Tag Archives: Live Oak International

Live Oak International Set to Host Four USEF Combined Driving National Championships

Leslie Berndl and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle (Picsofyou.com)

Ocala, Fla. – Four combined driving national championship titles are up for grabs at Live Oak International, March 8-12. Run in conjunction with the FEI divisions, the USEF Combined Driving National Championships for single pony, pair pony, pair horse, and four-in-hand horse will be determined at the prestigious Live Oak Plantation. Leslie Berndl, Katie Whaley, Steve Wilson, and Chester Weber are the defending champions in their respective divisions and aim to give winning performances. With the FEI World Driving Championships for Pairs and Ponies taking place this summer, pair horse and pony competitors also hope to impress selectors in one of the final selection trials in North America.

USEF Single Pony Combined Driving National Championship

A field of nine seasoned competitors will converge in the hotly contested USEF Single Pony Combined Driving National Championship. Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.) brings Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle with hopes of adding another title to their resume. She and “Zoobie”, Teressa Kandianis’ 2004 Norwegian Fjord Horse mare, closed out a successful 2016 season by winning the USEF Single Pony Combined Driving National Championship at the Kentucky Classic CDE. They are set to kick off another solid season, but Tracey Morgan (Beallsville, Md.) and Fuego 88 will provide tough competition. She and her own 2011 German Riding Pony gelding are world champion competitors and were last year’s reserve champions.

USEF Pair Pony Combined Driving National Championship

The 2016 champion, Katie Whaley (Paris, Ky.), will lead a small but mighty field of three competing for the USEF Pair Pony Combined Driving National Championship. She and her own and Barbara Sims’ Welsh geldings had a commanding performance at Kentucky Classic CDE last fall to claim the national title, and they have maintained their top form this year, winning the CAI2*-P2 division at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades. Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, S.C.) and Mary Phelps (Columbia, Ky.) will be hot on Whaley’s heels with their talented ponies.

USEF Pair Horse Combined Driving National Championship

A field of three will also contest the USEF Pair Horse Combined Driving National Championship. Defending champion Steve Wilson (Louisville, Ky.) and his own mixed KWPN and Lipizzaner pair aim to win their third consecutive national title. They began the 2017 season with a win at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades, and hope to maintain their momentum at Live Oak International. Joining Wilson are Josh Rector (Dyke, Va.), a four-in-hand driver shifting focus to the pair horse division in 2017, and James Miller (Sarasota, Fla.), a promising driver in his first year of competing in combined driving.

Chester Weber (Picsofyou.com)

USEF Four-in-Hand Horse Combined Driving National Championship

Among a field of four seasoned drivers, Chester Weber (Ocala, Fla.) aims to win his 14th title in the USEF Four-in-Hand Horse Combined Driving National Championship in front of his hometown crowd. He and his and Jane Clark’s Dutch Warmblood geldings won all of their U.S. competitions and finished in the top five in their European competitions in 2016. They put in a winning performance at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades to start 2017. Weber will face stiff competition from Allison Stroud (West Grove, Pa.) and Misdee Wrigley Miller (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.), his 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games teammates, and Paul Maye (Fairfield, Va.), an experienced driver who has found success after changing his focus to the four-in-hand horse division less than a year ago.

Watch the live stream of all classes taking place in the Competition Arena at Live Oak International beginning Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

By Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department

Live Oak International: World-Class Driving, a World Cup Qualifier, and More

Live Oak International, which takes place from March 9-12 in Ocala, Fla., is unique. It’s the nation’s largest combined driving and show jumping competition, bringing these two disciplines together at a world-class level.

This year, Live Oak International will draw about 275 horses from 26 countries, as well as more than 300 volunteers and about 30 competition officials, according to Live Oak International manager Damian Guthrie.

Can’t be there in person? Catch all the action live at USEF Network. New to the sport of combined driving? Check out our video intro to combined driving in the Learning Center. While you’re there, go behind the scenes for a show jumping course walk with Olympic medalist McLain Ward.

And put Live Oak International on your equestrian bucket list. Here are six reasons why:

  1. The High Stakes

The $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier Grand Prix presented by Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club on Sunday, March 12, is the last chance for show jumpers to qualify for the 2017 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha, Nebraska. With only a few remaining U.S. spots open, Charlie Jacobs, Adrienne Sternlicht, Leslie Burr-Howard, Callan Solem, and Todd Minikus will be in hot pursuit of valuable World Cup points with the hope of securing their spot for the World Cup Finals.

Meanwhile, the drivers will be contending for US Equestrian Federation national championship honors in single pony, pair horse and pony, and four-in-hand horse and pony divisions.

  1. The Cross-Country Thrills

Combined driving’s marathon – which takes place on Saturday, March 11, at Live Oak – is the equivalent to three-day eventing’s cross-country phase, but on wheels, over slightly rolling terrain. Fast-paced and highly technical for drivers and horses, the marathon sends horses and ponies (single, pairs, and in teams of four) through fiendishly complex questions that test teamwork and agility. Two iconic spectator favorites: the CBC National Bank water hazard, which sends teams splashing through a pond as part of the obstacle, and Cape Cod Wood Siding’s The Gulch, with its challenging slopes and turns.

  1. The Scenic Venue

Live Oak Plantation, which hosts the competition, is one of the country’s most beautiful properties, with Spanish moss-laden oaks, lush pastureland, and sandy horse paths that seem to lead straight to a bygone era.

Live Oak is only open to the public once a year, when it hosts Live Oak International. In the three weeks leading up to the event, Guthrie and his crew transform about 500 acres of cow pasture at the 4,500-acre operation into an equestrian paradise. Live Oak International features about 30 to 40 show jumps and eight available cross-country driving obstacles that challenge competitors and thrill spectators. The transformation involves 100 tents, 300 stalls, and 3,000 decorative plants, not to mention installation of internet and electrical service, all for four days. “Within 10 days after the event, we can turn the cattle back in there again, and you wouldn’t know it had ever taken place here,” says Guthrie.

Live Oak Stud, also located on the property, is a renowned Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation owned by Charlotte Weber, whose children Chester Weber (a four-in-hand driving champion himself) and Juliet Reid are co-presidents of Live Oak International.

  1. The Vendor Village

Live Oak International’s shopping and dining area attracts a diverse array of sellers offering everything from saddles to Live Oak International merch to South African excursions to Cuban-style sandwiches.

