German Driving Star Drives American Team to First Place

Friday, January 29, 2010
Posted by Written by Mary Phelps Hathaway

Michael FreundAmerica’s leading four-in-hand drivers Chester Weber and Tucker Johnson were not competing, but their horses were, together in one team, driven by German Champion driver Michael Freund. In a field of twelve FEI Advanced Four-In-Hand entries of the first day of the Little Everglades International Driving Event, their horses topped the class with a 45.23 penalty score which is equal to a 71.7%. This effort is to qualify the horses for the Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games, where the four in hand driving event will be featured during the second week of competition, October 4-10, 2010.

Those attending the event will have the opportunity to watch multiple American Four-In-Hand teams compete as a result of a special waiver by the FEI allowing the host country more entries. The effort from across the country to qualify for a once in a lifetime opportunity brought multiple teams to Florida from Texas, Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, Illinois, and North Carolina, to Florida for the winter, where Little Everglades International Combined Driving Event created an opportunity in addition the Live Oak International Driving event in March.

Polish born Casey Zubek of Illinois drove his team skillfully with well defined transitions and control to finish second, with a 53.33 penalty score, which translates to a 66.7 percent. Texan Mike McClennan with his Friesian/Quarter Horse team he bred on his ranch placed third with a 59.52 (62.8 percent).

In the FEI Advanced Level Test A , where such movements as reins in one hand at a collected trot in a 20 meter circle, and a collected trot down the long side with the leaders doing a should in, it’s about as difficult as it can get. Most horses are also doing ridden dressage during training, which gives them the added advantage of creating with the legs what in harness only a touch of the whip can do.

The entrance to the arena, a beautiful arch with palm trees and flowers created a challenge for some teams who jumped the shadow, or backed off during the all important entrance at A. This was not the way Jimmy Fairclough with Jane Clark’s Dutch team expected his first test of the season to begin, as his leaders skittered into the arena and a trace came undone, requiring the groom to dismount to fix adding 5 penalty points to his score. The team recovered on the test but the unfortunate mishap dropped them in the standings.

Dressage continues today with the Preliminary and Intermediate Divisions, with the Marathon on Saturday, and cones Sunday. Throughout the weekend there is shopping in the trade fair, food and Alltech Ale being served throughout the weekend. The Marathon course is designed with spectators in mind with all obstacles in view and close together for easy access.

If you are anywhere in the Tampa area, this is an event and location worth watching!

Directions to Show: Little Everglades Ranch is located between Ocala and Tampa off Hwy. 301. From I75 take Exit #301 (Dade City- Brooksville). Turn east about 4 miles. Turn right on the 98 Bypass (McKethan Road). Merge to the right on Hwy. 301 and go about 4 miles to Ashbrook. Turn left and use caution at the railroad crossing. The entrance to the Ranch is straight ahead. The address is 38233 Ashbrook Dade City, Fl 33523.