“I never count the titles because you’re only as good as your last competition,” said world no. 1 four-in-hand driver Boyd Exell ahead of the FEI Driving World Cup in London.

His last competition was two week’s prior in Stockholm, Sweden and it didn’t go to plan for the Australian. After winning the FEI Driving World Cup qualifiers in Lyon, France and Stuttgart, Germany, Exell settled for third in Stockholm when he knocked two balls in the drive-off.

For most competitors, a podium finish is still a good day at the office. Exell is not most competitors.

“Indoor driving is quite hard on confidence. If you have a great performance, you just keep riding higher and higher and if you start making mistakes and floundering, then it really like pounds you. I had a loss in Stockholm, so we had to go back and reset, rally round, work harder and lift our game again,” said the 10-time World Cup champion.

“The more you knock me down, the more I’ll fight back.”

At London International Horse Show he did just that, defending his title in the sixth leg of the 2023/24 World Cup season.

Three teams advanced to Jeroen Houterman’s drive off at London ExCel arena: Ijsbrand Chardon (NED), Koos de Ronde (NED), and Exell.

With all the scores resetting to zero, Chardon was first to return and toppled a ball on course, adding an extra four seconds to his time (150.99 seconds). de Ronde also had a ball down right before the final line for a total of 151.37. 

As the final team to return, Exell and his long-time navigator Emma Olsson and backstepper Hugh Scott-Barrett set a blistering standard to add no penalties to their time of 145.41.

“It’s a bit like a well-oiled machine,” said Exell. “We’ve been ten years together, Hugh, Emma and I. And Hugh Scott-Barrett has always done sort of my tactics and timing. He’s very calm and good under pressure.

“The team [of horses is] similar to last year they’re just a little bit more mature and more confident in themselves. They’re fitter.

“My two back horses, Mad Max and Barny are the galloping power, they are brilliant to drive, [Maestoso] Jupiter is my fantastic 14-year-old right leader, and Bajnok is my 20-year-old left leader, he is the brains behind the operation and is so fast, clever and very hard to replace.”

Six driving teams will qualify for the Bordeaux Final in France, Feb 1–4, 2024.  Exell leads the standings on 25 points. Father-son duo Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon sit in second (24 points) and third (20 points), respectively.

With two legs remaining, the FEI Driving World Cup next heads to Mechelen, BEL, Dec 26–30.