  1. The Live Oak International 5k

The best way to tour Live Oak? Put on your walking or running shoes and join the Live Oak International 5k on Sunday morning, March 12. The course winds through parts of Live Oak that the public only sees during this event, including the farm’s Thoroughbred racing division and the training barn of world-renowned combined driving champion (and Live Oak International co-president) Chester Weber, whose mother Charlotte C. Weber owns Live Oak Stud. For younger kids and families, there’s a one-mile walk.

  1. The Clydesdales

The flashy black-and-white Express Clydesdales will be performing in the main grass ring at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, and Sunday, March 12. These friendly horses tower from 17 hands to 19 hands tall and attract a crowd wherever they go. Bonus: you can meet them, and they’re happy to pose with spectators for selfies.

Two to Watch at Live Oak International

Tune in to USEF Network’s coverage of Live Oak International and you’ll see a lot of great performances in both combined driving and show jumping. Here are two storylines to follow:

Jumping: For Chloe Reid, Live Oak Is a Family Affair

The backstory: Chloe Reid, 20, has good reason to love the Live Oak venue. The competition takes place on the 4,500-acre Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, Fla. that her grandmother, Thoroughbred breeder Charlotte Weber, owns. Uncle Chester Weber, the 13-time USEF Four-in-Hand National Champion who also will compete in combined driving at Live Oak International, has a training base there. And Chloe’s mom Juliet Weber Reid serves alongside Chester as co-president of Live Oak International.

Chloe Reid. Photo Credit: PicsOfYou.com.

“As well as a show jumping competition where I get to compete, it’s also a major driving competition where my uncle gets to compete,” explained Reid (Washington, D.C.). “It’s very special to me to have both disciplines in the family competing and to have my grandmother’s Thoroughbreds on the property at the same time. My grandmother and my uncle are who originally put me on a pony.”

Rising star Chloe Reid has earned numerous top placings at USEF championships and international competitions. Most recently, she rode on the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team that earned a silver medal on the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup at CSIO4* Wellington on March 3. Reid competed in four USEF Junior Jumper National Championships, winning individual gold in 2014, and helped the Zone 3 Young Rider team win gold in 2014 and bronze in 2013 at the Adequan/FEI Young Rider & Junior Championships presented by Gotham North. She earned team gold in the FEI Young Riders Nations Cup presented by Hollow Creek Farm at CSIO Wellington in 2015, and made her senior Nations Cup debut last year at CSIO3* Samorin in Slovakia. Earlier this year, Chloe Reid received the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy to recognize her as a young rider in one of the Olympic disciplines who exemplifies both sportsmanship and horsemanship.

The goal: She plans to bring two horses to the jumping competition: the stallion Codarco and a new gelding, Donald. “Last year I finished second in the grand prix, so I would love to keep that same success in the World Cup Qualifier,” she said, referring to the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier Grand Prix presented by Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club on Sunday, March 12.

Combined Driving: Suzy Stafford and Her Morgan PVF Peace of Mind Seek Fourpeat

The backstory: Suzy Stafford (Coatesville, Pa., and Ocala, Fla.) and her Morgan horse PVF Peace of Mind will be trying to clinch their fourth consecutive win in Live Oak International’s FEI Single Horse class – a win streak that has contributed to the mare’s title as US Equestrian’s Combined Driving Horse of the Year in 2016, as well as her award as USEF International Horse of the Year in 2015.

“It’s special partly because this is a horse that I own,” Stafford said of “Hunny,” whom Stafford has had since the mare was three and just starting in harness. “I’d like to say we have a great relationship, but you’d probably have to ask her what she thinks! She’s about 15.2 hands on a good day, and there’s a lot of personality stuffed in that little package. She demands a lot of attention, and if she doesn’t get it she can get a little aggravated. She’s quite a bold competitor, and the more atmosphere there is, the more she takes charge. That’s probably why she does well at Live Oak, because there is a bigger atmosphere there than you normally have in the States.

“Most Morgans are small if you compare them to warmbloods, but their power-to-size ratio is quite impressive,” Stafford added. “They have a lot of power and endurance for their size, and that’s always helpful when you’re in the hazards; you don’t have all that body to maneuver around, and yet they can keep up with the bigger horses. And all the Morgans I’ve known are a little bit of an overachieving kind of horse, so usually they give you sometimes even more than you want. But at this level, that’s important.”

The goal: “I always strive to have a personal best score in dressage, so to get my personal best with her I need a score 39 or under,” Stafford said. “And I’d like to improve in our hazard driving. I’d like to be a little faster, so I’ve been working on that quite a bit.”

By US Equestrian Communications Department

Chester Weber to Be Keynote Speaker at Ocala ExCEPtional Breakfast

Photo Courtesy of KwikTurn Media.

Ocala, FL (February 13, 2017) – Three-time World Equestrian Games Silver medalist and 13-time U.S. Four-in-Hand National Champion Chester Weber will be the keynote speaker for the February 15, 2017 exCEPtional Mornings Business Briefing Breakfast at the ITW Facility at Ocala Breeders’ Sales in Ocala, Florida. The event is put on by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP).

Weber was tapped to present at the event because of both his significant accomplishments in the sport of combined driving and his family’s multi-generational contributions to a range of equestrian sports – from racing, show jumping, and driving to hosting the Live Oak International, the largest equestrian competition to feature both jumping and driving in the U.S. The 26th Live Oak International will be held on March 9-12, 2017, on the pristine grounds of the 5,000-acre Weber family estate.

Director of Equine Engagement at the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) Louisa Barton explained, “We wanted our keynote speaker to be someone who is a superstar in Ocala and the surrounding area, and Chester certainly is that. We felt like we could highlight Live Oak International, which is a very important event in our community hosted at the Weber family’s Live Oak Plantation. The Weber family is so rooted in the equine industry – not only in the four-in-hand, but in all aspects of the industry.

“The economic value of the equine industry in the Ocala/ Marion County is estimated at 2.6 billion a year,” Barton continued. “That’s billion with a ‘B’ – and we feel like the Weber family is a big part of the equine industry here in Ocala. Whether you are a feed store, a tack store, a restaurant, or a grocery store in Ocala, you must certainly feel the impact of the equine industry.”

When asked why he chose to take time out of his busy training and competition schedule to speak at the exCEPtional Mornings Business Briefing Breakfast, Weber said, “I want to spread awareness about Live Oak International and promote horse sports in general within the local community. This will be our 26th year hosting Live Oak, which is the largest spectator event in Marion County. Last year, we drew an audience of about 10,000.”

Weber expounded, “The local impact is tremendous – the hotels are all fully booked that week. The restaurants are all full. Live Oak International appeals to equestrians and non-horse people, as well.”

