Black Prong Builds Florida Driving Community With Successful Winter Series - And There's More

Sunday, May 1, 2022
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A familiar name in the Florida carriage driving community, Black Prong Equestrian Village drew increased attention and excitement this year with the addition of a new events and opportunities to win prize money. Their presence in the community large and growing equine region of north central Florida continues to flourish with expansion and services.

Black Prong Map - Artist rendition
Black Prong Map - Artist rendition

The facilities offers the amenities for camping, attractive lodging, a pool, gym, trails and a recreation hall hosting competitor briefings and entertainment. The Black Prong chef team with "The Galloping Gourmet" rounded out the total experience making for the desired destination for over 130 drivers and spectators alike.

The inaugural Black Prong Dressage Festival was well received as an opportunity for drivers to gain valuable feedback form dressage judges over the three days of competition.

The Black Prong Combined Test series and Driving Derby series quickly became popular and drew both competitors and spectators from across the state to enjoy the driving sport.

World Class Organizer and Course Designer Offering Opportunities

Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson FEI Course designer and builder

FEI 3* Course designer Marc Johnson, on the scene for the winter months, created challenging but fair courses for all levels of drivers. This prepared more advanced drivers for the recognized qualifying events of the season, as well as giving a positive experience to newcomers.

Organizer Jennifer Matheson, veteran USEF Team Driving competitor, and National Pairs Champion, brought her expertise to the Black Prong Village with a well thought out and prepared plan complementing and supporting the busy show season for Driving in Florida.

While the perennial Nature Coast and Black Prong CT & CDEs were always well attended, the passionate driving community in Florida embraced the opportunity to compete in these new events, many experiencing the thrill of a driving derby for the first time.

Expanded Event Schedule

Prize Money at Black Prong
Prize Money at Black Prong - Margy Cox

“The derby series was awesome, very well run and extremely competitive,” said Open Division Derby Champion, Margy Cox. “We have been competing at Black Prong since 2003 and carriage driving is what brought us from Washington State to Levy County, FL. Every single year there have been awesome improvements to the facility.”

With the expanded event schedule, Black Prong now provides more opportunities than any other venue in Florida for drivers to compete, welcoming over 130 driver and horse combinations across the 12 events.

“We had wonderful turnouts for all competitions offered and received valuable feedback to help us continue to improve our events here at Black Prong,” said Michele Markward, General Manager at Black Prong. “Our volunteers are amazing and there is always an outpouring of support from people wanting to volunteer.”

Prize Money The Icing on the Cake

Jennifer Matheson
Organizer, US Driving Team Veteran and National Pairs Champion Jennifer Matheson applied her knowledge and skill to developing an inviting and successful format for Black Prong

With the donation made by the Society for the Preservation of American Driving Excellence, Black Prong was able to offer prize money for the CT and DD series, which is uncommon in carriage driving. Points were earned for top placements across five events in each division in the CT series. Top derby series drivers competed in the invitational Derby Finals to determine the prize money awards.

“The Driving Derby Finals were very exciting, and everything came down to the last few rounds,” said ADS Show Organizer Jennifer Matheson. “I am hoping that we will be able to offer more prize money for next season, and spread it around more between competitors.”

The initial idea to expand the event season came from listening to the Florida Whips board members express that they had an interest in increasing the number and variety of events in the area, and to add some more fun events rather than exclusively the larger scale CDEs. Working with Matheson, the idea for the Dressage Festival, CT and DD series came to life.

Aligned Interests

“My background is hunters & jumpers, so I am accustomed to multiple shows and circuits, and I wanted to try out a circuit idea at Black Prong,” Markward said. “In speaking with Bob Giles, Janet Carswell, Linda Evans and many others on the board of the Florida Whips I realized that our interests aligned! Next season I would like to add a pleasure drive, which during my years at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair I had the opportunity to experience first-hand.”

Black Prong is excited to announce that due to the success of these events, the Black Prong Dressage Festival, CT and DD series will return next season. Dates will be announced in the coming weeks. During the off-season, Black Prong plans to improve the arena footing and refresh the marathon course under the guidance of Marc Johnson.

Follow Black Prong of Facebook and learn more about this gated community and all the have to offer.