The leaders in combined driving, tied after one day of dressage competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, between them already have more titles than the British monarchy. Still, they wouldn't mind adding another.
Dutch driver Isjbrand Chardon is 22-time national driving champion of the Netherlands and four-time world champion. He is in the lead with eight-time U.S. national champion Chester Weber.
"I am a happy man," Chardon said after his dressage test.
Weber, driving for the U.S. team, was mostly smiles as well. Weber was a big favorite with the Kentucky Horse Park crowd at the driving stadium. "It was wonderful to have such an enthusiastic crowd," Weber said.
Both four-in-hand drivers posted scores of 35.97 for their dressage tests on Thursday.
Chardon, driving his team of two Swedish and two Dutch warmbloods, is a national hero in his home country, where his team won the FEI World Four-in-Hand Driving Championships in 2008.
"The horses went very well today," Chardon said. "You can see the lightness, the bending."
Weber, who won the silver medal just behind Chardon in 2008, agreed. "Ijsbrand drove a really nice, harmonious, risk-free test. And he certainly had the scores to show for it," Weber said.
That set the bar high for Weber, who drove his team of one Polish and three Dutch warmbloods in the afternoon.
Weber said his team rose to the occasion, with some minor exceptions.
"I was pleased with my horses. They wake up in a stadium like this," Weber said. His team had a little hiccup on the maneuver where they were required to halt and back up a few steps. "The back probably cost me the necessary points to be in the lead."
Both leaders said they are closely eyeing Friday's dressage competition, when the rest of the field drives.
"I've got big hopes for tomorrow," said Weber, who said U.S. teammate Tucker Johnson's team is working even better than his own.
For Chardon, the one to watch out for is Australian driver Boyd Exell, two-time World Cup driving champion.
The leaders also are eager for Saturday's marathon, or cross-country, competition.
Combined driving, modeled on the equestrian sport of three-day eventing, has three phases: dressage, marathon and "cones," a stadium obstacle course.
"I think it's going to be a good fight on Saturday," Weber said.
Dutch driver Theo Timmerman, who is in third place after the first day of dressage, sounded confident after a first look at the course. "Some hazards, in my opinion, are too easy for a world championship course," Timmerman said.
In the marathon, drivers must negotiate eight complex obstacles at speed without entangling their team of horses or missing a gate.
Weber pointed out that "nothing's free here," meaning the hilly Horse Park terrain makes horses work even between obstacles. "The horses with a lot of power left are going to be in good shape," he said.