US Para-Driving Team Clinches Bronze at 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships

Veteran Robert Giles at the closing ceremony of the 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships. Photographs by: Marie de Ronde-Oudemans and Patricia Kastama.

Sandringham, England – June 30, 2014 – The 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships concluded on June 29 at The Royal Estate in Sandringham, England. Germany held on to their overnight lead to take Team Gold, The Netherlands captured Silver, and the USA clinched Bronze with a mere 3.29 penalties behind The Netherlands. Finally, Great Britain finished in fourth place. Individually, Veteran Robert Giles (USA) and Solo, owned by Koos and Marie de Ronde, won the Grade 2 Silver medal with Virginia (Boo) Fitch (USA) and her own Kiko earning the Grade 2 fourth place finish. Diane Kastama earned an 11th place in Grade I and Mary Gray earned a 10th place in Grade 2. Marie De Ronde served as Chef d’Equipe for the USA Team and Sara Schmitt served as coach.

The U.S. Para-Driving Team for the 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships occurred June 27-29, with the three U.S. team members including Diane Kastama with her own Rupert, Virginia Fitch with her own Kiko, and Vietnam Veteran Bob Giles driving Koos De Ronde’s Solo. The first day included driven dressage, followed by the marathon & obstacles course, and the final day concluded with cones and the awards presentation.

It was the first time that these championships were hosted in England. Para-equestrian drivers from eight nations competed in a fiercely fought contest for world supremacy. Four of the nations, including the USA, fielded a team of at least three competitors required for the team awards; the other countries were represented by individual competitors. Individual medals are awarded by “Grade” which is a classification by the FEI according to level of disability (with Grade I being more severely disabled than Grade II). Sixty percent of the competitors were Grade I.

Team USA at the closing ceremony of the 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships
Team USA at the closing ceremony of the 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships

United States Driving for the Disabled acknowledged, “A heartfelt thanks go to Coach Sara Schmitt and Chef d’Equipe Marie de Ronde-Oudemans who each went above and beyond in their help to the team. We would also like to extend our utmost appreciation to all of the individuals and groups over the past many months who have given us their encouragement, backing and support. They have truly been the ones who have made this possible. Thank you all for being a part of this wonderful accomplishment.”

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About Diane Kastama: Diane Kastama, Arroyo Grande, CA Grade I. In 1991 a car crash left Diane paralyzed from the waist down. Although a lifelong horse person and dressage enthusiast, riding without the use of her legs was not much fun and she soon turned to driven dressage and then the exciting sport of combined driving. Her relatives and friends thought she was crazy for taking on a sport that involves sitting atop a tall carriage, pulled by a horse going “hell-bent” for speed.

Diane started competing with her home bred Appaloosas but now Diane competes with a pair of Section D Welsh Cobs, Rupert and George. She drives them single, pair and tandem. She competes against able-bodied drivers all over the Western United States and occasionally on the East Coast at the Intermediate and Advanced level. Diane has also demonstrated her skills at Rolex, KY, Horse Expo in Sacramento, the “Night of the Horse” in Del Mar, the Equine Affair and various therapeutic horse programs throughout California. She has also participated in the closing ceremonies at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Diane is always willing to share her skills and knowledge and bring driving to the forefront of equine sports. Diane has been very successful in international Para-Equestrian competition, coming home with an Individual Silver and Team Bronze driving a borrowed Welsh Cob Stallion in 2002 Greven, Germany. 2004 she place 5th with a borrowed Welsh cob in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2006 she came home with Individual Gold driving her own Welsh cob gelding Jasper. In 2008 Diane earned Individual Bronze and Team Silver driving Jasper once again. Kastama will drive Rupert at the Championships who is a 1996 Welsh Cob gelding.

About Bob Giles: Bob Giles (Morriston, Fla.) is a well-known driving horse trainer and clinician who has dedicated his life to the sport of driving. His selection to the USEF Para-Equestrian Driving Team is a dream come true for this accomplished competitor, Vietnam War veteran, and Purple Heart recipient.

Giles was in combat within the Vietnam War resulting in the loss of 90% of his hearing, a fused elbow and only partial use of his right hand. As a combat-wounded Purple Heart recipient, Bob is dedicating his drive to the memory of the 58,000+ men and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Giles’ enthusiasm and determination for the thrilling sport of Combined Driving has driven him to the 2014 World Driving Championships in Sandringham, England, June 27-29, 2014. Giles will drive Koos De Ronde’s Solo and Olando.

About Virginia (Boo) Fitch: Virginia (Boo) Fitch is from Pennhook, Va. Fitch grew up fox hunting and showing hunters. She attended Lynchburg College and rode on their intercollegiate riding team as well as the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Team. After graduating, she rode jumpers for a prominent family in Quebec Canada. It was during this time that Fitch developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. It came on suddenly and strongly. Within two years she had a hip replacement at the age of 26. By the year 2000, she was having considerable problems with her feet and ankles and it just so happened that she owned a school horse that drove and had a good friend that competed in Combined Driving. Between the safe horse and her friend she started driving and loved it. After five surgeries and three joint replacements over the course of 10 years from 2000 to 2010, teaching children just became too difficult and she was finding herself competing in Combined driving more often. Fitch has become a prominent competitor in the para-equestrian driving world and she looks forward to her recent appointment as a member of the 2014 Team. Fitch will drive Kiko, a 2003 Irish Sport Horse Mare at the Championships.

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Press Release by: United States Driving for the Disabled (USDFD) adapted by Lindsay Y. McCall for the USPEA.

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About United States Para-Equestrian Association:

The USPEA is a network of riders, judges, national federation board members, and equestrian enthusiasts. The association gives athletes the ability to get involved and expand their knowledge and experience in the Para-Equestrian sport. The USPEA encourages para-athletes to participate in all disciplines under the para-equestrian umbrella.

The USPEA is a recognized affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) which serves as the National Governing Body for the equestrian sport. This relationship between the USPEA and USEF is to encourage para-equestrian competitors, leisure riders, coaches, fans and enthusiasts to network and get involved with the entire equestrian sport.

Ultimately the goal of the USPEA is to foster growth in the para-equestrian discipline. From growth in the number of participants to growth as a team, and growth in the experience and knowledge of all involved. From local horse shows to international Olympic Games, the USPEA will provide para-equestrians the knowledge of what they need to succeed. The USPEA connects with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the United States Dressage Federation (USDF), and USEF which provides Para-Equestrians the top equestrian resources.

In June 2010, the USPEA earned its 501 (c)(3) status which has encouraged supporters to help supply funding to the Para-Equestrian Team as a recognized affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).

For more information about the USPEA, please visit or contact USPEA President Hope Hand by e-mail: or by phone: (610)356-6481.

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