Jennifer Matheson (Mary Phelps – phelpsphotos.com)
Pau, France – The 2013 FEI Pony World Driving Championships kicked off Thursday with the first of two days of driven dressage. Pair Pony and Pony Team drivers took their first steps toward world titles as they performed their tests in front of the Ground Jury composed of Klaus Christ, Anne-Marie Turbe, Diana Brownlie, and Dot Wilcoxson. U.S. competitors got off to a strong start with all four drivers cruising into the top 12 in their respective championships.
Pair Pony Championship
Leading off the U.S. effort on Thursday was Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, S.C.) and her mother-in-law Katrina Becker’s talented pair as the first American competitors into the arena. The reigning USEF National Combined Driving Pair Pony Champion drove to a score of 52.10 to stand sixth in the Pair Pony Championship after the first phase.
Right behind Matheson in seventh place is U.S. teammate Wendy O’Brien (Aiken, S.C.) on a score of 54.14. The 2012 National Champion once again drove her own talented ponies to lay within striking distance of the leaders when everyone heads onto the marathon on Saturday.
Ewoud Boom of the Netherlands leads the Pair Championship after the driven dressage with a score of 36.48. Standing in second place is Germany’s Dieter Baackmann on 37.70 and Marco Fruend of Germany holds third place on a 42.24.
Pony Team Championship
Nine-time National Champion, Lisa Stroud (West Grove, Pa.) drove her trademark team of white ponies to a score of 57.73 as the first U.S. driver into the arena during the afternoon session. Stroud, who is looking to secure her third World Championship Team medal this weekend, will head out onto the marathon in eighth place.
Katie Whaley (Paris, Ky.) was the final U.S. competitor of the day, driving into 11th place in the Pony Team Championship with Mia Allo’s team on a score of 60.5. The 2003 and 2005 World Championship veteran will look to showcase the strong form that has propelled her and Allo’s ponies to top finishes in Europe over the summer.
The Netherlands holds the top two places after the dressage with Bram Chardon leading on 34.11 and Jan De Boer sitting in second on a score of 37.31. Tobias Bucker of Germany stands third with a score of 41.41.
Driven dressage comes to a conclusion on Friday with the Single Pony Championship, where the U.S. will be represented by Tracey Morgan at 10:45am local time and Paul Maye at 2:50pm local time.
By Helen Murray
To learn more about the 2013 FEI Pony World Driving Championships, visit: http://www.couleurs-automne.com/en/welcome.
Follow the 2013 U.S. Driving Team here.