126 • THE PLAID HORSE
It only takes one thing to be successful at the Pony Finals of Europe – you need a horse on pony legs. That’s how 2015 European Pony Champion Askaban B is described, and with one look into his eyes, it’s clearly a perfect description.
In Europe the pony divisions are a much different sport than what we know in the United States. With the support of and administration by the Federation Equestre Internationale, the world’s international governing body for horse sport, the FEI European Championships for Ponies are Europe’s annual version of Pony Finals. They are more closely related to the Olympics than to the American divisions that our ponies know.
“The FEI European Championships for Ponies are a great way of getting our younger athletes into international competition in our Olympic disciplines at an early age,” says Catrin Norinder, FEI Director, Eventing and Olympic. That stepping stone is a critical, and often overlooked reason that European senior riders so often dominate on the international stage. They literally have been raised doing their own version of the Olympics. With show jumping, eventing and dressage competition mirroring the Olympic disciplines, young riders from ages 12 through 16 work all year to qualify for the FEI Pony Championships.
CLEAR MIND, HUGE GALLOP In Lastrup, Germany, where Askaban B lives and trains, the 14-year-old German Riding Pony and his rider Calvin
Böckmann are preparing for their last European Pony Championships. Since 2013, they have competed in the championships together, and picked up an individual bronze (2014) and were named Individual Champions (2015) in the CCIP2* – eventing championships for ponies. But Calvin is 16 now, and aging out of the division. Next year, Askaban will be looking for a new rider to carry in the pony divisions. In top form and now a steady schoolmaster, Askaban still have many years of competitiveness ahead of him. And Calvin has already stepped into the next phase of his riding, with two horses that he competes internationally. “They have grown together during the years, and Askaban is not the easiest,” says Lora Moses, who has helped care for Askaban for the last two years. “He needs to be ridden on point and thoroughly, as otherwise he can have a fault. He has a huge gallop and a lot of scope. When you see him in cross country he is like a machine. He is a big fighter with a huge personality, and he has a clear mind and good dressage.” As a team, what Calvin and Askaban have achieved is very special—among the big pony sport, their record of three championship appearances is quite the accomplishment, and one they will be adding to before the season is through. At the end of July, the 2017 FEI European Championships for Ponies took place in Kaposvar, Hungary, with almost 80 pairs competing in jumping, dressage, and eventing over five days. "The atmosphere at these events is very exciting, with the athletes experiencing competing as a team as well as individually,” Norinder added. For Askaban and Calvin, Kaposvar was their swan song, and while it took place after press time, there’s not doubt that the rider, his pony, and the whole team went into the memorable weekend with clear minds, and ready for the big gallops that the competition would bring. ◼ BY ERIN GILMORE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, ACTION SHOTS COURTESY OF THE BÖCKMANN FAMILY: PHOTO #1, CALVIN AND ASKABAN B COMPETING IN 2013; PHOTOS #3 AND #4, CALVIN AND ASKABAN B COMPETING IN 2015. PHOTO #2 © ERIN GILMORE.
The Plaid Horse - August 2017 - The Pony Issue