Barton said, “We really want to encourage people to come out and enjoy a day at Live Oak this year. Enjoy the rolling hills, the Spanish moss, and the lovely weather. The four-in hand obstacles are so exciting, whether you are a horse person or not!”

The exCEPtional Mornings Business Briefing Breakfast events offer CEP partners an opportunity to learn from keynote speakers like Chester Weber about topics of significance to the regional or national business scene, while also providing an opportunity to network.

For all news on Team Weber’s latest achievements, upcoming events, and new horse additions, visit Team Weber’s official Facebook, Instagram @ChesterWeber, and www.ChesterWeber.com. For information about attending Live Oak International, visit www.liveoakinernational.com. For information about the ExCEPtional Breakfast with keynote speaker Chester Weber, please call the CEP at 352-629- 8051.

For more information, contact:
Chester Weber

Lucky 13 for Team Weber at 2016 Live Oak International

Photo courtesy of www.PicsOfYou.com.

Ocala, FL (February 29, 2016) – Chester Weber has set the bar even higher for four-in-hand driving, winning a record thirteenth USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship this weekend. “Thirteen is a lucky number in my family. We try our hardest. It’s not just me driving – there is a wonderful support team behind me. Everybody works as hard as they can to get it done,” said a grateful, and now record 13-time champion, Chester Weber at the conclusion of the 25th edition of the Live Oak International driving event. The 2016 Live Oak International horse show, held on February 25-28, presented the USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship on the 5,000-acre Ocala, Florida equestrian estate owned by the Weber family.

Weber piloted the four stalwart bay KWPN geldings co-owned with Jane Forbes Clark – Boris W, Danzer, Para, and Ultra – in dressage, then swapped Para out for Team Weber’s new rising star Amadeus in marathon and cones. Team Weber drove to a decisive 173.20 points overall to finish 38 points ahead of closest contenders, Pennsylvania whip Allison Stroud (211.62) and fellow Florida horseman Craig Grange (260.89).

Weber, known internationally as “Mr. Dressage,” drove the team to a fluid win in the opening dressage phase on Thursday and set a commanding lead after Saturday’s marathon to drive towards a “lucky” 13th title. “I was really, really pleased. It was a great day for driving and I was really tickled with the horses. They did a great job. That’s what we are here for – it’s about the horses,” Weber commented.

The horses amply delivered for Weber and Clark, posting the fastest times across six of the seven obstacles on the spacious outdoor marathon course created by Gabor Fintha to add just 118.70 penalties to their first day score. On Sunday’s closing cones phase, Team Weber dropped just a single tennis ball atop cone six to incur minimal penalties and clinch the championship title.

“This team is going to be really competitive internationally,” said Weber. “This was a real test of driving every step, because the course shared an arena set with show jumping fences. The course at the FEI Worlds probably won’t have jumps in it, but will certainly offer its own technical challenges. There was a great atmosphere in our arena, similar to a World Championships.”

The FEI Four-in-Hand and Single Horse divisions at Live Oak International served as selection trials for drivers aiming for the 2016 FEI World Driving Championships, to be held on August 31 – September 4 in Breda, The Netherlands. Team up with Team Weber as they continue their march toward the FEI World Four-in-Hand Championships and follow news, live posts, video and photo galleries, and preferred product reviews at www.chesterweber.com.

For more information, contact:
Chester Weber

Marilyn Little and Corona 93 Win Final Qualifier at Live Oak International in Ocala

United States’ Marilyn Little and Corona 93 jumped to the top of the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier at Live Oak International in Ocala. (FEI/Anthony Trollope)

Lausanne (SUI), 29 February 2016 – In a picture-perfect setting, with a full crowd and a top-class, turf field, the United States’ Marilyn Little and Corona 93 executed a skillful double clear to win the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping at the Live Oak International CSI3*-W in Ocala, Florida. In the final event of the inaugural North American League, the 34-year-old rider, and double-gold medalist in Eventing at the 2015 Pan American Games, showcased her multi-discipline talent by expertly answering all the tests in Leopoldo Palacios’ (VEN) course design aboard the 12-year-old, Hanoverian mare (Cordalme Z x Lenz XX), claiming victory over a starting field of 32.

The 1.40-metre to 1.60-metre course, with 14 obstacles and 17 jumping attempts, incorporated challenges like a wide, plank fence similar to the one at the legendary Hickstead and a big scope test in the design’s final three jumps. But it was a big wall to a wide triple bar and a steady double vertical combination that posed the biggest questions on course.

“I tried to do the best for the field,” said Palacios. “I have a good feel of the riders and the conditions were very good. I needed to build it strong for the conditions. When you have a ring with such good footing as we have here and we have very good set of fences and how the ring is now is way better after all the improvements that Live Oak did (like enclosing the ring); it’s fantastic.

“I had a lot of pressure. Walking the course, some riders complained it was too hard, but I believe that with the good footing, the conditions were super good, (the horses and riders) can jump harder courses.”

After the first two riders on course incurred time faults, the time allowed was extended by 3 seconds to a new limit of 90 seconds. Ten riders were clear in the first round to advance into the jump off.

“I thought the course was a little deceiving, a little on the low side,” said Little. “It was very progressive, and Leopoldo turned up the volume exponentially by the time you were midway through the course. By the end, there were a lot of technical, scope and stamina questions. It was a very long course, and the horses jumped to the best of their ability. It was a real thrill for both horse and rider.”

“There are no more challenging courses to jump than Leopoldo’s courses,” she added. “There’s always a number of tricks hiding in there and this was no different. It was brilliantly designed, and he had a beautiful, incredible field to work with in an electric atmosphere.”

All-female podium sweep

Out of the ten, talented horse-and-rider pairs, only three of America’s leading ladies went double clear to secure an all-female sweep of the top results. Little set the bar high as the first to leave the rails standing in the jump-off order, followed in hot pursuit by the youngest rider in the class, 19-year-old Chloe Reid, riding 9-year-old, Irish Sporthorse stallion Codarco (Darco x Orame). Last to go, 22-year-old Katie Dinan and 11-year-old, Irish Sporthorse gelding Dougie Douglas (Ard VDL Douglas x High Roller) chose a slightly more conservative track to finish in third.

“I’m set to graduate from Harvard in May and I’m going to be riding full time after graduation,” said Dinan. “I’m really looking forward to that. I’m going to try to take my riding further and focus on that full time. It’s really exciting.

