Ocala, FL - From a record 11th national title for four-in-hand’s Chester Weber to two-time NFL Superbowl linebacker Max Montoya scoring a win in the Intermediate Pair Horse division, this year’s Live Oak International Combined Driving had it all. Ocala, Florida, known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ saw hometown hero, Chester Weber drive Jane Clark’s KWPN geldings to an historic 11th FEI Four-in-Hand Horse USEF National Championship. “It was probably one of my best Cones ever,” said Weber, who was also presented with the Jean Keathley Memorial Award, sponsored by Michael Freund, for the FEI whip with the lowest (best) Dressage score. His final overall score after three days of combined driving competition was just 116.33 points.
“In football, you hit things. In driving you try not to,” former National Football League star Max Montoya joked and the 6’5” Hebron, KY whip stayed true enough to his word after Cones to collect just three penalty points and complete combined driving’s equivalent of a touchdown: victory in the Intermediate Pair Horse division with his striking black and white Georgian Grandes.
Seeded first after Dressage and, after fighting her way back after slipping a notch in Marathon, Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, DE and her Morgan clinched their Cones class and the FEI Single Horse title (112.57).
Live Oak International’s winner’s circle liked its lady whips, as Suzi Dixon of Vashon, WA and her Welsh pony topped the standings (118.38 points) to win the Intermediate Single Pony title, sponsored by Wayne Humphreys. Ocala drivers Ellen Epstein won the Intermediate Single Horse championship (123.69) and Boots Wright won the Intermediate Pair Pony championship on a final score of 110.94 points. Wright also earned the Yellowframe Farm Dressage Award for the best Intermediate Dressage Phase score, and the Katie Williams Memorial Award for the best-conditioned entry in any division.
The Hillcroft Farm sponsored FEI Single Pony and FEI Pair Pony titles went, respectively, to Tracey Morgan of Beallsville, MD (118.36) and Jennifer Matheson of Aiken, SC (129.64).
Rounding out the international roster of champions this year’s Live Oak International CDE hosted was Canada’s Rae Fischer, whose KWPN team claimed the FEI Pair Horse title on a 148.18 finishing score.
“I am so fortunate,” concluded Weber, whose family has hosted the annual driving tradition at their Live Oak Plantations for more than 20 years, “to live in Ocala, the fourth-largest horse county in the nation. We see the spectator as customer and it’s our responsibility to deliver a satisfying experience.” With an estimated attendance of 10,000 this year, Weber can consider that goal as achieved as his own championship.
From NFL celebrities to tomorrow’s show ring stars, Sunday’s Live Oak International spectators were also treated an adorable Leadline class full of winners, and a Coaching Presentation by Grand Oaks Resort, featuring a Friesian four-in-hand put to a 1902 Brewster stagecoach.
Live Oak Plantation’s gracious ambience, exceptional facilities, and Olympic and World level competition again created the kind of experience that has earned it the reputation as America’s premier driving and show jumping event. Managed and organized by the brother-sister team of Chester Weber and Juliet W. Reid, the 2014 Live Oak International again raised the bar in delivering a week of nonstop competition, entertainment, and equestrian sport.
For more information on Live Oak International, including a full schedule of events, visit their website at www.liveoakinternational.com