Over the weekend of February 28 - March 2, 2014, combined drivers gathered at the beautiful Grand Oaks Resort in Weirsdale, Fla. for the first in a series of clinics to be conducted this year as part of the innovative USEF Developing Driver Program (DDP). After an overwhelming amount of interest from the driving community, nine participants from seven states were selected for this intensive training opportunity with World Champion driver Thorsten Zarembowicz.
"The DDP program is in its infancy, but I'm thrilled with how this weekend went," said clinic organizer and U.S. Team driver Katie Whaley. "The enthusiasm of these drivers is great, and the facility is one of the best in the country. I'd like to especially thank the Grand Oaks Resort and General Manager Tom Warriner for donating the stabling and facilities and helping make this event such a success."
Participants in the clinic included drivers of single horses and ponies, pair horses and ponies, as well as a four-in-hand pony team. Over three days, each driver was schooled in dressage, contested a challenging cones course, and practiced marathon obstacles, all under the expert eye of Zarembowicz. "Having a program like this is the right way to go, and I think it's fantastic that USEF supports this effort," Zarembowicz explained. "When I look at other countries, they have a system in place that works to identify talented drivers and provides a support structure to help them grow, and we need that in this country not only to create more depth in our sport but also to find and nurture drivers who can maybe help us one day to win a medal on the international stage."
Former eventing competitor Catherine Boiler, 24, of Cherry Hill, N.J., was thrilled with her experience and the camaraderie of the clinic. "This has been so beneficial for me to be able to have one-on-one lessons with an amazing trainer, as well as to practice at this level with other great drivers," she said. "It's like a once in a lifetime opportunity." Seventeen-year-old Colten Parker, who is planning to move up to the Intermediate level of competition in the spring, traveled from Batavia, Ohio to participate in the clinic with a pair of ponies borrowed from Katie Whaley. "I am so appreciative to have been able to borrow these fantastic ponies and for the opportunity to be here, not only to learn but also to meet new people and work in a beautiful facility," said Parker. "It's been an incredible experience."
The Developing Driver Program (DDP) has been established to provide supplemental training opportunities for American CDE drivers that have demonstrated a commitment to the goal of competing at the USEF/FEI level. This program seeks to assist CDE drivers that are in the pursuit of competitive excellence. The objective of this program is to increase the number of drivers and their horses/ponies competing at high performance levels therefore developing the drivers that may be future International competitors. For more information regarding the Developing Driver Program and upcoming clinics as well as becoming a financial supporter of future clinics, please contact Lizzy Staller at firstname.lastname@example.org.