“I’m in the process of making more definite plans, but over the last few years, I’ve been competing in Europe over the summers when on holiday from school and during the school year I’ve been in America. So when I graduate, I’ll have more flexibility. I’ll be able to choose my competitions around my horses rather than around school, and I’ll see what happens with that.”

Dinan acquired the horse that she rode to a podium finish in the final North American League event from the Goresbridge Supreme Sale of Showjumpers last November.

“I got Dougie at the end of last year and our first show together was at the beginning of January,” she said. “I believe this was our fifth competition together. I’m really grateful that so far, he’s been just wonderful. He’s so much fun to ride, he has a great personality, he seems to love show jumping, he has a lot of experience, which I feel very fortunate I can draw off of because he’s been to a lot of different venues.

“He’s jumped on a lot of grass fields, and that was one of the reasons why I decided to bring him to Live Oak because this is as beautiful as a grass field as there is to ride on, and I thought it would be a really good venue for him.”

A family affair

The well-regarded, annual competition, Live Oak International, is held on second-place finisher Reid’s grandmother’s farm and is organised in partnership by her uncle, Chester Weber and her mother, Juliet Reid.

“I couldn’t ask for a better placing at a better venue than right now and to do it and sit up here (in the press conference) with my uncle and my mom is incredible,” said Reid. “It’s a dream come true today and everything that’s happened this week.

“I have to give my success to my family. Without their support behind me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And also to the group of people, my trainers, grooms, everyone who has helped me to be able to bring my horses and be best prepared for this moment.”

The 2016 season is set to be a breakout year for the young, American rider, who trains with Germany’s Marcus Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Last month, she was also the youngest entry in the $130,000 Adequan Grand Prix CSI3* and placed third.

“I was actually talking to my dad before we started the class today and I was like, ‘I hope the course is challenging enough this morning,’” Reid said. “Because if the first go around at a show is challenging, that just makes me ride even better, I think. I was looking for the additional pressure today, but anytime you enter a class with the amazing riders that were in the class today is always such an honor and today definitely proved to be.”

“I think that Juliet and I often talk about Aachen as a model for the best annual horse competition in the world and that’s something that we look to,” said Weber. “When we started the show jumping, we did that together with the team from Spruce Meadows because we felt like that they could help bring us knowledge. We learned a lot from them, we still call them if we have questions; they’re great at answering those kinds of things. We have a great team in place, and we are talking back and forth about perhaps adding eventing.”

“There are about 2,000 eventing horses in Ocala in the winter; it’s a kind of mecca for eventers,” he added. “We have some big challenges to work through and whether 2017 is the right time, or if the right time will come, but I think not unlike Aachen, you’ll see some other sports happen here, but they have to come at their own logical time.”

Double threat

Speaking of eventing, Little has based her winter operations out of Ocala for the last two winter seasons to best prepare her eventing and show jumping strings at the same time. During the warmer months, Little and her family’s Raylyn Farms return to Frederick, Maryland, where her parents settled 36 years ago.

“It’s easier to get the eventing horses fit in Ocala,” said Little. “And also, I have 28 horses in the stable at the moment, primarily between ages 5 and 7 that I’ve bred, and it was a financial decision to develop the young horses here in Ocala. I am looking to return to Wellington next year.”

The grand prix show jumper turned to eventing in 2010, quickly working her way to the 4* level, the highest level of competition. “Anytime you’re entering another world or learning another sport or language, the best way to do it is full immersion program,” she said. “The goals that I had in eventing, there was really no other way to do it other than to completely immerse yourself and put everything, your whole heart and whole head, into it and that has been a focus for five or six years now.”

“I think that there’s certainly a way to play both sports at a very high level, if you have the team behind you that’s helping you play that game,” she added. “Because we all know that this looks like an individual sport, but it’s far more a team sport than the public may realise. I do hope to be able to do both and believe that it’s possible.”

Little’s eventing experience played a role in her approach to today’s course, especially in the long gallop to final oxer in the jump-off round.

“There, I was lucky; I knew that when I landed from the second to last fence, I could ask her for some speed then kick her into her highest gear then back off,” said Little. “I hoped that I would see the distance as far off as I possibly could, going at 750 metres a minute and trying to see a distance 12 strides out – that was a bit of eventing.

“I think eventing makes me sharper (for show jumping), and there are things that I feel that I do better than I did before I evented, and I wouldn’t trade those things for anything. And I think that being here in the show jumping ring will help me stay sharp for what I hope is coming in the eventing arena.”

Rio dreams

But despite the recent success in show jumping, not only winning the Longines FEI World Cup™ qualifier but also the $35,000 Live Oak International the day before and finishing in second in the $10,000 speed class on Friday, Little’s 2016 plans of focusing on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for eventing have not changed.

“I have a very special horse in RF Demeter for high-level, performance eventing,” Little said. “She is in top form, and I can’t help but look toward Rio with her. So I have to stay the course for her and her owners and for myself because we’ve had a lot of years preparing for this season. We’re heading into the final Olympic trials prepared and fit, so a lot will have to go into that to make sure she’s on point.

“In jumpers, things are evolving quickly, and I can’t say that I have a solid plan for what’s coming in the next few months. There are a few things on the table but the plans will have to be made with Demeter in mind and her goals.”

Little’s return to the international show jumping ring largely stemmed from Corona’s development since Little acquired the talented mare last year from American rider Lauren Tisbo.

“There’s no question that Corona wouldn’t be part of the eventing string because dressage wouldn’t be a part of her repertoire,” said Little. “I think the judges’ comments would be that she’s not submissive and I would have to agree with them. “She is an extraordinary woman and she knows it and we have to treat her as such. She is 12 years old, and she’s in a new program so we have to find our way and it’s give and take. But she is a wonderful competitor, and I know she’s going to give 150 percent when she walks through the in gate.”

Despite the win, Little’s late start to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping season means she will not head to the Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next month but will keep the next Final in mind for planning after Rio. “That’s an incredible goal,” she said. “I have a very special horse that is telling me that she’s ready for that, and that’s a dream and I will work toward that. At this point, it’s still one show at a time, one class at a time and hopefully the road I’m part of leads to the World Cup Final.”

Gothenburg calling

Following the final event of the North American League, the qualified U.S. riders are already planning the upcoming weeks that lead up to traveling to Europe.

“I am planning on going to the Final and will take Lucifer and New York,” said second-place finisher in the East Coast league, Hardin (Jack) Towell (USA).

