Bill Long of Southern Pines, NC is one of the true veterans in the sport of Combined Driving and as one, who evolved with the sport, is still in the game. At the Katydid CDE, experience showed as he won the four-in-hand advanced division, a qualifier for thewith Jack Wetzel’s team of Gelderlanders, clocking the best times in cross country by guiding the team which have been used for the diminutive sport of coaching. Long began driving in the 70s with his father’s Hackney horses and ponies and later moved on to racing Standardbred harness horses at the track. While working as a farrier, Long met up with the late Finn Casperson who had hatched a plan to compete a team of horses in the ‘new’ sport of Combined Driving at the International level. When he asked Bill to drive them, Bill responded humbly, “I don’t know Finn. I guess I could”. And so launched Bill’s career as a team driver- a different route than the hackney ponies he might otherwise still be driving.
Bill Long’s career highlights include what he considers his most significant accomplishment- winning the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1985. After that win Casperson purchased an extra seat on the plane just for the huge trophy to ride next to him for the flight home. Team driving was still considered a relatively new sport in the US when Bill finished in 7th place overall at the inaugural World Equestrian Games in Stockholm. But Bill remembers his fellow competitors in the infancy of Combined Driving with the most fondness. Clay Camp, Deidre Pirie, Sharon Chesson and Emil Jung and Bill Long were the pioneers in the four-in-hands.
An Ambassador for Combined Driving, Bill enjoys “meeting new people” as they come into the sport and “helping them get going”. “I enjoy when I’m at a show and others ask me where I’m going in a hazard. I tell them and if it help s them, and if they do a good job going my way, I feel good. You have to help the sport. If they’re not asking questions- they won’t do well. People in Combined Driving are helpful. If you need a part or help fixing a carriage, they’ll do it.”
When asked about his current team, Bill explained, “Jack (Wetzell) and I got talking and he said ‘Why not try the coaching team?’ Bill did and with great results at Katydid. The black Gelderlanders owned by Wetzell of Aiken, SC are coming into their own with Bill’s expertise. “They’re getting the speed, and listening to me. Dressage has been difficult but we’re working on it!”
Commenting on course designer Barry Hunter’s difficult cones test, Bill remarked “After a few balls, I knew we had to go!” Go they did with the only time penalty free round of the Fours and an important win reflected in the delighted faces of both Long and Wetzell.
With more than forty years in driving, Bill has more experience than some of his competition today has years on the planet! We wish him the best of luck in his pursuit of a spot on the 2010 US Team at the Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington.
Watch the Video