Very Little Sunshine at Sunshine State
If you came to Florida to get a jump on the driving season the weather is surely a disappointment. Bitter cold on Thursday for the FEI competitors meant a lot of unexpected dressage scores as fit, freshly clipped horses lodged their complaints. The location of the ring, atop the only rise in the flat ground attracted the wind to further add to the strikes against the drivers.
Kim Stover of Delaware competed with a Connemara Thoroughbred cross in the Advanced single horse class and remarked, “I had all Thoroughbred in the ring today!” On Friday the Intermediate and Preliminary Divisions took center stage, but at least the sun did come out in the afternoon and the winds were lessened.
The Florida Horse Park is a mostly comprised of wide open flat fields which should be a help to some of the horses getting back into competition for the first time this year. But, drivers and their navigators will have to be on their toes to stay on course on Saturday as the only things they can rely on for direction are the compulsory gates.
A wonderful and plentiful group of volunteers was on hand for the two days of dressage. Kudos to them especially the warm up stewards who managed to shepherd some eighty competitors from the field, to the first warm-up ring, up the hill to the second warm up and then on into the ring on the bell. The latter also managing cheerfully to catch jackets, whips and sunglasses as the turnouts moved from her station to perform their dressage tests.
In the FEI team division, the numbers continue to swell with those trying to qualify for a spot in the Alltech World Equestrian Games this October. The weekend saw 14 teams competing with dressage scores ranging from in the high 30s to the 70s. As usual the standout performance belonged to home town boy Chester Weber with a score of 37.97. The rest of the pack followed starting a good 14 points behind him.
Dressage winners were: In FEI-Chester Weber Horse Team, Phyllis Grupe-Single Pony, Scott Monroe- Single Horse, Jennifer Matheson Pair Ponies. Alone in their divisions were Lisa Stroud- Pony Team and Misdee Wrigley-Miller- Horse Pair. The Intermediate winners were- Amy Cross- Single Pony, Mary Clark Lind- Pair Pony, Jan Jan Hamilton- Single Horse and Lisa Singer- Pair Horse with Heather Schneider the lone entry in Pony Team. Wendy O’Brien won Preliminary Pair Pony, Laura SanDiego- Single Pony, Cheryl Rivers-Single Horse, and Jimmy Chancellor in Pair Horse.
Four Juniors are competing and it is wonderful to see this new blood coming into the sport! Three of these ’kids’ had the fortune to train at the Big Sky Young Drivers Camp run with the American Driving Society and USEF this past summer. The camp was a dual training session for long listed drivers and the juniors had the opportunity to work with them and their Coach Peter Tischer of Germany.
Ironically, two of the Juniors are going up against their adult campers. Jacob Arnold is competing against training participant Donna Crookston in the Advanced Single Horse Class. A little more uncomfortable is the Pair Pony Class where Mary Clark Lind beat the host of the clinic and owner of Big Sky Farm, Claire Reid in Dressage! Jan Jan Hamilton, in Intermediate Single Horse is keeping it all in the family in posting a better score than her own mother. Maggie Sullivan, in the Intermediate Single Pony Class is holding her own in the middle of the pack against two multiple World Pony Championship veterans (Tracey Morgan and Sara Schmitt) and the World Single Pony Champion of 2005, Cefnoakpark Bouncer with owner Sybil Humphries.
And now the rain begins for the start of marathon!
Photo: Chester Weber