On behalf of the Fédération Equestre Internationale I would like to welcome you to Floresti in Romania for the 2nd edition of the FEI Balkan Driving Championship for Pairs. Carriage Driving is always a thrilling sport, and I know we can look forward to top-class competition over the coming days. The Ergela Kelebija Equestrian Centre near Subotica in Serbia was the venue for the inaugural FEI Balkan Driving Championships for Pairs in 2013, and it wasn’t just a triumph for the Serbian National Federation and Organising Committee, it was also a spectacular showcase for the legendary breed of Lipizzaner horses. Best known for their association with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna these fabulous grey equines stand out from the crowd everywhere they go. Their place in history across Europe is something special, and all of the podium-placed competitors that year had elegant Lipizzaner horses on their teams of pairs, with the world-famous stallion, Maestoso, well-represented throughout the event.
There’s nothing quite as eye-catching as horses in harness working seamlessly with their drivers and back-up crew. It is all about team-work, and the public fascination with this sport continues to grow. There’s a glamour and intrigue about it, and the excitement created by a team in full flight is electrifying. At this summer’s Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, over 35,000 spectators turned out to see the obstacle phase of the Marathon for Hand-in-Hand drivers. The spectator numbers may be somewhat less, but I’m sure we’ll experience plenty of that tension and excitement as the athletes, their horses and their crews battle it out for the FEI Balkan Driving Championship 2017 medals over the coming days.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our Romanian hosts. It will have taken a great deal of hard work and commitment to put this event together, and it is a great delight to know that equestrian sport in this region continues to thrive.
I would also like to acknowledge the vital contribution of the many volunteers who are key to the presentation of any successful equestrian fixture, giving freely of their time, energy and expertise which is very much appreciated. I send my best to the officials, and I wish the competitors the very best of luck. To their trainers, horse-owners, families, friends and supporters I send my sincere hope for a Championship filled with fun, friendship and great sport in which the welfare and happiness of our wonderful partner, the horse, takes precedence over everything else.