Coatsville, PA - September in Vermont is always a pleasure as nature paints its first strokes of autumn colors and for spectators to the Green Mountain Horse Association CDE in South Woodstock, there was the added pleasure watching 2013 World and National Morgan Carriage Driving Champion Suzy Stafford demonstrate her champion style by driving to a handy victory in the Preliminary Pony Single division and setting the day's best Dressage phase score, with a pony debuting in its very first competition.
Stafford, driving Margaret Mayer of Ocala, Florida's five year-old KWPN/Welsh Cob (Wilson-Lascaux Ginko x Marika) gelding, Micha, established a decisive four-point lead on day one in Dressage, then paced themselves over the Green Mountain State's verdant hilly terrain in Marathon to sit fourth before returning to the GMHA arena for the final Cones phase, incurring just 1.05 additional penalties to take first in the class and overall standings. They won their CDE division on a total score of 91.56, well ahead of closest challengers Dwayne Pash of New Jersey and Scooter (101.35).
“We won our dressage with a 40.67 and that was a good start,” said Stafford, whose career wins also include the 2009 USEF Becky Hart Trophy. “It was the best score of the entire day and this was Micha's first show. I was extremely pleased how well he handled his first outing. I could not have asked for more from a young, inexperienced pony.
“He is a homebred, by Margaret, and had never left his home in Florida until he came to me for training in Pennsylvania. I had him for three months prior to this show. He's a powerful pony with a brave attitude, eye appeal and presence. He has a busy mind and I'm good at giving ponies a job and something to think about!”
Mayer joined Stafford and Micha as Marathon navigator. “She rode on the carriage with me, which she enjoyed tremendously. It's a delight to have an owner so hands-on and helpful for a show. Margaret seemed to enjoy the experience as much as Micha did! Hopefully more shows will be coming up for Micha in Florida this winter, with me or Margaret taking the reins.”
Stafford first stepped into the combined driving spotlight in 2004, becoming the youngest and first American driver to win individual Gold in an international driving competition, driving Bouncer to first place in the 2005 World Pony Driving Championships in England. Since then she has collected multiple World and National titles and remains deeply involved in her sport, training, competing and teaching students and holding clinics.
She operates Stafford Carriage Driving facility out of Chester County in Pennsylvania from April to December and in Ocala, Florida from January through April. To learn more, visit www.staffordcarriagedriving.com.