Ocala, FL (March 28, 2015) – “I strive for personal best each and every time I enter the arena,” says driving competitor Suzy Stafford. At the Live Oak International CDE competition on March 19-22 2015, Stafford showed that her personal best is winning first place. She and her mare PVF Peace Of Mind (who Stafford calls “Hunny”) defended their title winning the FEI Single Horse class for the third consecutive time.
Stafford and “Hunny”, her 8 year old Morgan mare have been partners since 2011 when she purchased for Stafford as an FEI driving prospect. This is the second year at the FEI level for the pair winning the Reserve National Championship last Spring at Southern Pines. “I always knew “Hunny” was talented and had all the “right qualities” of an FEI level horse. I am excited that she is coming into her own, enjoying her job and doing it well. It takes patience and focus when developing a young horse with the FEI level as the untimate goal. I have done my homework with her and now we are getting to enjoy the fun part,” Stafford says with a laugh.
The Live Oak International CDE took off to a good start for Stafford— winning the driving dressage portion of the competition on Thursday. “We had a few big mistakes in the test, but good ones, if that makes any sense smiled Stafford”. Hunny was feeling extra excited to compete at the largest CDE in the country. She had not shown since August and I was not able to rein in her enthusiasm in
parts of the test, as she added in a few flying lead changes. I think it must have been the influence of the jumper competition and “Hunny” did not want to be shown up” Stafford says with a giggle.
The weather for the second competition phase of Marathon was projected to be brutally hot with temperatures around the high 80 degree mark. The ground jury decided to lower the speeds on the tract for concern of the Welfare of the Horse. They also provided ice for the horses at the vet inspection after each section. “All the modification to the course were greatly appreciated by me and my
fellow competitors as the horses well being is always the top priority. With these adjustments I was able to give “Hunny” a few walk breaks to catch her breath in the high heat and humid conditions. She is fitter, stronger and more responsive this year and felt wonderful throughout the course. All the extra enthusiasm we had in dressage the day before served us well on marathon day, the girl was ready to rock and roll! Laughed Stafford.
The tough Marathon course and harsh conditions proved to be a true test of Stafford training and conditioning program. Stafford and “Hunny” were awarded the Katie Williams Memorial Award for Best Conditioned Equine of the show. “I am thankful for this award as we all strive to prepare our horses for any and all conditions we may face in the competition arena.” Says Stafford
The final round was cones, where Stafford and “Hunny” dominated to course. With the fastest time and no course faults, this pushed the duo’s large margin further ahead of the pack. The cones track was set throughout the jumper’s course to be ridden later in the day so proved for a tricky drive for the competitors as most of the view of the cones was block by the enormous jumps. Stafford remarked “The jumps add a new element of difficulty to the course which I enjoyed. The mare was keen, focused and supple after the marathon phase. I could not have expected more from her, she was fabulous.”
Though Suzy and Hunny have been together for a few years now Team Stafford has a few new additions in the line-up for this year. “ I am excited to bring on a few new faces to our team. My groom, Emily Langer has been with me for the winter and has confirmed she not only handles, but enjoys the job necessary in a busy show/training barn. I also had a new navigator, Jeff Legg, on the carriage for Live Oak that proved to be a wonderful accent to the team. I am thankful for all the hard work, team work and comradery that goes into a successful show. I could not have done it without them.”
What’s next for this dynamic duo? Stafford has her sights on the National Championship in Kentucky in October as well as the 2016 World Championships in Austria. Stafford says, “I set goals, make a plan and adjust as necessary.”
For more information about Suzy Stafford and Hunny and her other horses, visit www.staffordcarriagedriving.com or call (302) 540 5162.