U.S. driver Tracy Bowman, of Martinez, Calif., and her Welsh Pony gelding, Albrecht’s Hoeve’s Lars, had a golden week in Schildau, Germany, at the 2021 FEI Para Driving World Championship. The pair had three exceptional phases to win the championship title for Grade I at the conclusion of competition on Aug. 8.
Bowman and Lars got their start together on the recommendation of the world-class father and son driving athletes, Bram and Ijsbrand Chardon of The Netherlands. Bowman purchased the gelding with the aim of competing him at the World Championship in August of 2020, but plans changed when that event was cancelled due to COVID-19, and she brought him home to California instead.
“I only competed in one unrecognized CDE and one recognized event in California this past winter before we came to Schildau,” said Bowman. “There was no other option due to COVID. This was our first big show together. He had experience prior to me at the last World Championship in Kronenberg, so I put my total trust in him and my unbelievable team. I was not ever in doubt of being safe and capable because of those people and my fabulous pony. But to win was not an expectation, since I have nearly no experience at that level.”
Bowman spent the unexpected off-season in 2020 mostly self-training at her Kismet Farms in California, but credits Lars’ solid training and demeanor for a positive result in 2021.
“My partner in the farm and best of all friends, Jolie Wentworth, would assist me in the ground,” Bowman said. “She sees everything and is the only one that would have no equal for the flat work. Together, I think we kept the dressage improving. [Lars] is a great mover, very uphill, was already well schooled, and has a lot of talent. Added to that, he is very drivable in the court. He does not tend to spook and keeps a cool head—except in prize-givings!”
With the return of competition and news that the World Championship was back on for 2021, Lars and Bowman returned to training under the Chardons.
“The team in The Netherlands made it very simple to feel secure and comfortable when we returned,” said Bowman. “Bram and the whole Chardon family is nothing but warm. Bram demands total focus and great attention to detail, which is expected at this level. He also lets you know right from wrong without apology. This makes you feel very assured of the reality of your skills, good or bad; when you keep it honest, it works better for everyone involved. No false hope or inflated ideas—only down to earth hard work to improve and understand where you need to focus. It was very correct for me.”
Of her experience in Schildau at the 2021 FEI Para Driving World Championship, Bowman says the competition got better and better each day.
“The best groom in the world, Quint van Rijswijk, was able to get Lars feeling and looking his best,” said Bowman “This really helped in the dressage phase, but he took such good care of him the whole show. Winning the marathon was such a great feeling. The obstacles were amazing and so well built. The area they were in made it great for spectators and also made it easy for my obligatory extra safety grooms to get from one to the other with no effort. Since my carriage is adapted for me by the use of a five-point harness, it is required to have safety grooms at gates in case we turn over or have some sort of mishap.
“The whole venue of Schildau is a horse Disneyland,” Bowman continued. “It could not have been nicer, especially for wheelchair users like myself—it was very level and accessible. The USEF chef Marcie Quist was also pleased. She has been to quite a few of these now and is such a great problem solver and a great help to the USA drivers. Bram and Jolie made me feel they had my back, and I never felt on my own. I was free to concentrate on my job. They held my proverbial hand and also kicked me when I needed it. It was a perfect group.”