Suzy Stafford (Marie de Ronde)
Lexington, KY – U.S. pony drivers head to Raeford, North Carolina this weekend to vie for National Titles at the Southern Pines CDE. Bragging rights will be up for grabs in the USEF National Combined Driving Single Pony Championship, USEF National Combined Driving Pair Pony Championship and USEF National Combined Driving Pony Team Championship at the annual event held April 12-14.
USEF National Combined Driving Single Pony Championship
A vastly experienced field of five competitors line-up in the USEF National Combined Driving Single Pony Championship, including previous National Champions and World Championship medal winners. Suzy Stafford (Wilmington, DE) heads to Southern Pines on strong form in 2013. The three-time National Champion (2004, 2008, 2009) and the Individual Silver medalist from the 2011 FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies most recently claimed victory three weeks ago at Live Oak International. Paul Maye (Fairfield, VA) finished second behind Stafford at Live Oak but will look to finish at the head of the field and retain his 2012 National Title.
Completing the field are three of the most experienced drivers in the United States; Miranda Cadwell, Bill Long and Tracey Morgan. Cadwell, the Individual Gold medalist from the 2007 World Pony Pairs Driving Championships, does not have to travel far from her base in Southern Pines, North Carolina and will look to add a National Title to her resume in front of hometown fans. Long (Southern Pines, NC), another local favorite, will use the experience gained driving at seven World Championships to try and add another National Championship (he has won the Four-in-Hand title seven times) to his name. Morgan (Beallsville, MD) also has years from practice driving at the highest level, including sweeping the Pair Pony title from 2003-2009.
USEF National Combined Driving Pair Pony Championship
A small but mighty field will vie for a National Title in the USEF National Combined Driving Pair Pony Championship. Wendy O’Brien (Aiken, SC) heads north to Southern Pines looking to repeat as National Champion after having claimed the title in 2012. O’Brien has been training diligently over the past months and saw her efforts rewarded at Live Oak where she broke the 40 mark for the first time on her way to winning the division.
Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, SC) who earned the National Championship crown in 2010 and 2011 will drive as a woman on a mission this weekend. Matheson stood on the podium in Lipica, Slovenia alongside Cadwell and O’Brien as the U.S. clinched Team Bronze at the 2011 FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies. Meghan Benge (Windsor, SC) has been making a name for herself over the past few years as a proficient driver in the pair pony division. In 2013, she has placed third in the Intermediate section at Live Oak and won the Preliminary at Little Everglades.
USEF National Combined Driving Pony Team Championship
The USEF National Combined Driving Pony Team Championship also boasts a field of three. Lisa Stroud (West Grove, PA) aims to claim her ninth National Title in the division driving her trademark team of white ponies. Stroud is also no stranger to success on the world stage having represented the U.S. five times in World Championship competition, including winning Team Bronze in 2007 and 2011.
As the 2012 Reserve National Champion in this division, Katie Whaley (Paris, KY) will look to go one better in 2013. Whaley is known for her proficiency in the marathon and cones phases and will aim to drive clear, quick trips this weekend. Rounding out the division is Heather Schneider (Palm City, FL), who has been performing consistently on the Florida circuit in 2013.
Competition gets underway for all divisions with the dressage on Friday.
To learn more about the Southern Pines CDE, visit: http://southernpinescdedotcom.wordpress.com/.
Follow the 2013 U.S. Driving Team here.
By Helen Murray