Ocala, FL - Beautiful horses and beautifully appointed drivers opened the first day of competition at the Live Oak International with the Yellowframe Farm FEI Driven Dressage classes for Single, Pair, and Four-in-Hand horses and ponies. Appearing for the first time as a new father at his family’s annual driving and show jumping extravaganza, Ocala horseman and 11-time USEF National Champion Chester Weber had one of the best dressage phase scores of his career, (33.44), for an early lead in the FEI Four-in-Hand horse division. Misdee Wrigley-Miller earned reserve with a score of 46.13.
“It was a good test,” said Weber’s wife, My Weber, who explained today’s placement of his near-perfectly synchronized KWPN team. “Ultra was left leader, Splash was right leader, Dancer was right wheel, and left wheel was Boris.”
Promising a hotly-contested title in the FEI Pair Horse-USEF National Championships sponsored by Hillcroft Farm are Casey Zubek, of Manhattan, IL and Steve Wilson, of Louisville, KY. Zubek and Wilson’s one-point margin of difference between first (46.78) and second (47.72) respectively put spectators on the edge of their seats while Canadian entry, Rae Fischer, kept the international pressure on the American whips with a strong 57.46 score for third.
No close margins were to be found in the FEI Single Horse division as Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, DE and her Morgan, PVF Peace of Mind, set a definitive lead of 47.49. The pair’s closest contender, Kent Brownridge of Roxbury, CT and his Hackney, Halstead’s Shale, score of 64.06 seeded them reserve ahead of Canadian contenders Catherine Lavasseur (65.73) and Carole Precious (68.22) respectively.
Aiken, SC drivers Amy Cross and Jennifer Matheson claimed early dominance in the FEI Pair Pony USEF National Championships sponsored by Hillcroft Farm— until Katie Whaley of Paris, KY and her Welsh pair split the Southern duo’s claim on the top spots. Whaley’s 52.61 was enough to move ahead of Matheson’s 56.58, while Cross and her Welsh Cob held on to their win (42.82) as the first of Yellowframe’s combined driving phases concluded.
The FEI Single Pony win in dressage went to Tracey Morgan of Belleville, MD (43.84) whose German Riding Pony helped set an 11-point edge ahead of Baptistown, NJ entry Mary Mott-Kocsis. While composing but a single entry to the FEI Four-in-Hand Pony class, Heather Schneider and her grey Welsh stallion were big in personality as they won smiles from spectators for his exuberant ‘neigh’ to the judges before their final 58.40 winning score.
Drawing first-time competitors from across the United States to the ‘horse capital of America’ and the Live Oak International was the final class of opening day, the Intermediate Single Pony sponsored by Wayne Humphreys. The Oro Valley, AZ entry of Doris Leacy and her German Riding Pony cross, Katydid Baroness, set a winning standard with a 47.94 test— and other up and coming talent showed throughout the class. Reserve went to first-time Live Oak International competitor, Allyn Carman of Grass Valley, CA (48.64) and Hackney cross, Bud Lite. Third place also went to a debut driver, Deborah Lawrence of Shelbyville, KY and her aged crossbred, Lodestar.
The more than 30 horse-and-driver combinations that performed for opening day of the 23rd edition of Live Oak International in their elegant turnouts will be matched by continued classes on Friday for Yellowframe Farm Intermediate Driven Dressage. Friday will include the return of Intermediate Pair Horse titleholder and former pro football star, Max Montoya, and Ocala hometown favorites Ellen Epstein, Cathy Franks, and Boots Wright.
Friday also marks the start of the second exciting chapter of the Live Oak International program— show jumping — with the $5,000 Pasmore Stables 1.35m Power & Speed at 2:00 pm and $10,000 Waldron Wealth Management 1.40m Welcome Stake at 4:00 pm.
This year’s CSI2* -W/CAI2* Live Oak International is a World Cup qualifier and has attracted some of the world’s top show jumping riders vying for victory under the live oaks, including recent Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup CSIO5* Hickstead U.S. squadmate, Margie Engle; 2008 Beijing Olympics U.S. team rider Laura Kraut; and four-time USEF Equestrian of the Year and first woman to win Hickstead’s King George Gold Cup, Beezie Madden.
Outside the show ring, the Live Oak International is a true family affair, with plenty of children’s activities to delight throughout the weekend, including Kid’s Horseless Jumping Competitions on Saturday and Sunday, and perennial closing day favorite— the Sleepy P Ranch Leadline Class at 1:30 pm before the concluding $34,000 SCI2* Hollow Creek Farm Winning Round at 2:00 pm.
For complete results and scheduling, visit www.LiveOakInternational.com.