The annual Bonneau International Pony Show took place over the weekend in Fontainebleau. Tagged as “le grand parquet” (the great test), the competition is one of the largest of its kind in France and attracted ponies from all over Europe. The Irish were coming back after a overwhelming victory at last year’s competition, but this time under a new Chef d’Equipe in the form of Tom Slattery. While their competition made determined efforts to knock them from the top spot (notably an entirely new Swiss team), the Green Jackets held true and came home in some style again this year.
The BIP hosts 16 international classes – six for the CSIOP, seven for the CSIP and three for the 6 and 7 year-old young ponies – among which the headline acts are the Derby (CSIP) and the CSIOP Nations Cup on Saturday 16th, and the two Grand Prix (CSIP and CSIOP) on Sunday the 17th (of those four main attractions, Ireland took first place in three in 2010: the CSIP Derby, the Nations Cup, and the CSIOP Grand Prix) It also hosts more than 40 national classes of all levels, boasting some 2,800 registered riders!
For the first time, the show will also be the first stage of the European Eycup Pony Challenge, the final of which takes place later this year in Dublin.
This year, the Irish team have done us all proud once more, this time taking gold in all four of the top events. The total medal tally was equally impressive: of the fifty-seven possible podium places on offer, Irish riders occuppied twenty six, almost half. The Nations Cup was of particular interest, featuring an exciting jump-off between Ireland and newcomers Switzerland, back after an absence of three years. Switzerland’s novice team looked to be in the running for a famous victory (their first at Fontainebleau in seven years), but three clear rounds from Ireland sealed the deal for the reigning champs. For only one bar down, Switzerland finished in second place. Victory in 2011 takes the number of Ireland’s Nations Cup victories here to four since the competition began with that inital Swiss victory back in 2004. We had another double in 2005/2006 – perhaps now whispers may circulate on the possibility of a treble?
The best of the bunch, if any are to be singled out, are Tom Foley (last year’s CSIOP Grand Prix winner, point man for the Nation’s Cup team, winner of three individual classes, and “Best Male Rider”), Emma O’Dwyer (winner of one other class and this year’s CSIOP Grand Prix winner and “Best Female Rider”), Paraic Kenny (Derby winner), Matt Garrigan (winner of the CSIP Grand Prix, “Best International Male Rider”), and Molly O’Shea (“Best International Female Rider”)
The victory comes on the heels of current European Pony Gold Medallist Bertram Allen taking victory for Ireland in last Sunday week’s (10th April) Grand Prix at Moorsele in Belgium, riding the bay mare ‘Cassandra vh Roelhof’.
(It is worth noting that two of the Swiss team’s Nations Cup competitors were astride Connemaras: Morgane Dassio on ASHLAIR LADY and Thomas Nussbaumer on CLOGHERBOY MIRAH. We suspect one or two other ponies may be Connemara’s also, but we haven’t verified those yet.)
The first six events were held on Friday, the 15th. These included:
A further seven events on Saturday:
The last six events were held on Sunday: