Combined drivers from across America with aspirations of making a coveted spot on the 2011 driving team to compete for America have converged at the beautiful location of the Little Everglades Ranch in rural Dade City, Florida to demonstrate their skills in dressage, cross country and the final phase, cones, hoping to gain important points for the final selection. But it is not just at the high performance level where the focus on the sport is, but also in the surge of entries at the preliminary and intermediate levels who are gathered together this weekend to enjoy their sport at one of the finest facilities in America and to compete at a world class event. USEF coach German driving champion Michael Freund is changing the face of American Combined driving.
Freund is raising the bar for required horse flesh putting the emphasis on the need for high performance international caliber of horses and ponies with a talent for not just cross country, but the required importance of true qualities in movement and presentation in the dressage arena as well. The sport in America runs the gamut of the competitor friendly approach championed by the America Driving Society’s mission, to the more driven drivers with goals of making the USEF short list. All facets compete together, and at the Little Everglades Ranch there is a full division for preliminary and intermediate competitors. At each level the dressage test increases in difficulty, and more elements to the marathon obstacles are added.
The world of Combined Driving in America is growing at a rapid pace from the grassroots to international levels. A World Championships in driving is held every year for one of the driving disciplines at the advanced level: team, pair, single for horses. The Pony Driving World Championships is held every two years, where single, pair, and teams divisions compete throughout Europe as well as in eastern block countries for medals.
Visit The Little Everglades Combined Driving Event Page for coverage, photos, results and more.
We showed up Friday to watch our Sybil and Vivien Creigh do their Dressage Test, and got a chance to see trainer Bill Lower drive his new Welsh Cob pony. Bill is competing HC at Little Everglades giving the talented but hot pony some needed miles in the limelight. Bill's wife, Sherri Lower rides the pony in dressage as well. Sheri owns and operates the popular Hat's Off Boutique a favorite for drivers to outfit in traditional dress.