The East Coast league’s third place finisher Quentin Judge (USA) finished in fifth in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping in Ocala with HH Whisky Royale, but plans to take HH Copin van de Broy to Sweden.

“I thought Whisky Royale was great today,” Judge said. “He jumped really well in the first round, very easy to jump clear. But in the jump off, I cut the turn to the first fence too tight and knocked the standard with my foot. He jumped double clear; the rail was my fault.

“I’m planning to go to the Final with Copin and will jump him in two small classes before we head over to Gothenburg in a few weeks, to make sure he’s fit and ready to go.”

Current Longines Rankings number four Beezie Madden (USA) also plans to head to the Final, despite missing the last two East Coast league events. “We’re hoping to be able to go, that’s for sure,” Madden said. “Right now, Simon and Cortes will not go, but we have two horses, Quister and Breitling, who are doing really well and we just have to see which ones of those two we’d like to take the Final. Breitling just jumped double clear at last week’s Nations Cup so we’re really excited about him.”

Kent Farrington and McLain Ward do not plan to travel to Europe next month, instead opting to focus on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In their place, it’s likely that alternate Dinan will receive a bid.

“I was waiting to see after today that if it does work out, I’d plan on taking Nougat du Vallet,” Dinan said. “He competed in the World Cup qualifier at the Wellington Masters two weeks ago. I will figure out what makes most sense because I’ll be qualified on multiple horses but that would be my plan.

“I jumped him in the World Cup Final at Gothenburg in 2013 and always wanted to go back there. I’m heading back to Boston right now and come back to Wellington to jump in Florida in the next two weeks. If I end up getting into the Final, then I’ll organise my schedule around that.”

In the West Coast league, all three top U.S. riders, Karl Cook, Rich Fellers and Richard Spooner, plan to compete in the Final.

“I would like to do the World Cup Final with the horse because I really need to get to know (new horse, Big Red),” Spooner said. “I really want to feel confident on the horse and I want to feel 100 percent, if Rio were to be in his future, that I would feel 100 percent confident in our ability to do that and I have a short time to do it.”

“I just have a simple rule with what I do with my show jumpers, which is I just let them tell me how they feel and I go with that, and he feels really good,” Fellers said of 20-year-old stallion Flexible and their plans to travel to the Final. “I don’t have any explanation for it, but he just feels as good as ever.”

The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 23-26 March (www.gothenburghorseshow.com/in-english).

See full Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League standings here: www.feiworldcup.org/jumping-north-american-league-standings.html.

Full results: bit.ly/1QmIIYY

Facts and Figures

In the first round, 10 horses went clear, 6 had 4 faults, 6 had 8 faults, 4 had 12 faults, 1 had 13 faults, 1 had 17 faults, 1 had 21 faults, 1 had 28 faults, and 2 retired.

The course designer was Leopoldo Palacios (VEN).

The first round was contested over 14 obstacles with 17 jumping efforts. The jump-off round had 7 obstacles with 8 efforts. The maximum height was set at 1.60 metres.

Thirteen nations were represented in the class: Canada (3 riders), Chile (1 rider), Columbia (2 riders), Dominican Republic (1 rider), Ecuador (1 rider), El Salvador (1 rider), France (1 rider), Germany (2 riders), Ireland (1 rider), Japan (1 rider), New Zealand (1 rider), Switzerland (1 rider), and the United States (16 riders).

About Live Oak International

Recognised as one of the most prestigious equestrian events in the United States, the Live Oak International Combined Driving and Show Jumping event brings together leading drivers, trainers, coaches and owners from all over Europe and North America.

Located on the grounds of the beautiful 5,000-acre Live Oak Plantation, Live Oak International is an affordable, family-friendly event with a strong focus on hospitality for its competitors. This year, the Live Oak team is proud to celebrate the Combined Driving competition’s 25th Anniversary and the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping in Ocala, presented by Golden Ocala Golf Equestrian Club.

Official fan site – www.feiworldcup.com/NAL

The FEI has developed an official fan microsite for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League, enabling fans to find all the latest information for this brand new series under one digital umbrella.

Fans can keep close tabs on the athletes competing in this exciting series as they do their utmost to qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 23-26 March 2016.

Tickets can be purchased through the fan site, with event-specific information uploaded regularly by the organisers of the events in this series for fan enjoyment.

Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League

A total of 14 athletes from the new North American League will qualify for the prestigious Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final.

The top seven athletes from the East Coast US, top three from West Coast US and the two best-placed athletes from Canada and Mexico will qualify for the Final, alongside winners of the 13 other leagues from around the world.

The North American League boasts a minimum of US $2.4 million prize money across the series, and offers the best Jumping athletes from North America and around the world the chance to qualify for the jackpot of more than US $1.4 million (€1.3 million) on offer annually at the Final.

The new league was launched by Beezie Madden, the most decorated US female equestrian athlete of all time, American Gold Cup winner and FEI Solidarity Ambassador Jessica Springsteen, and Hannah Selleck, team and individual gold medalist at young rider level and one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars. Full launch release here: https://goo.gl/kCIsyW.

Share images, video, experiences using hashtag #FEIWorldCupNAL.

By Esther Hahn

FEI Media Contacts:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Shannon Gibbons
Manager Press Relations
+41 78 750 61 46

Weber Wins 13th USEF Four-in-Hand Driving National Championship at Live Oak International

Top Three in the USEF National Championship (Picsofyou.com)

Ocala, Fla. – The 2016 USEF Four-in-Hand Driving National Championship came to a close with the cones phase at Live Oak International. Chester Weber earned his 13th USEF Four-in-Hand Driving National Championship title after leading the competition from start to finish. The field of four competitors demonstrated great driving throughout the competition and is looking strong as the U.S. prepares for the 2016 FEI World Championship this summer.

Weber (Ocala, Fla.) and his and Jane Clark’s team displayed great skill in all three phases, winning by a 38-point margin. Weber’s team this weekend included a mix of up-coming talent Amadeus, a gelding competing in his first National Championship, and veteran experience in Para, a 19-year-old gelding competing in his 10th National Championship. Their quest for the national title began on Thursday in the International Arena with a fluid dressage test that earned a score of 45.25, putting him at the top of the leaderboard. Weber increased his lead considerably in Saturday’s marathon phase with the fastest time in six of the seven obstacles on Gabor Fintha’s course, adding 118.70 penalty points to their score. In the cones phase, Weber and his team had another winning performance. They knocked a single ball at cone six and incurred a handful of time penalties to win the championship with a score of 173.20.

