Photo: Chester Weber (Picsofyou.com)
Four Intermediate Champions Also Unveiled
Ocala, Fla. – The Live Oak International came to its exciting conclusion on Sunday with all five USEF Combined Driving National Championship divisions completing the cones phase. Chester Weber earned his record 15th USEF Four-In-Hand Combined Driving National Championship title with an overall score of 166.69 penalties, while four combined drivers earned inaugural USEF intermediate national titles. These included: Scott Adcox in the pair horse division with 185.39 penalties; Jennifer Keeler in the single pony division with an overall score of 144.70 penalties; Jennifer Thompson in the intermediate single horse division with 140.94 penalties; and Katie Whaley in the pair pony division with 140.29 penalties.
USEF Advanced Four-in-Hand Combined Driving National Championship
Weber (Ocala, Fla.) added another championship title to his massive list of accolades on Sunday. With a big lead after the dressage and marathon phases, he was able to take it easy in the cones phase. He maneuvered his KWPN geldings, First Edition (eight years old), Boris W (11 years old), and Asjemenou (12 years old), along with Jane Clark’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Splash (14 years old) and knocked one minor ball, adding three penalties to his overnight total.
“I was very pleased with the horses in the warm-up. We have only driven this combination in one other competition. Live Oak is always a little confusing for them because they have the World Cup Qualifier [jumping course] with flowers and everything built in the arena, which isn’t typical in our sport. But they handled that. I think this is a team that can consistently go clear,” said Weber.
Commanding the same team in Thursday’s dressage phase, the unit performed a seamless test to start the competition with 40.11 penalties. Weber substituted Splash for Reno, his eight-year-old, for the marathon and the team earned the fastest time across all seven hazards adding 123.58 penalties to his score.
Weber, who serves as Co-President of the Live Oak International with his sister Juliet Reid, stepped up to add the intermediate USEF Combined Driving National Championships, and they were a resounding success.
“From an organizer’s standpoint, we were really pleased to [offer the intermediate championships]. To have them in this group has been great, and to see entries come from everywhere to support the championships has been well worth it for us as an organizing team. I’m really proud of all the people who came out and contested those medals,” added Weber.
Lisa Stroud (Kennett Square, Pa.) and her and Willow Star, LLC’s team of Dutch Warmblood geldings (Anesco 4, 12 years old; Ulco, 16 years old; Olando, 21 years old; and Enzo, eight years old) followed Weber as the division’s reserve national champion, despite an inconsistent cones test, accumulating 9.34 penalties. They began competition in third place following dressage with 53.15 penalties and jumped to second after marathon with 127.72 penalties.
“Cones was difficult today because of the atmosphere. I loved my team [at Live Oak]; this was my ‘A’ team, and I had a lot of fun,” said Stroud, who returned this team of horses to competition for the first time since June’s Bromont International CDE. “I’m really fortunate because I have really great people working for me, and we only have solutions. When you have that sense of confidence in the day it makes a big difference and reflects in the performance.”
USEF Intermediate Pair Horse Combined Driving National Championship
As the only competitor finishing in the intermediate pair horse division, Adcox (Myakka City, Fla.) earned the division’s national championship. Electing to continue with his KWPN gelding’s Nupafeed Auto Pilot (13 years old) and Pepe (six years old) for the cones phase, they added nine penalties to their overall score. Adcox borrowed Tom Warriner’s Harley, a 14-year-old Saddlebred/Friesian gelding, to help with the dressage phase. Along with Pepe, they finished with 60.88 penalties. The young Pepe stayed with the veteran Nupafeed Auto Pilot through the intimidating marathon course to add 105.07 penalties.
“It’s been great that we’re starting to recognize the lower levels and what they accomplish. We need to try and encourage the lower levels to move up and encourage more people into our sport, so we have a sport in the future. That’s key,” reflected Adcox. “So when you start to acknowledge the work everyone has to do to be here then people outside the sport start to realize that it’s a real sport and it’s tough.”
USEF Intermediate Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship
Despite 0.21 time penalties after the cones competition, Thompson (Lodi, Wis.) and her seven-year-old Funnominial C.G. retained their two-phase lead for the division’s national championship. She and her Dutch Warmblood gelding delivered a polished dressage test to take the lead early on Friday, collecting 53.84 penalties. Although they didn’t win Saturday’s marathon phase, their nice dressage start helped them maintain their lead, adding 86.89 penalties to their dressage score.
