The Pony Driving World Championships are held every two years, with 3 divisions; singles, pairs, and teams. In 2013 The USA went to Pau, France, and this year they will be headed to Breda, The Netherlands September 2-6. Not only do multiples of ponies need to be transported, but 2 carriages per driver, and equipment requiring a huge investment for the opportunity of a lifetime to represent the USA. A fundraiser to help support this effort was held at the beautiful Grand Oaks Equestrian Resort, Weirsdale, Florida, February 28, raising over $16,000 for Pony Team USA. The next day, the first Driving Derby at Grand Oaks, had over 29 entries competing in this exciting new category, recognized by the American Driving Society. Cefnoakpark Bouncer and his owner Wayne Humphreys won the large pony division clocking one of the fastest rounds of the day. Bouncer, now 19-year old rose to the occasion as soon as he saw the cones and obstacles, and heard the start whistle he knew what needed to be done.
The Welsh Cob gelding made US history in 2005 when he won the single pony division of the FEI Pony Driving World Championships at Catton Hall, Derbyshire, England with Suzy Stafford. It was the first Gold Medal for the USA in combined driving. Bouncer was honored at the USEF Horse of the Year for driving, and Breyers immortalized his breed by choosing Cefnoakpark Bouncer to be the Welsh Cob model. In 2007 he competed again for the USA in Denmark, contributing to the team Bronze Medal. His owner, Wayne's wife, the late Sybil Humphreys went on to dominate the Intermediate CDE divisions in the USA, until her untimely passing 1n 2013. Bouncer and Sybil's family spent the following year raising awareness and funds for Pancreatic Cancer, doing demonstrations at several major equestrian events. This contributed to the passing of a federal law dedicated to research.
While Wayne Humphreys had been a large part of "Team Bouncer" throughout his career, he had never driven him. With the help of Bouncer's Gold medal driver Suzy Stafford, Wayne and his "buddy" began to train and drive, becoming as Humphreys says "just two old retired guys having fun". But when the challenge to compete at the Grand Oaks Driving Derby to raise money for the Pony Team was presented, the competitive Humphreys a retired Navy Captain whose sport had been marathon running got into gear. Located in the winter months on Ocala, Florida at Margaret Mayer's Crane Wood South Farm in the same neighborhood where Suzy Stafford winters, Wayne and Bouncer revved up their training with Stafford, working on Kent Bownridge's cones course, set up on the farm.
Held in the covered arena at Grand Oaks, with world-class footing groomed for the competition, the surrounding grandstands and VIP tables were full of spectators as the competition began. All those participating in the organization volunteered, with many US former team members manning the gates, organizing cones, and officiating in the event. In Wayne and Bouncer's division there were 3 former members of US Combined Driving Teams, all with years of experience and training, with seasoned fast horses and ponies.
According to the American Driving Society, a Driving Derby competition consists of one or more rounds over a course consisting of pairs of cones and marathon-type obstacles. The combined scores of each round factoring in time as well as balls down in the cones obstacles wins each round. Each entry has a navigator who rides the back of the carriage, balancing in the turns, and sometimes helping the driver with direction. This was a role Humphreys knew well, having navigated for his late wife for over 25 years competing in the sport, including international events such as Windsor, as wells multiple National Championships. Now it was Wayne with the reins in his hands, and he looked to all like a seasoned pro.
Wayne and Bouncer with USET two time team veteran Joe Yoder on the back step, smoked the first round. "I was in a zone," said Humphreys, "and Bouncer just went into gear." It seemed as if watching the pair, the pony knew the route, and Humphreys guided his friend as if they were one unit. Their second round was even faster, as they blasted through the starting gate, with Bouncer changing leads at every twist and turn, and no balls down. When the final scores were tallied, Humphreys and Bouncer won the Blue ribbon for their class, adding to his collection.
There are a select few equines in the world of equestrian sport who earn the title of World Champion, and each one has a special aura about them that sets them apart and above the other. The Humphreys family has all known and loved the pony who brought them together in two countries and through multiple National titles. In the sport of Combined Driving, he is the only living World Champion for the USA, a position of honor, respected throughout the community. He continues to show his passion for what he has done best throughout his career. After the event, Bouncer was brighter, shinier, and very proud of what he achieved at The Grand Oaks Driving Derby, showing them all how its done, and that he knows what it takes to win.
“Bouncer and I have a combined age of 92 years,” said Humphreys, “and we still rise to the occasion. We know what it takes to get to a World Championships, and appreciate all the support we were given the two times we had the honor of competing for our country. A special thanks to Katie Whaley and Jennifer Matheson, and Grand Oaks for all their support and for a great weekend.”