The Kentucky Combined Driving Classic To Host the USEF National Driving Championships in 2009
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Posted by Christy
Unlike ridden dressage the voice is a key aid in driving, and many used that to their advantage on Sunday October 5 on the Secretariat Polo Field at the Kentucky Horse Park. The event was a precursor of what is to come—next year, the USEF National Championships, and in 2010—the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The winner of the FEI Pair Pony division, Katie Whaley recently relocated to Kentucky and is as excited as anyone about the WEG coming to the U.S. for the first time. She will continue to operate her business Hats by Katie at her new home in Paris, Kentucky, as well as privide training and competitions in the future.
From the Driving perspective because the U.S. has started to win quite a few medals it’s really gotten a lot more respect and now the Europeans are taking us more seriously but it’ll even make it better if we can keep this venue at this level.”
Katie drove the full brothers Tux and Spats who she’s been with for eight years. The pair are 13 and 14 years old and are Section B Welsh. They’ve been to two World Championships.
In 2003 in Austria they were the wheelers in her four-in-hand, and in 2005 they were a pair and were seventh in the world in the marathon. They finished first in their division on a score of 137.01 with just one knock-down in today’s cones phase.
Donna also foxhunts and has been in the horse industry for more than 50 years. She evented through the Intermediate level but decided it was too much work once she turned 50. “The game is getting so technical,” she said. “With Driving I can get the same thrill I do from Eventing. I actually enjoy driven Dressage much better than I did ridden Dressage. It’s very interesting because you don’t have your leg.” She’s been riding Cowboy for the last three-and-a-half years, and he’s been going Advanced for the last two-and-a-half. Donna has been Driving for six years and made the World Championships this year. “I certainly wouldn’t have made it there without Cowboy.” Cowboy’s reward after this win…six-and-a-half weeks off to be a horse. “I like the people who drive,” she said. “They are very kind and very helpful. It’s very nice to be around. If you have any kind of a problem there’s always someone to help.”
Keady went to the World Championships in 1993 with a pair and last year she represented the U.S. in Poland. Keady also came from the Eventing world, but her father Drove. “It just seemed like you got to do basically the same thing as Eventing but with more horses so you’re dealing with more minds. Plus you get to go really fast in the hazards.”
When they get home the team will be broken down and paired with some younger horses at the lower levels to give them more experience. As far as this weekend’s result, Keady got exactly what she wanted from the team, a very well-rounded win and a come from behind by the underdog team.
Marathon was the phase Elizabeth was most proud of, but she says her team did everything really well. “I feel like we’re on the right track,” she said. “It’s feeling good; I feel like we’re coming along.” Her goal for the weekend was a score of less than 190, and she and the pint-sized team that ranged in age from five to 15, accomplished that with flying colors. “My other goal was to get Vidar through his first full show, and he loved it.”
Driving has been her passion since 1991—before that it was hunter/jumpers. She switched to driving because she says she’s short. “I jumped the jumps more than the horses did,” she said with a smile. “I loved every minute of it. I am literally just too short.” Elizabeth says she will most definitely be present to watch Driving at the WEG. “I’ve already got my tickets.”
Gary is looking forward to having the World Equestrian Games in the U.S. for the first time. “I think for every horseman it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “It’s like the Super bowl in our backyard. It’s going to be a great thing for all of us, and I think it’s going to be a really good thing for the sport of Driving in America, because I don’t think most Americans understand how exciting four-in-hand driving is. Once they see that with all the European teams here I think it’ll be a real bonus.”
We will undoubtedly see Chester at the WEG. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “I think the cross-country has some great points. They’ll be eight different hazards. It’s more spectator friendly to watch than the three-day cross-country, and it’s easier to understand.”
Winning the Single Horse class was Canadian Francois Fleury and his 18-year-old Canadian-bred ZouLou with a score of 109.84. What makes Francois’ win even more interesting is the fact that is legally deaf.
Caroline Whittle of North Carolina was the winner of the Pair Pony class with a score of 122. Lillie and Britton are her Haflinger mares, age six and seven, who helped her to the win. Caroline was one of the more vocal competitors in constant communication with her team, especially Lillie. Rounding out the Preliminary division with a win in the Pair Horse class was Rachel Niceley of Tennessee. Rachel’s pair was made up of her Friesian cross mares named Riverplains Bella and Riverplains Ritza.
In the Pair Pony class it was Michelle Walters of Tennessee with her Dartmoor Ponies Farnley Albert and Gummy Bear earning the low score of 153.17—another tight race with less than half a penalty point between the win and second place. Michelle was another competitor who used her voice to guide Albert and Gummy Bear through the cones successfully.
Perfect fall weather is something spectators and competitors hope to see more of in the next couple years as Driving will be making its presence known at the Kentucky Horse Park with more exciting competitions on the horizon.
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