“The horses were good today and I was really pleased. I think this team is going to a really competitive cones team internationally,” said Weber. Weber also spoke to the added challenge presented during the cones phase at Live Oak International which also hosts show jumping in the same arena. “This is a real test of driving every step of the course when you have an arena with show jumps in it. The course at the [World Championships] probably won’t have jumps in the area, but might have some different technical natures. There was a great atmosphere in the arena with the crowds also similar to the World Championships.”

Allison Stroud (West Grove, Pa.) has mastered driving Four-in-Hand horses after switching from a pony team less than three years ago. She and Willow Star LLC’s Dutch Warmblood team performed a harmonious dressage test on Thursday to receive a score of 53.39. In the marathon phase, Stroud drove confidently through the challenging track, adding 146.86 penalty points to her score. In the cones phase, she entered the arena with steely determination and had just one ball down and 8.36 time penalties to finish as Reserve Champion on a score of 211.61.

First-time National Championship contender Craig Grange (Delmar, Iowa) entered his first FEI event this weekend and showed great promise throughout the weekend. Marking a 66.72 in dressage, Grange boldly took on the tough marathon track, posting the second fastest times of the day through obstacles two and three. He added 155.33 penalty points, to start the final phase in third place. The cones phase proved to be a bit tricky for Grange and his team as they had five balls down and disrupted obstacle 16, requiring a pause for a rebuild. With the additional of time penalties, Grange took third place with an overall score of 258.89.

Misdee Wrigley Miller (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) began the championship week with a solid dressage test that earned her a score of 49.49 from the ground jury, good for second place. She elected to retire during section A of the marathon phase due to a minor finger injury which she sustained earlier this season.

Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind (Picsofyou.com)
Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind (Picsofyou.com)

The FEI Four-in-Hand and Single Horse divisions this weekend served as selection trials for drivers aiming for the 2016 FEI World Driving Championships. Suzy Stafford (Wilmington, Del.) and her 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year, PVF Peace of Mind, took an early lead in the FEI Single Horse division and never looked back. Following a 43.58 score in dressage, the pair dominated the marathon phase, posting the fastest times in six of seven obstacles and adding 94.22 penalty points to their score. In the cones phase, Stafford and “Hunny” again proved their athletic prowess, leaving all the balls up and adding .85 in time penalties, winning the division on an overall score of 138.65.

Complete Results

Find out more about the Live Oak International.

From the USEF Communications Department

Allison Stroud Wins HORSE GYM USA Top Equine Athlete Award at Live Oak International

Allison Stroud drives her four-in-hand Dutch Warmblood team, winners of the HORSE GYM USA® Top Equine Athlete Award, at 2015 Live Oak International (Photo courtesy of JRPR)

Wellington, FL (April 10, 2015) — After a season of presenting the HORSE GYM USA® Top Equine Athlete Award at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, HORSE GYM USA® brought the award to the celebrated combined driving event Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida. The HORSE GYM USA® Top Equine Athlete Award went to Allison Stroud’s four-in-hand team for their admirable fitness. Stroud, of West Grove, Pennsylvania, has a matched foursome (with an alternate) of chestnut Dutch Warmblood geldings with white socks and stockings owned by Willow Star LLC and Koos de Ronde. Anesco 4, Mozès, Olando, Ulco, and Zenno were purchased from German driver Daniel Schneiders last year right before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

At the 2015 Live Oak International, Stroud competed in the FEI Four-In-Hand Horse division against Chester Weber, Misdee Wrigley-Miller, and Darryl Billing. Stroud’s new four-in-hand team of horses is a bit of a change for her, since she is known for piloting gray four-in-hand ponies of various breeds, including Connemara, New Forest Pony, Welsh Pony, and a Quarter Horse-cross pony. Her attentiveness to superb health and athletic ability in her equines obviously carried over to her current four-in-hand team.

Stroud has been a USEF Combined Driving Four-in-Hand Pony National Champion a remarkable seven times. She made her international debut for Team USA in the 2003 Pony Driving World Championships in Austria. She showed in the World Championships in 2009, and at the World Championships in Lipica, Slovenia, in 2011. In 2014, she qualified to represent Team USA again, this time in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France. Now piloting horses, she helped Team USA finish in fourth place. She and the new team came in 28th place individually in her first World Equestrian Games. She trains with coach Michael Freund of Germany.

Stroud and her husband are known as the hosts of the Laurels at Landhope in West Grove, PA, which is one of the largest combined driving events in the country. Stroud also has experience training timber horses and has ridden in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

HORSE GYM USA® was happy to present Stroud with the Top Equine Athlete Award, complete with a beautiful trophy, in recognition of her impressive team. The company was a sponsor at Live Oak, where show attendees were able to visit with HORSE GYM USA® Sales Manager Jill Townsend, and view the innovative treadmills on display.

HORSE GYM USA® has been a leader in therapeutic equipment for horses and riders for the past decade. Founders Henrik and Mikala Gundersen recognize the importance of fitness, especially at the top levels of the sport. HORSE GYM USA® has sold more than 500 equine gyms for horses in a variety of disciplines.

The latest and greatest products that HORSE GYM USA® is proud to offer include the HORSE GYM USA® | WALK, a dry treadmill that is an upgrade from older models; the all-in-one HORSE GYM USA® | WATER, which can be used dry or be filled with water anywhere from a few inches on up to the horse’s shoulder; the HORSE GYM USA® | SPA, a cold, saltwater solution for soaking, icing, and bandaging legs; and the HORSE GYM USA® | RELAX, which is a programmable vibration plate with separate solarium, the SUN 15, that can be used to warm up, cool out, and offer zero-impact conditioning.

Learn more about the trusted quality and reputation behind HORSE GYM USA® products by visiting www.horsegym.com, or find the company on Facebook at www.facebook.com/horsegym.

Contact: Henrik Gundersen, President

G. Wilson Groves & Derawnda Ricardo Earn Omega Alpha Healthy Horse Award at Live Oak

G. Wilson Groves drives Derawnda Ricardo “Rick” at the 2015 Live Oak International (Photo courtesy of JRPR)

Wellington, FL (April 8, 2015) — Any competitor at Live Oak International knows how much it takes to successfully finish all three phases in combined driving. One of the key elements to success is a very fit horse, pony, pair, or team. Because Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals, Inc. recognizes this and also aspires to improve the health of all equines with their supplements, the company sponsored the Omega Alpha Healthy Horse Award at the 2015 Live Oak International. The award was presented to Derawnda Ricardo, an Intermediate Single Horse driven by G. Wilson Groves of Brownsville, Vermont.

