US Equestrian Combined Driving Developing and Elite Driver Program 2018 Summer Highlights

Friday, July 13, 2018
Posted by Mary Phelps

US Equestrian Driving Coach Thorston Zarembowicz drive Kristin Kristin Whittington's  "Symphony"

US Equestrian Driving Coach Thorston Zarembowicz drives Kristin Kristin Whittington's  "Symphony" ©Becky Bartosz

In its 5th year, the US Driving Discipline continues to gather strength in training opportunities for qualified drivers. In her first year as United States Equestrian Director of Driving, Danielle Aamodt, has picked up the pace, and in two back to back weekends managed two intensive training programs in two different states. The efforts of the US Driving Sport Committee has seen a surge in interest with Aamodt commenting she has been busy reviewing approximately 40 applications since the program was recently revamped.

United States Equestrian Director of Driving, Danielle Aamodt on the navigator  back step for Para Driver Stefanie Putnam with "Shadow"

United States Equestrian Director of Driving, Danielle Aamodt on the navigator  back step for Para Driver Stefanie Putnam with "Shadow". ©Becky Bartosz

“This year has been about restructuring our Athlete Pathway Programs [Elite & Developing] to better support the program members. We are working our way through changes and improvements. The goal is to help everyone reach their potential and fill the ranks for future Teams. We have so many dedicated drivers, it’s really inspiring.”

Hillcroft Farm, June 8-18 With Thorston Zarembowicz
A select group of qualified Developing Drivers were hosted and Misdee Wrigley Miller and James Miller’s Hillcroft Farm, a USEF Designated Elite Training Center . Held over three days, US Driving Coach Thorston Zarembowicz put drivers through their paces, in dressage, cones and marathon training. Afternoon sessions included a lecture on heat related issues, and recovery for after the marathon phase, with related articles provided.

Managing Horses During Hot Weather

Heat Stress and Horses - Kentucky Equine Research

Another talk and demonstration by US Driving Team veteran Leslie Berndl provided an extensive and informative talk and demonstration of turn out for the driving horse.

Participants included Leslie Berndl, Jennifer Keeler, Debbie Lawrence, Jennifer Thompson, Stacey Giere, Mary Phelps, Denise Hinder, Kristin Whittington and Para driver Stefanie Putnam.

Mary Phelps and "The Gangsters" Bugsy Maloney and Tony da Pony

Mary Phelps and "The Gangsters" Bugsy Maloney and Tony da Pony with navigator Marianna Cramer. 

Coach and trainer Thorston Zarembowicz, longtime assistant to Michael Freund and now in his third year with US Drivers saw progress each day as drivers put their horses and ponies through the paces. Setting up a difficult cones course, and using obstacles on the Hillcroft course, each set of drivers were able to feel improvement over the weekend, in preparation for upcoming summer competitions.

Hillcroft Farm will be hosting the Kentucky Classic in 2019.

Landhope Farm June 14-17 With Edouard Simonet

Edouard Simonet (BEL) driving Donna Crookston's Victor

Edouard Simonet (BEL) driving Donna Crookston's Victor ©Mary Phelps 2018

In her effort to continue to grow both programs , Danielle Aamodt managed a clinic the following weekend, June 14-17 in Avondale, PA, at the Laurels Preserve. While this was titled the Elite Program, Aamodt also filled gaps with local Developing athletes as well.

Hosted by Four-In-Hand driver, Lisa Stroud, Landhope Farm, USE brought International Driver Edouard Simonet of Belgium. Currently ranked Fourth in the FEI Top Driver Award Standings, Simonet finished a close second at Aachen in 2017 to trainer and mentor Boyd Exell.

Participants were Lisa Stroud, Margaret Shenker, Maggie O'Leary, Donna Crookston, Tracey Morgan, Jacob Arnold and Suzy Stafford. 

Edouard Simonet advises during marathon warm up

Edouard Simonet advises during marathon warm up to practic circles in one direction to establish consistency before making left right movements. ©Mary Phelps 2018

Given the vastness of the US, the goal is to provide locations that are within 5 hours of participants. Jacob Arnold currently ranked second among applicants for the US Single Horse World Championships, however drove the 11 hours from Louisville, Kentucky for the opportunity to work with Simonet, as well as instruct the first ever USE Navigator Clinic together with Kenny Cox, held on Saturday June 16.

Tracey Morgan and Kenny Cox run through a marathon exercise with Fuego

Tracey Morgan and Kenny Cox run through a marathon exercise with US Pony Team Veteran, Fuego. ©Mary Phelps 2018

Simonet like most trainers offered his perspective and input, and each horse/pony/rider combination improved each day and with each excersise. Relaxation, straightness, and techniques with use of hands were emphasized. Simonet seemingly was able to read each horse and driver, also focussing on the drivers postion and effectiveness.

In the marathon portion the warm up excersises in one of the multiple obstacles on the beautiful marathon course prepared the athletes for the different questions and options used in the three obstacles that were flagged for that portion of the clinic.

Jacob Arnold and Mary Sheerin

Jacob Arnold and Mary Sheerin ©Mary Phelps 2018

Simonet then set up one of his signature cones courses designed to create multiple options for practicing all the questions normally presented in a cones course in competiton.

The generous hospitality provided by Dixon and Lisa Stroud, also included evening entertainement where some of the drivers, including Simonet tried their hand at Polo. With all meals, stabling and accommodations provided by Landhope, Donna Crookston marveled, "This was the best clinic I have ever attended to date. With food, entertainment and great stabling, as well as a noted improvement in Victor's performance, it was time well spent.

"The highlight for me was trying out Polo," Simonet joked. "Seriously, I appreciated everyone’s ( drivers, horses, spectators, manager ) concentration and dedication in the work. Patience and knowledge is the key, as well as drivers need to work on ... listening their horses."

Information of the US Equestrian Developing Driver Athlete Program

Information for the US Equestrian Elite Athlete Program