US National Pony Pairs Champion Katie Whaley and her ponies are back in Paris, Kentucky after a successful journey to Europe. Representing the United States, Whaley finished 9th out of 33 entries representing 12 nations in the FEI World Driving Championships for Pair Ponies.
In July, Whaley and her grooms Colten Parker and Madison Taylor travelled to Jimmy Fairclough's Newton, New Jersey facility, to prepare for their flight to Europe. HFR Transportation shipped Whaley’s ponies and their fellow American team members Tracey Morgan and Fuego to Amsterdam. Schiphol Airport is a popular destination for traveling equines. It even has a "Horse Hotel", and a designated separate entrance for equines, where they were met by their shipper.
US Drivers Euro Base - Riant
The Americans were based at the beautiful Riant Equestrian Center, in Beekbergen, Netherlands, and quickly settled into their routine. Beekbergen, located on the edge of a national forest, also hosts a major driving event each year. Whaley and Morgan competed in a special VIP Class, created as a warm up for the Pony Championships. Here Whaley and fellow American drivers Tracey Morgan, Randy Cadwell and Steve Wilson (who will compete in the FEI World Pairs Competition in September) set up "camp" to prepare for the upcoming championships.
On to Minden For the Test of Their Lives
In pairs driving at the FEI level, it is required to present 3 ponies, and permitted to switch them around according to their strengths. Katie Whaley partnered with her own Tommy, a 2003 Welsh Pony-cross gelding, Tanner, a 2006 Welsh Pony-cross gelding, full brothers,bred in Florida by Winding Oaks Welsh Ponies. and Barbara Sims’s Night Flyer, a 2000 Welsh Section C gelding.
With Sims's pony Flyer together with Whaley's Tommy the ponies finished sixth in the dressage phase with a score of 51.20.”The test was one of the best I have ever driven thanks to Thorsten.” said Whaley.
For the marathon, Tanner joined Tommy and showed great determination on a tough marathon track, adding 111.42 penalty points to their overall score. Whaley and her ponies didn't have any balls down in the twisty turny cones course, but tallied 7.52 time penalties in the cones, opting on the side of caution.
“I was late at the first split time and just did not have a place to make it up. ” she explained. In the final phase they finished 14th but maintained the coveted top ten goal, placing ninth overall on a score of 170.14.
What it Took to Get There
The journey required two busy years of planning and execution. Under the guidance of team coach Thorsten Zarembowicz, Whaley trained and competed in Florida, while based at the Grand Oaks Equestrian Resort (the USE Driving Center). After winning the National Pony Pairs Championships at Live Oak, she returned to her farm in Paris, Kentucky, and devoted time to her business.
Best Dressed At Minden
Whaley owns and operates her own millinery company, Hats by Katie. She outfits many US women drivers, and her designs thrive with the Kentucky Derby crowd. Needless to say, Whaley wore her own creation at the competition, drawing praise and delight from the European press corp at Minden.
After taking her trusty grooms Madison and Colten for a day in Amsterdam ("… and we are all still talking to each other!"), Whaley sent them home, and then travelled with her ponies back to New York. After a brief stay in quarantine, it was back to Fairclough's, before shipping back to Kentucky – home at last.
“It was the trip of a lifetime,I have talked to my team and now that we realized we can compete with The big boys,we are going to try for 2019”