U.S. in Fourth Place after Dressage Phase of FEI World Pony Driving Championships

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lexington, KY—The U.S. team at the FEI World Pony Driving Championships in Greven-Bockholt, Germany, is currently in fourth position in the standings after dressage. The U.S. drivers put down excellent performances in the past two dressage days and are only one point behind The Netherlands, who is in third position. Host nation and team title defender, Germany, ahead of Belgium, leads the standings. Germany’s Franz-Josef Lehmkuhl, who will end his active driving career after this event, won the Single Pony class.  U.S. driver Suzy Stafford drove her lovely Morgan pony, Courage to Lead, to the fourth place in dressage on Thursday. Although Courage to Lead felt a lot of anxiety during the warm up, the mare performed very well during the test.

“There was a lot of noise coming from the arena when we were preparing for dressage, so she got a little stressed,” said Stafford. “But, she put her game face on and during the test everything went very well.”  Stafford was also a member of the U.S. team that won the Bronze medal in Dorthealyst in 2007.

Sara Schmitt of Glen Gardner, NJ, was very happy with her 11-year-old Morgan, Batman, with which she has been competing for two years. The smile on her face during the dressage test faded away after she heard her points. “Although I took the 12th place, I was not happy with my score. I had expected some more points,” said Schmitt who was on the U.S. squads for the World Pony Driving Championships in 2003 and 2005.  Although originally a dressage rider, her specialty is the marathon, to which she is looking forward. “The marathon should be a lot of fun; the obstacles owe some respect though. They might be more technical than we think,” she said.

Individual competitor Sherri Dolan came 18th in the dressage with her pony, Smoke, and his happy to be in Greven. “We are both brand new to the driving sport. We only started competing in the advanced class two years ago, and to be at a World Championship already is just great,” said Dolan. Smoke has been with her since he was two years old, and they have been competing for five years now.

Winner in the Pairs class was team driver Stephan Koch from Germany. Tracey Morgan put down the best U.S. result with the sixth place.“It was not our best test. My ponies were looking at the stand which distracted them, but they got better afterwards,” said Morgan. “My goal was to improve the dressage test I drove in Denmark 2007, where I came second.” Tracey is looking forward to tomorrow’s marathon. “The obstacles are a good combination between technical and open, and it will be a good test for all aspects,” he said.

Kathleen Whaley took the 11th place in dressage with Anne Bliss’ impressive Welsh ponies and was very happy with her performance. “I am absolutely thrilled!” said Whaley. “They have never been better before! Despite the noise in the warm up arena, which got them a little excited, they did very well in the arena.”

Photo credit: Rinaldo de Craen: U.S. driver Suzy Stafford drove her Morgan pony, Courage to Lead, to the fourth place in dressage on Thursday.

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