Derawnda Ricardo (JMF Wind Walker x WH Dawn’s Felicity) is a 2001 black Morgan gelding. G. Wilson Groves owns “Rick” with his wife, Robin. After driving Derawnda Ricardo through Live Oak International in impressive top health and body condition, G. Wilson was proud to earn the Omega Alpha Healthy Horse Award. G. Wilson and Robin Groves also compete Rick in distance events, and plan to enter him in an upcoming driving distance event this year. Last year, G. Wilson and Rick were Champions in Combined Driving Single and Carriage Pleasure Driving in the Vermont Morgan Horse Association Open Awards. In addition, the horse was named Reserve Champion in Competitive Trail Driving with Robin and in Endurance with G. Wilson and Jenny Kimberly.

The Groves have regularly competed in multiple disciplines — including eventing, dressage, jumping, competitive trail, endurance, and pleasure show driving — throughout the past 50 years. They currently show in pleasure shows, in combined driving at the advanced and intermediate levels, and enjoy distance driving. Robin is currently the USEF National Champion in Combined Driving for the second time, and also hosts clinics to educate others. She competed on the US Team at the World Singles Championships in Italy in 2010 and in Poland in 2008, placing highest of all of the US drivers in the individual competition. Robin and G. Wilson have many championship ribbons, and have learned through experience that a healthy horse is a winning horse.

The Groves create an individual plan involving both conditioning and nutritional programs for each of their horses. “It gives you a definite advantage if your horse is in good health,” G. Wilson said. “I get the most out of my horse if he is in good health.” To help Derawnda Ricardo stay in shape, he said, “We give him regular work and basically keep his supplements up and his feed right and just keep a good eye on him.”

G. Wilson is already a fan of Omega Alpha products, especially Chill, Biotic 8, and Healthy Horse. His first introduction to Omega Alpha products was at an event at Bromont Equestrian Center years ago. The Omega Alpha Healthy Horse Award at 2015 Live Oak International was presented by Patti Hanco, Director of Business Development for the Equine Division. G. Wilson received a commemorative ribbon and prize basket full of Omega Alpha equine products — including many of his favorites. The supplements are made with all natural ingredients and include an array of products for everything from nerves and behavioral issues to sustaining muscle, gut, and digestive health.

Omega Alpha was also a sponsor and vendor at Live Oak International. Hanco was a judge for the children’s horseless jumping competition, which had jumps supplied by Premier Equestrian set up in a fun course for kids to jump over. Those participants who had horses or ponies of their own also received samples of supplements from Omega Alpha.

For twenty-two years, Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals has been carefully developing natural equine products through research-based science. Today, Omega Alpha produces more than 300 effective supplements in five product divisions — Consumer Health Products, Pet Health Products, Equine Health Products, Professional Naturopathic Health Products, and Professional Veterinarian Products. To learn more about Omega Alpha, visit www.OmegaAlpha.ca or call 1-800-651-3172.

Contact: Patti Hanco
Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals Inc.

It’s All about Teamwork: Chester Weber and Live Oak International

Chester Weber drove out of the 23rd Live Oak International as FEI Four-in-Hand Horse Champion with a cumulative score of 147.49 (Photo courtesy of www.picsofyou.com)

Ocala, Florida (March 30, 2015) — Chester Weber pulled off yet another win in four-in-hand driving while simultaneously presiding over the 2015 Live Oak International combined driving and show jumping event in Ocala, Florida. The much-anticipated show, presented by Weber and his family members Juliet W. Reid and Charlotte C. Weber, featured a CSI2*W Grand Prix World Cup qualifier, U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) Horse Pair and Pony Single, Pair, and Four-in-Hand national titles, and a sold-out Saturday night pirate-themed Exhibitors Party.

“It takes the hands-on attention of a team to make the event succeed, and it was a success because of the efforts of everyone who was part of it, from exhibitors to volunteers,” said the 11-time USEF National Four-in-Hand champion and three-time World Equestrian Games Silver medalist Chester Weber, who had the unique perspective of seeing the event from both the point of view of an exhibitor and a host.

“The whole event went off perfectly. In the weeks leading up to it I tried to have the horses prepared and do my own horse training in the morning before coming to the show grounds. I go to the gym, I go to the barn, and I get the ‘horse stuff’ done first,” he said, before turning the rest of his day’s attention to planning what is known as the favorite equestrian event of ‘America’s horse capital’ in Ocala, Florida. “It’s rewarding to do the work.”

Live Oak International has been hosted on the Weber family’s 5,000-acre equestrian estate since 1992 and this year for the first time reflected the creative hospitality of a new generation — Chloe Reid. Like her cousin Chester, Reid balanced her own competitive schedule (coming away as the High Point Amateur Rider) with joining her family in welcoming thousands of equine enthusiasts to their Ocala farm.

In fact, the loudly applauded pirate theme to Saturday night’s traditional Exhibitors Party was, Weber added with a laugh, also his cousin’s idea.

“I didn’t get it at first. She said, ‘Let’s have a pirate theme,’ so I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ It was a lot of fun and an overall success. There was a live dance band that played until 1:30 in the morning, fire eaters, a mechanical shark to ‘bull ride’ and it was a great chance for show jumpers and drivers to mix together.” And talk horse while throwing a few ‘Arr, mateys’ in along the way.

“Put a costume on people and they assume the role,” grinned Weber, who wholeheartedly joined in the idea and hosted the evening’s festivities in equally swash-buckling style.

But when its sumptuous banquet and entertainment was over, it was back to business the next morning with the KWPN team co-owned by Weber and Jane F. Clark. Weber lived up to his moniker of ‘Mr. Dressage’ on Friday, setting an early lead in the FEI Four-in-Hand class with a superb 33.45 score in the opening dressage, and lead through Saturday’s marathon before returning to the grass stadium on Sunday to set the lowest score in cones (9.25) and win the FEI title on a cumulative 147.49 finish. Sarasota, Florida entries Misdee Wrigley-Miller and Allison Stroud were second (212.26) and third (214.53) respectively, followed by Darryl Billing of Canada (252.67).

“The horses were great,” Weber concluded. “I was especially pleased with Dancer. This was his second show where I had him at the right wheel for dressage, and right lead for marathon and cones. I think in another year he’ll have matured a little more and be ready for a big tour. We’ll see. Our next show will be in mid-April at Grand Oaks in Weirsdale, just south of here. I plan to take the same team I took to the majors last year, to brush them up a little,” Weber planned, adding, “All the horses finished Live Oak sound, and feeling and looking good, so we’re ready.”

