The 2016 Grand Oaks Driving Trial and Combined Test, held December 2-3 hosted an entry list of some of the country’s top drivers as well as local competitors getting their feet (and hooves) wet from the Training Division to Intermediate II.
The event will be expanding into a full Combined Driving Event on the same weekend in 2017, awarded the National Combined Driving Preliminary Championships. With Central Florida a winter mecca for equestrian sport, the Combined Driving population increases earlier and earlier each year.
The Grand Oaks Event was the warm up for several advanced competitors as well as those checking out the Preliminary Championship Venue for 2017.
Grand Oaks General Manager Tom Warriner and his staff work together to assure competitors and spectators are treated to the best of the ammenities this equestrian resort has to offer. Drawing from the local population of The Villiages in central Florida the parking lot is always full and spectators plentiful.
Name and event where you have complimentary coffee and breakfast cart appear at your stalls in the morning, which then gets converted to a traveling bar in the afternoon. It then follows competitors for the official course walk is held under the lights of each beautifully constructed marathon obstacles.
No need to worry about driving home either. All guest cottages with attached barns were booked for the weekend, the RV Park on grounds full, and the coffee cart is back at it the next morning with much needed coffee to get the day started.
On the same weekend Grand Oaks hosted The Festival of Trees where several competitors also took home gorgeous trees at bargain prices being auctioned for charity Saturday evening during the competitors $15 Italian dinner served by Grand Oaks Bistro Restaurant.
James Miller, Polo Player, Helicopter Pilot and husband to FEI Driver Misdee Wrigley Miller made his pairs debut, winning the Preliminary Dressage test for the entire division under the tough judging of Boots Wright and Sue Rodgers. Misdee brought her four-in-hand along with World Champion trainer Boyd Excel to work on her marathon and cones.
Advanced Pony Driver Muffy Seaton travelled from Windsor, NC with her pony Blazer aced the Intermediate marathon to win the division over all. Mary Phelps a new Grand Oaks winter resident, and her pony pair “The Gangsters” were a close second in the marathon, finishing third overall behind Jacob Arnold and Steve Wilson’s Dutch pair Dario and Endorro.
The best dressage result of the day was Intermediate Horse Margaret Shenker with her own Heartland Flashback, whose marathon and cones gave her a second overall in the Intermediate division.
Gary Yeager and Sigrid Edwards’ Calypso topped the large Preliminary division. Edwards and her own Gee Wiz for their Combined Driving career off to a good start winning the Training Horse single division. Jennifer Keeler and her young hackney pony Zeppo made their CDE debut winning the Training Pony single division.
Eleanor Parkes drove her new imported Dutch pony pair in training with Grand Oaks resident trainer Elizabeth Keathley to win the Preliminary Pony Pair division, showing talent a promise for the future.
Organizer Erica Matulich along with the Grand Oaks created a competitor friendly experience from the time of arrival to departure. Grand Oaks manager Tom Warriner sprung for the lighting that illuminated the 6 obstacles all night long, lest anyone was having a sleepless night trying to remember their routes.
2017 is the year of the FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies, being held in Minden, Germany, August 15-20, and the FEI World Driving Championships for Pairs, September and the USA is planning of fielding teams for both.
The Ocala region of central Florida is the winter home to many of the major players in the sport of Combined Driving. A strong grass roots of year-round residents benefit from the all inclusive living and training facilities geared to the sport of combined driving and is now fully booked with Dressage and Hunter Jumper events as well.
Designated by the USEF Elite Training Center , the Grand Oaks resident trainer Thorston Zarembowitz, is the coach for the USEF Combined Driving Program. A USEF Developing Driver clinic will be held February 23-25, and the USEF The Grand Oaks Resort also hosts a full schedule of events including the Orlando Dressage Show Series, The Hunt Country Horse Show Series, The Special Olympics, Dog Agility Trials, and additional shows for the Southern Baroque Breed Association. Host to the Olympic Para Equestrian Team, Grand Oaks was the training base preparing the US Para Olympic Team for Rio 2016.
Grand Oaks also has a full set of amenities, with the Bistro and Bar, a salon and spa, gift shop. The world famous Carriage Museum offers tours and carriage rides, drawing in equestrians as well as introducing equestrian sport to winter Florida residents who flock daily to this unique resort.