Lexington, Ky. – A lovely weekend at the Kentucky Classic CDE played host to the 2016 USEF Pony Driving National Championships held October 6-9 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Leslie Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.) and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle began their quest for a national title with a lovely dressage test to win the phase with a score of 53.69 from the Ground Jury of Anne-Marie Turbe (FRA), Elimar Thunert (GER), and Kail Palmer-Miller (USA). Berndl boldly drove Teressa Kandianis’ 2004 Norwegian Fjord mare in the marathon phase, having the fastest times in four of the seven obstacles designed by Richard Nicoll (USA). They won the phase and added 86.19 penalties to their score. Despite the fact that less than three points separated first and second place, Berndl and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle kept their cool in the cones phase to have a double-clear round and earn the USEF Single Pony Driving National Championship title with a final score of 139.88.
“The whole championship was wonderful. We drove out from California; it’s 49 hours. She is an inexperienced pony with traveling, but she handled the trip really well,” Berndl explained. “The dressage was super; I was really, really happy with her in a hard test. The marathon was very challenging, especially for a smaller pony because she is only 13.2 hands. She handled the marathon like it was nothing. In the cones, it was a long course and I really wanted to make sure to keep the speed up. We went in with 2.58 points separating us from Tracey [Morgan], who is a National Champion already, so there was a lot of pressure and I just had to guide her around and let her do it; she stayed calm and cool. She gave 100% of everything she had in every phase.”
Two-time National Champion Tracey Morgan (Beallsville, Md.) and longtime partner Fuego 88 collected Reserve Champions honors after an excellent performance throughout the weekend, beginning with a smooth dressage test that scored 54.04. Morgan and her own 2001 German Riding Pony gelding were determined on the marathon course, having a bobble in obstacle three but rallying to finish with 88.42 penalties. They ended the competition with an impressive double-clear cones round to win the phase and solidify their Reserve Champion title with a final score of 142.46.
Rebecca Gutierrez (Windsor, S.C.) and Naria BW6, Richard Olson’s 2003 Haflinger mare, finished in third place with a final score of 152.44. The duo scored 61.51 in the dressage phase and collecting 90.02 and 0.91 in the marathon and cones phases, respectively.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.