Ocala, Fla. - The competition came to a close Sunday afternoon for the drivers in the FEI Four-in-Hand division sponsored by Seminole Wellness at Live Oak International. Held in conjunction with the USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship, the division's results were decided following the cones phase. After meeting the challenge put forth by the 720-meter 19-obstacle course designed by Harmut Kaufmann (GER), Chester Weber won not only the division but his 11th USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship. The championship also serves as the Selection Trial for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), giving Weber's performance another reason for being a special achievement.
Weber (Ocala, Fla.) smoothly guided his and Jane Clark's team of Royal Dutch Warmblood geldings through the cones course, earning the only double clear round in the division. Adding nothing to his score on the final day of competition, he finished with a score of 116.33.
"They're all as special as the first one," Weber commented on winning his 11th USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship. "It was one of my big goals this year to attend the national championship. I am pleased to be here and have the opportunity."
As he aims for the 2014 WEG, Weber noted, "It was really good experience to have to drive clear under some pressure. We trained a lot over cones since our last event and it really paid off. My team was really great today. That was one of the nicest cones rounds I've ever driven. There was no resistance and it flowed and felt really good."
Misdee Wrigley-Miller (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) earned her first USEF National Four-in-Hand Reserve Champion title upon the completion of the cones phase. She and her team of Dutch Warmblood geldings knocked five balls from their cones and incurred 13.02 time penalties for a total of 28.02 penalties added to their previous score for a final score of 350.56.
"It's really something to be sitting here next to Chester and I feel honored. I started driving Four- in-Hand in December and three months later to have completed a competition in this atmosphere is really wonderful."
Wrigley-Miller plans to travel to Europe this summer to give herself and her horses more experience and while the WEG is a thought, she has another reason for driving a team of horses. When asked if she sees herself as a role model for girls, Wrigley-Miller replied, "That's one of my main reasons for doing this. I think this is a wonderful sport and I think women can do it too at the highest level."
While Wrigley-Miller received a Reserve Champion title, she finished third in the FEI Four-in-Hand division sponsored by Seminole Wellness behind Darryl Billing of Canada. He added 50.42 penalties following the cones phase to finish with a final score of 267.24 to earn second place.
The FEI Single Horse division, which also served as the Selection Trial for the 2014 FEI World Driving Championships for Singles being held September 25-28 in Izsak, Hungary, was won by Suzy Stafford (Wilmington, Del.). She guided PVF Peace of Mind to a 5.73-fault round after knocking the ball at cone two and incurring 2.73 time penalties to end up with a final score of 112.57. Stafford was only 0.67 penalties ahead of second-place finisher Leslie Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.), who guided Uminco to clear cones round with just 1.16 time penalties to finish with final score of 113.24. Jacob Arnold (Ocala, Fla.) rounded out the top three with one ball down and only 0.97 time penalties with Wise Guy to finish on a score of 135.68.
If you want to catch up on the action from Live Oak International, on-demand video footage of the driving marathon and cones phases and the jumping classes from Saturday and Sunday will be available shortly on USEFNetwork.com. For more information about Live Oak International, visit http://liveoakinternational.com/. Follow the U.S. Driving Team here.