“To be in this position, with this horse who still is young, is just amazing and knocking my socks off,” said Thompson, who has only been to Live Oak as a spectator and volunteer. “We came this year for the experience, to learn what Live Oak is about, so that when we get in the ‘big time’ we know what we’re getting into. I never anticipated being in this position.”
Taylor Bradish (Windsor, S.C.) and Katrina Becker, owner of Bradish’s horse Katydid Duchess, decided to introduce the nine-year-old Welsh Pony Cross to intermediate competition at Live Oak. The decision paid off as they obtained the division’s reserve national championship title with 145.24 penalties. Sitting in second place after two phases, they dropped one ball on the cones course, adding three penalties. They began the competition in fourth place following dressage with 59.04 penalties. Although the youngest competitor in the national championship divisions, Bradish drove Katydid Duchess like a pro. She navigated the relatively inexperienced mare, quickly and efficiently, winning the marathon phase, adding 83.20 penalties.
“It feels good [to win the reserve championship] because it is at Live Oak, and you want to do well here. For [Live Oak] to serve as the national championships is even more exciting. Of course, I would have loved to win, but I am happy [as reserve] because this is her first intermediate,” said Bradish. “I thought we were going to have a lot of issues because of this atmosphere, but she went into today’s cones course ready to go.”
USEF Intermediate Pair Pony Combined Driving National Championship
Whaley (Paris, Ky.) chose to continue with her Welsh Pony Cob’s Tommy (14 years old) and Tanner (11 years old) for the cones phase. They completed a clean round to retain their overall lead for the intermediate pair pony title. She partnered Tommy with her youngest Welsh Cob Teddy (five years old) for Friday’s dressage test, collecting 61.76 penalties. After sitting in second following dressage, Tommy and Tanner blazed through the marathon course, adding 78.53 penalties.
“I’m so thrilled that USEF has decided to acknowledge [intermediate] levels on a national stage. It’s going to enhance the driving in this country. Everyone works hard on every level, and to be recognized in the intermediate is exceptional,” said Whaley, who usually doesn’t compete intermediate. “I have a pony that has never been in a three-day event, so I thought perhaps this would be a good start. It’s really exciting for the sport that [Live Oak’s organizing team] had the foresight to bid for [the intermediate] championships. This really shows good things to come for the sport of driving.”
Boots Wright (Ocala, Fla.), using Marko and Rio for cones added three penalty points in the cones phase. With only two entries in the intermediate pair pony division, she won the division’s reserve title with 146.37 penalties. She gave an amazing dressage performance with her German Riding Pony geldings Marko (11 years old) and Mista Q (11 years old) for the division lead on Friday with 50.64 penalties. She dropped to second place following marathon with 92.73 penalties after driving Mista Q and Rio, her 14-year-old Welsh ‘B’ Pony gelding.
“I remember when Live Oak was a tiny horse show and seeing [this show] evolve into what it has become has been quite spectacular. It’s really the best driving show in America, and a lot of thought has been put into it. The hazards [in the marathon] are wonderful,” said Wright, who has competed at every Live Oak competition since it began 27 years ago.
USEF Intermediate Single Pony Combined Driving National Championship
Keeler (Paris, Ky.) drove a clean and cautious cones course with Zeppo to win the intermediate single pony title. Her six-year-old Hackney gelding made the leap to the intermediate at Live Oak and showed his strong potential, delivering three exceptional phases. They started with a steady dressage test to finish third with 62.40 penalties on Friday. They shot to first place due to a flashy marathon round for 82.30 penalties on Saturday.
“I had always hoped that I would be in this position winning a national championship. I think it’s safe to say if you had asked anyone, they would have expected it to be with our other pony [Amazing Grace]. To say that it’s unexpected to win this with Zeppo, it’s the most incredible fairy tale possible,” said an emotional Keeler. “This is a pony who was too small, too afraid …. and it’s just incredible that he was able to do what no one thought he could do. I’d also like to thank Chester and everyone that makes Live Oak possible. I always say, ‘there’s no place like Live Oak.’ I’m so proud to win this here on the toughest stage in our country.”
Janelle Marshall (Williston, S.C.) and Kennebec Joyce, John Merritt’s 10-year-old Morgan mare, earned the division’s reserve national championship title with 145.89 penalties. They began dressage with 67.04 penalties and rebounded in the marathon with the fastest time on course, adding 78.85 penalties. Although, she drove a clean cones round, it was not enough to move to the division lead.
From the US Equestrian Communications Department