2nd place. A very young driver at just 22 years old, Marie Schiltz from Luxemburg finished 3rd in the marathon, and finally climbed to the second place on the podium. Rudolf Pestman (NED), held on to third place in the dressage, making for a real star-studded podium.

Marion Vignaud, winner of the CAIO4*:

You literally left your opponents standing.

Kelly and Rudolf both made mistakes; I did, too, but it wasn’t as big. Today the victory was mine and I’m very happy because it was for my grandmother Renée, who passed away earlier this week. We were far away when it happened, so my family and I agreed that I would stay here and finish the competition. I’m really glad I won it, as a tribute to her.

We were watching you as you tackled the different obstacles, and your driving seemed really smooth. What’s your secret?

I think that driving a smooth course is really the key to a successful win. We all aim to drive a smooth course. Unfortunately, we don’t always get there, because the horse may be full-blooded, a little annoyed, or not really listening. In single-horse carriage driving you really have to be in sync with your horse.

What happened on obstacle #5?

I was a little slow in the line I took…I often make that kind of mistake. The horse says “OK, there’s a gap, so let’s go”, but it wasn’t the right line to take. The horse gets defiant, hesitates a little, but then we pick up and get back on track without upsetting him too much. The horse means well, and tries to go where he thinks he should go. First Quality is very powerful, responsive and flexible. When you’re going fast, even a small mistake can be your downfall. Last year at the World Championships, that obstacle cost me a medal. I had to stop, back up, do a volte… The bottom of the hill was jinxed (laughs).

Is Pau the finishing touch to your season, a good preparation for the 2022 World Championships?

We always extend our season specially to come to Pau. The carriage driving season usually stops at the beginning of October, but the Pau objective means that we have to keep the horses in shape. Pascal Sayous has done such a good job that now we have a really competitive start list. Before, we were happy to come because it was such a nice competition. Now, it’s still a great competition, and also a wonderful preparatory event because of the high level of the competition. For the horses, this type of event with big screens, loudspeakers, music, and crowds of spectators who follow you from start to finish, is pretty intimidating, and it teaches us to control these emotions that we usually experience only at major championships. It also teaches the horse how to deal with his emotions.

Will this confirm your position as world leader?

I’m so happy. I’m happy for the team, for the people who help me train and work with me, Michaël Sellier, my marathon groom who also helps me train for the cone driving, Sébastien Goyhenneix who has been training my horses in dressage for four years. I hope that we will be ready for our next objective, the World Championships at the Haras du Pin in 2022.

Kelly Houtappels-Bruder (CAN) and Flip. (Solène Bailly Photo)


Kelly Houtappels-Bruder (CAN), in first place after the cones competition, commented at the time, “I want to say a big thank you to Pascal for organizing this competition because we really look forward to coming here every year. I’m not used to being on the podium, I’m usually chasing these guys [Marion Vignaud et Rudolf Pestman]. The cone course today was one of the most difficult I think we’ve done, but it was not a course where I felt bad for my horse. He had time to breathe between turns and then pick up again. It’s a course that was designed with the horse’s welfare in mind. Tomorrow we’ll have to stay focused and not lose any time on the marathon or make any silly mistakes.” Unfortunately, Houtappels-Bruder and Flip did have a mistake in the marathon phase when they missed a gate at an obstacle and were eliminated.

Final Individual Ranking
1- Marion Vignaud (FRA) / First Quality / 118,33 pts
2- Marie Schiltz (LUX) / Frodo /
3- Rudolf Pestman (NED) / Diesel / 128,75 pts
4- Claire Lefort (FRA) / Darwin de Feline / 130,23 pts
5- Jovanca Marie Kessler (GER) / FST Enfando / 136,54 pts

Complete results here.

~ with files from Blizko Communication