Four Young Drivers Make the USEF Long List!

Within the recently announced USEF 2011 Driver Training Long List is something truly remarkable.  Four of the drivers who were selected are ‘kids’!    This is a first for the American Driving Society, the governing organization for the sport of combined driving.  

Two of the young drivers compete in the FEI Single Horse division, Jacob Arnold (17) of Snow Camp, NC, and Janet Ann Hamilton (16) of Alva, FL.  Samantha Orem (19) of Supterville, FL and Maggie Sullivan (19) of Guilford, CT both drive single ponies.  These lucky kids have been granted the opportunity to train with world renowned driver Michael Fruend of Germany during 2011.   

Jacob says “I’m very grateful to get to compete and learn from so many experienced and talented drivers in the United States. Since competing in my first CDE in 2007, I have been helped by many fellow drivers, to whom I am very grateful. However, I want to especially thank Kelly Valdes and Claire Reid for their ongoing, continuing support in so many different aspects of the sport”.

Claire and Kelly run the Big Sky Young Driver’s Camp every summer at Claire’s farm in Southern Pines, NC.  Both Jacob and fellow single horse driver Jan Jan Hamilton have obviously reaped the benefits of this special opportunity where young drivers are paired with experienced long listed drivers and are taught by their mentors and the USEF Driving coach.     

“The American Driving Society is committed to growing participation in the sport of carriage driving at the younger ages” according to Susan Koos Acker, ADS Executive Director.  She encourages clubs to take part in involving youngsters and notes that “The ADS Fund has grant money available that local driving clubs can apply for if they need financial assistance in hosting a driving camp for kids.”

Jacob was also able to participate last year as he was invited to attend several clinics and training sessions during 2010. “This provided me with the opportunity to work with Koos de Ronde from the Netherlands, who was very helpful. Koos is a very great driver and he really helped me with my Morgan mare, Spring Hollow Dark Shadow.

“I am also looking forward to working with Michael Freund (GER) at future training sessions and clinics during 2011. I think that the entire US Combined Driving Team will benefit greatly from working with him. I know all of the Young Drivers will enjoy learning from Mr. Freund, who is a consummate trainer and horseman”.

Reporting in from last week’s training session in Florida was Maggie Sullivan.  Maggie drives her Fjord pony Riena at the FEI level.  “I just worked with Mr. Freund and it was amazing!

The USEF clinic is going well. Mr. Freund has driven everyone's horse(s). There are horse pairs, pony pairs, a pony team and singles of all sizes. I am honored to be in the company of so many past US team members. All the drivers are so supportive of each other and Black Prong Equestrian Center (Bronson, FL) is a phenomenal facility”. When asked who helped to get her there Maggie responded, “They are still helping me now! Robin and Wilson Groves have been wonderful to us. Donna and Albert Crookston give us the best pep talks ever!”

Janet Ann Hamilton is just 16 years old. At the Sunshine State CAI this past weekend, she demonstrated the fearlessness and quick mind of youth by winning the marathon over multi National Champion Robin Groves and notorious marathon man Bob Koopman in the FEI Single Horse Division.

“I bought my horse, Desi, (Jao Desperado a Morgan) as a two year old and did schooling shows for what seemed like forever. I then spent a year at training level, a year at Prelim, and two years at Intermediate. Everything we have been working on is finally coming together. Desi is now more of an athlete rather than a lawn ornament. He consistently stays on the outside rein, bends, and can even canter in the dressage ring on command without kicking the carriage (most of the time). It is weird to think that 3 years ago, I did not even understand what an outside rein was. However, as I found out this weekend, he is still not above rearing straight up in the air when we halt at X. Reaching this point is a gratifying accomplishment, but we have an extensive litany of things to learn and work on. I worked with Michael Freund for the first time today on the cones course and he was very helpful. I hope that being long-listed will give me more learning opportunities like working with Michael, because I need all of the help I can get!”

Seniors - move over!  The kids have come to play and they’re taking no prisoners!  Susie invites anyone interested in hosting a ‘camp’ for young drivers is invited by the ADS to participate in a learning experience.  “On March 3, we will host a webinar led by Midwest Regional Director Myrna Rhinehart, who will share her experiences of running a Young Drivers Camp in Wisconsin. To sign-up for this webinar go to

Photos: Jacob Arnold (17) of Snow Camp, NC; Janet Ann Hamilton (16) of Alva, FL; Maggie Sullivan and Samantha Orme. All photos by Tracey Higgins.