The 20th Annual Live Oak International got underway today on the serene grounds of Live Oak Plantation, also home to leading Thoroughbred breeding and training facility, Live Oak Stud in Ocala Florida. The Live Oak International represents the very best that combined driving competition has to offer and the event traditionally attracts the best drivers from around the world. "This really is the premier event in the country," according to the Technical Delegate Ed Young and U.S. Driving Team Chef d'Equipe, "they really go over and above here; the grounds are turned out to the nines."
In addition to the stellar driving competition, Live Oak International has added FEI CSI** Show Jumping to its roster on its 20th anniversary. For the first time in 2012, jumpers will compete; initially on Friday afternoon in the $15,000 EyeD Welcome Stake, and then again on Saturday afternoon in a $50,000 Grand Prix. The event this year boasted a wishful waiting list of entrants who were eager to get into the competition, but the event is full and running at capacity.
The driving event started this morning, and in total, 41 FEI and Intermediate dressage scores were turned in today.
By contrast, it is a small but elite field vying for the USEF National Four-In-Hand Team Championship. Chester Weber, an eight-time USEF National Champion in this event, turned in an impressive 39.42 score in the dressage with the team he co-owns with Jane Forbes Clark. Casey Zubeck and his team of Gelderlanders currently sit second after posting a score of 57.86.
Weber is incredibly busy this weekend as he not only is driving in the National Championship but he serves as host of the competition and will be assisting his wife My with her two entries in the inaugural Live Oak International CSI ** Show Jumping competition.
Competition resumes Friday morning with additional Combined Driving Intermediate Driven Dressage followed by the Preliminary Driven Dressage. Show jumpers take center stage late in the afternoon when the $15,000 EYE D Welcome Stake will see 34 horses from 13 different countries competing for top honors.
Saturday traditionally draws a huge crowd and the day's action-packed schedule promises excitement with a full field of marathon driving that includes single, pair and team competition for both horses and ponies. The day will culminate with thrilling show jumping competition as a top-flight international field competes in the $50,000 FEI Live Oak International Grand Prix.
The event wraps up on Sunday with the Obstacle Driving Classes for all divisions and will culminate with the USEF National Championship Four-in-Hand title being awarded. For complete results and more information, visit liveoakinternational.com
Follow the 2012 U.S. Driving Team at http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2012Driving/
Photo: Chester Weber (picsofyou.com).