Leslie Berndl and Uminco (PicsofYou.com)
Raeford, N.C. – Competition at the Southern Pines CDE officially got underway on Friday at the Carolina Horse Park with the USEF National Single Horse Driving Championship closing out the day. Following the completion of the dressage phase, Leslie Berndl holds the early lead after an impressive test that earned high marks from the Ground Jury of Peter Bonhof and Martha Hanks Nicoll.
Reigning National Champion, Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.), entered the ring on a mission, looking to head out on Saturday’s marathon in pole position. Driving her own 13-year-old KWPN gelding Uminco, she produced a flowing performance which was highlighted by powerful trot-work and solid transitions to score 34.24.
Berndl and Uminco will head onto the marathon with more than a four-point lead over the rest of the field.
Driving into second place on Friday were Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind on a score of 38.59. The 2011 FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies Individual Silver medalist and her own seven-year-old Morgan mare lay within striking distance of clinching their first USEF National Single Horse Driving Championship title with two phases left to drive after an expressive test on Friday.
Kate Shields (Middleburg, Va.) drove her own 13-year-old Welsh Cob gelding, Hastening Winslow, into third place on Friday with a score of 43.14.
Competition continues Saturday as drivers head out onto Richard Nicoll’s marathon course.
By Helen Murray
To learn more about the Southern Pines CDE, visit: http://www.carolinahorsepark.com/events/driving/2014/4/southern-pines-combined-driving-event-national-single-horse-championship.
Follow the U.S. Driving Team here.