Follow Team Weber as their season unfolds at www.chesterweber.com.

For more information contact:
Chester Weber

Live Oak International 2015: Where Tradition Meets Vision

Cian O’Connor ended the weekend with two top wins and the CSI2*W Grand Prix. (Photos courtesy of www.picsofyou.com)

Ocala, Florida (March 23,2015) — Nowhere else in North America are combined driving and show jumping presented at a venue so world class in quality as to attract Olympic, World, and National champions before miraculously returning to a quiet, beautiful pasture for its 361 other days of the year. The 23rd edition of Live Oak International, March 18-22, rose from those misty fields to rewrite its record books once again with new and returning champions playing their part in making the show that has been called the ‘Horse Capital of America’s Favorite Equestrian Event.’

Two-time Irish Olympian Cian O’Connor, who earned Bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games, won the 2015 Live Oak International CSI2*W Grand Prix (a qualifying event for the World Cup) on Good Luck, and compared its grass stadium to those in Europe — thus offering a good foundation for up-and-coming European Championships hopefuls. O’Connor also won earlier in the week — with the intent of building grass field experience — on Quidam’s Cherie, an Oldenburg mare he rode to the win in the $10,000 Waldron Private Wealth Management 1.40m Welcome Stake. He also placed second on Chandon Blue in the $5,000 Pasmore Stables 1.35m Power & Speed.

Germany’s Andre Thieme, who won the $34,000 Hollow Creek Farm Winning Round, expressed respect for course designer Leopoldo Palacios’ balance of “gentle” lines and “crazy short” time that asked exactly the questions he was looking to answer with his 11-year-old Holsteiner, Conthendrix. “He was too wild, too forward, when we first started, but it feels like he’s turned a corner and is giving me a really good year,” Thieme said of Conthendrix.

“I see this as a serious show that has grown a lot in the four years it has offered two-star jumping,” said Palacios, whose has built a two-decade career creating courses for the largest shows in the world. Show jumping was added to the Live Oak International program in 2012.

Juliet W. Reid, who joins Chester C. Weber and Charlotte C. Weber as presidents of the Live Oak International show, said Palacios is right in predicting continued growth: “Next year we plan to be a three-star.”

Already offering the greatest prize money and titles of any combined driving event in America, the Live Oak International driving program included the USEF National Championships for Single Pony, Pair Horse, Pair Pony, and Four-in-Hand Pony.

“This is the first big win I’ve ever had,” smiled Steve Wilson of Louisville, Kentucky, after accepting the USEF National Pair Horse Driving Championship from U.S. Equestrian Federation president Chrystine Tauber. Wilson piloted a grey Lipizzan pair to his first national driving title on a final cumulative score of 164.92.

Amy Cross won the USEF Pair Pony Driving Championship.
Amy Cross won the USEF Pair Pony Driving Championship.

USEF Pair Pony Driving Champion Amy Cross, of Aiken, South Carolina, confessed she knew she “needed a good dressage score. I just kept reminding myself we were prepared and we knew what we had to do.” Cross earned her USEF title on a 134.40 final score.

USEF National Four-in-Hand Pony champion Heather Schneider of Palm City, Florida credited her Live Oak International host (and 11-time US National Four-in-Hand Horse champion) Chester Weber with advising her that it would “take six years to get a team to come together — and he was right! But I’ve also been really blessed with good ponies.”

Florida’s Triple Crown Award — for posting the lowest combined scores from the Sunshine State CDE, The Kingdom of the Sun CDE, and Live Oak International — went to Intermediate Single Pony driver Doris Leacy of Oro Valley, Arizona with her German Riding Pony, Katydid Baroness.

Chester Weber, too, continued to live up to the expectations of his fellow whips with an FEI Four-in-Hand Horse victory, posting one of the best (33.45) dressage scores of his career before continuing his lead through marathon and cones to a 147.49 win.

FEI Single Horse honors went to Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Delaware and her Morgan, PVF Peace of Mind, who lived up to its name by turning in first-place after first-place for its whip across the phases to the final 139.46 score.

In keeping with the Live Oak International mission to encourage and promote horse sport, the driving program also offered a second consecutive Intermediate Pair Horse title for Georgian Grandes whip, Max Montoya of Hebron, Kentucky (159.68); an Intermediate Four-in-Hand Horse win for Craig Grange (238.39) of Morriston, Florida; and Intermediate Single Horse title for local favorite Ellen Epstein of Ocala and her bay KWPN, Alex.

“Every win feels as good as the first,” concluded Intermediate Pair Pony champion, Boots Wright of Ocala, who has been competing faithfully at Live Oak International since the show started 23 years ago. “It was pretty ‘rustic’ that first year,” she said with a smile. ‘Today, it is a world class venue that has done so much to better our sport as a whole.”

Presented and sponsored by Michael Freund was the Jean Keathley Memorial Award to Chester Weber as the FEI driver with the lowest dressage score; the Anne Bliss Memorial Award to Misdee Wrigley-Miller for most elegant lady driver; the Katie Williams Memorial Award (donated by friends of Katie Williams) to the best-conditioned entry; the Hanzi Award (donated by Chester Weber) to Ellen Epstein and Alex V, determined the best horse or pony of the competition in the opinion of the judge; the Omega Alpha Healthy Horse Award, donated by Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals Inc., to G. Wilson Groves; and the HORSE GYM USA® Top Equine Athlete Award to Alison Stroud for the admirable fitness of her team.

Between spectating the daunting jumps and the fast-paced excitement of the marathon driving phase, attendees of Live Oak International enjoyed being part of the action with a kids’ horseless jumping competition, the Sleepy P Ranch Leadline Class, a Parelli Natural Horsemanship demonstration, miniature horses to pet, a pirate-themed Competitors Party, and plenty of the horse world’s favorite vendors. Premier Equestrian and Breyer Horses made Live Oak International’s first kids’ horseless jumping competition possible, and the event was a hit among the aspiring future jumpers and drivers on the show grounds. Parelli Natural Horsemanship’s impressive demonstration of working with nearly-tackless horses further added to the show’s eclectic equestrian atmosphere.

In 2016, the Live Oak International will be approaching a quarter century as the only event of its kind in the nation to bring horse lovers and families alike to an international program, featuring both combined driving and Grand Prix show jumping champions. And next year, its stellar reputation may add another “star.” For complete results and more, see www.liveoakinternational.com.

For more information contact:
Damian Guthrie
Live Oak International
Press Office
Johnny Robb