Weirsdale, FL- As frigid winter conditions gripped much of the nation, the sunny oasis of the Grand Oaks Resort and Museum in Weirsdale, Fla. once again welcomed competitors to its picturesque grounds on February 13 - 15, 2015 for the annual Grand Oaks Classic, a prestigious carriage pleasure driving competition sanctioned by the American Driving Society (ADS). Under the stately live oak trees of the 400+ acre resort, World Champion combined driver and 2013 World and National Morgan Carriage Driving Champion Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Del. added yet another championship to her trophy case by winning the Single Horse Division Championship against a large field of immaculately turned-out competitors.
Her partner in earning this title was the six-year-old Morgan mare Stilwell Spring (UVM Springfield x Salem Maurada by Entertainer) owned by Jay Zimmerman of Gettysburg, Pa. who flew to Florida to share in his mare's success. Despite this being "Spring's" very first carriage driving show, Stafford was impressed with the way the elegant bay handled herself in the intense atmosphere of three days of competition. "In our first class on Friday she needed to work through some 'first-show' jitters, but then she got better and better with every drive and this was reflected in the results," said Stafford.
A fourth-place finish in the Friday afternoon cross country drive got things rolling for the pair, followed by three straight blue ribbons awarded over the duration of the weekend by judge Steve Holm in the Progressive Obstacle, Turnout, and Reinsmanship classes to clinch the division championship for Stafford and Spring. In addition, second- and third-place ribbons in the Ride & Drive and Ladies To Drive classes (respectively) highlighted Spring's versatility and helped her also to be named winner of the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) Morgan Open High Point Award.
"Spring is an incredibly talented Morgan with stunning good looks and a wonderful character. Even though our primary goal for her first show was simply to gain experience in the ring, I had of course hoped she would present herself well, and she exceeded my expectations," explained Stafford. "I'd like to congratulate her owner Jay Zimmerman and thank him for the opportunity to present such a lovely mare. I look forward to more success with her this year, perhaps in Morgan breed shows and additional ADS driving events."
Suzy is known around the globe for her ability to harvest talent and develop horses and ponies for National and International competition. Stafford has been long list with the United States Equestrian Federation with nine different equines. “I was happy to be able to give “Spring” the confidence and experience she needs in this stage of her training” says Suzy.
Stafford, who operates Stafford Carriage Driving out of Chester County, Pennsylvania, was the youngest American driver to win an Individual Gold Medal with Cefnoakpark Bouncer at the 2005 World Pony Driving Championships in England. Since then she has continued to drive to success, being named the 2005 Driver of the Year by Chronicle of the Horse, winning the 2008 and 2009 National Single Pony Championship with Courage to Lead and an Individual Bronze medal in Greven, Germany as well as Individual Silver medal at the 2011 World Driving Championships in Slovenia.
For more information on Stafford, visit her website at www.staffordcarriagedriving.com.