Lexington, KY – The U.S. drivers put in incredible performances on the first day of competition at the FEI World Pony Driving Championships. Competition got underway in Lipica, Slovenia, with the Pony Pair Championship and the first section of the Pony Singles Championship completing the driven dressage. The U.S. drivers are poised for top individual honors as they occupy first and third places in these two championship divisions.
Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, SC) led off the American effort on Thursday in the Pair Pony Championship and did not disappoint. Matheson and her pair, owned by her mother-in-law Katrina Becker, drove to a solid score of 46.08 to stand in third place heading into Saturday’s marathon.
Matheson is driving under the U.S. flag for the first time in Lipica after having represented her native Canada in the 2005 World Pony Driving Championships.
“I’m thrilled to be driving here, and I have worked hard to get to these championships. I drove for Canada in 2005 and was the alternate in 2007 and the alternate in 2009,” Matheson said. “My dressage was good. There were a few things that could have gone better, but I was really happy.”
Wendy O’Brien is making her World Championship debut this week and had a credible performance in the first phase driving her own pony pair to joint 21st place on a score of 61.82. O’Brien, who also hails from Aiken, SC, was the winner of the Southern Pines CDE in April.
Germany holds to top two spots in the Pair Pony Championship after the dressage. Dieter Baackmann drove to a score of 39.68 to lead the field of 27. Stephan Koch stands second on a 41.47.
As the final U.S. driver to compete Thursday, Shelly Temple and her own LR Ami B-Line captured first place in Pony Singles Championships. Temple (Windsor, SC) added to her reputation of proficiency in the first phase scoring a 44.67. Germany’s Dennis Schneiders stands second on a 44.8 and Susanne Ankermark of Sweden occupies third place after driving to a 46.08.
The reigning USEF National Single Pony Driving Champion holds the overnight lead after 12 drivers contested the driven dressage on Thursday; the remaining 20 singles will compete Friday. The field will include U.S. drivers Miranda Cadwell and Suzy Stafford (driving as an individual).
Competition in the Pony Team Championship gets underway tomorrow. American drivers Lisa Stroud and Laurie Astegiano will be looking to produce strong scores to aid the U.S. in the team championship, as well as stake their claim on individual honors.
Follow the U.S. Driving Team on the event website: http://www.lipica2011.si/en/ and check http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2011DrivingWorldChampionships/ for photos, reports, and all the information about the U.S. drivers throughout the week.