US World Pony Driving Championship Team Enroute to Germany

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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The all-woman team representing the United States at the World Pony Driving Championships has made it safely to Holland on their way to Greven, Germany.  The group will be training together prior to the start of the Championships on August 13-16. Pony Team USA is made up of two drivers each in Single Ponies, Pairs and Teams (Four-in-hand).  Proudly displaying the Red, White and Blue are the following team members:

Sara Schmitt of Pittstown, NJ and Julia Greifeld’s Batman
Sara is a multi-tasker.  She is an accomplished upper level dressage rider with many Regional accolades as well as a USEF/USDF ‘s’ Dressage judge.  She also carries an ADS  ‘r’ judge’s card.  Somewhere in  between teaching and judging, Sara competes with Batman, a Morgan pony at the Advanced level.  As expected, Sara is usually on or near the top in Dressage at Combined Driving Events but surprisingly- she excels at Marathon!  Who would have thought a Dressage Queen would love speed so much!  Sara piloted High Country Doc- her own pony to a six place finish at the inaugural Pony Driving World’s in 2003.  The pair was 10th in 2005.   This is Sara’s fourth World Championship bid and Batman’s first International trip.

Suzie Stafford of Bear, DE and Beverly Lesher’s Courage to Lead
Suzy trains and teaches combined driving in PA and winters in the Aiken area.  Suzy came from an Combined Training background and quickly made her mark in Combined Driving.  Suzy was named to the 2005 World Championship Team but Courage to Lead was unable to compete. That is what started the Cinderella story of the 2005 World Championships.  At Catton in the UK, Suzy drove a pony she had only known for a week to be crowned the World Single Pony Champion!   Courage to Lead is also a Morgan and this would be his third WC had he not been injured in 2005.  Suzy works with her driving Mentor. Lisa Singer, who has been named to the 2009 Pairs Driving World Championship team.
Follow Suzie Stafford's Blog for the 2009 World Pony Driving Championship

Sherri Dolan
formerly of NJ now in Windsor, SC and her Smoke
Sherri is the first alternate and will drive as an individual and as a back-up team member in the event that one of her team-mates is unable to compete.    (Note- pairs and teams bring their own ‘spare’ pony)  Smoke is the diminutive member of the pony squad and is a black Shetland pony.  Sherri has had Smoke since he was a youngster and brought him along very slowly, often bringing him to shows to just walk around and see the sites.  This will be Smoke and Sherri’s first International outing but they won’t feel out of place as they encounter the Dutch team’s blazing marathons with their little Shetlands.

Miranda Cadwell, Southern Pines, NC with her mixed pair of Welsh/German Riding ponies
‘Randy’ and her sister Keady work out of their family’s Tremont Farm and both are accomplished drivers with formidable National records.  Her original pair of palomino ponies was purchased in Europe with the guidance of Boyd Exell and Chester Weber.  Randi took them on to the top winning the Individual Gold Medal with them at the 2007 Pony World Championships with her customary lightening speed on the marathon.  Accompanying her on this trip are Rambo, Kabam and Boots Wright’s Dusty (German Riding Ponies), and Toby (Welsh).  Remarkably, Randi is also first alternate on the2009 World Pair’s team with one of her own horses and two ‘loaners’ from Boyd Exell.

Tracey Morgan of Bealesville, MD with her pair of Dartmoors
Not to be confused with the Tracy Morgan of Saturday Night Live fame, Tracey is a four time veteran team member and multi-National Champion. She can always be counted on for a solid performance and her cheery personality.  Tracey is heavily involved in promoting the Dartmoor breed and many of the ponies she has started can be found competing at the lower levels with their delighted, new owners.   Tracey will be accompanied in competition by her trusty navigator Kenny Cox as well as Singletree Tabitha Twitchit, Farnley Coquette, Lizwell Gambling Queen, and Gaylen Romeo.  Tracey was second in Dressage at the last World Pony Championships in 2007.

Alison ‘Lisa’ Stroud
of West Grove PA with her team of Connemaras
Lisa stormed onto the four-in-hand scene about six years ago and hasn’t looked back!  She has been National Champion several times and has been to three Worlds with her Connemaras.  Lisa and her husband Dixon host the largest Combined Driving Competition in the Mid-Atlantic- The Laurels at Landhope.  Lisa often trains with International Pony Driving ‘royalty’ Georgina Frith of the UK.  Team Landhope, named for the family convenience store business, will be taking Benjamin, Kilkekerin, Edward, Cong Donal, and Sir Patrick (all Connemaras) as well as Mosby (Cross Bred) and With Flair (Welsh).

Laurie Astegiano,  Roussac, France and her mixed team of Welsh/Priomodu Pont Blanc
Why is there a French member of the US team?  Laurie is a US citizen from CA who has been competing abroad with her pony team for several years.   Because of her invisibility to those of us stateside, Laurie is a mystery unless you happened to have followed the 2007 World Championships where she represented the US Ponies for the first time.  Laurie will meet up with her team-mates on the other side of the pond again but with a relatively short commute compare to her US counterparts.  Her team of ponies are:  Primodu Pont Blanc, Liezelhof Dave, Templedruid Kronos, Templedruid St. Jerneborg and Templerood Monsoon.

Boyd Exell, an Australian living and competing under the Union Jack will be coaching the US pony team and did a training session with the short listed drivers at Stroud’s Landhope Farm in July.   Boyd has been British National Champion five times and won the FEI World Cup Driving Championship in 2008.  Boyd is a popular competitor on the World Cup circuit and a huge draw at exhibitions as evidenced by his Youtube presence.  His extensive international success and vast experience in Europe is sure to serve the team well!

Another Driving Star in the line-up is the Chef d'Equipe for Pony Team USA.  Chester Weber is from Ocala, Florida and was Silver Medalist at last years’  World Four-in-Hand Championships in addition to being six time US National Champion.  The Weber family home, Live Oak Plantation, hosts the premiere  Combined Driving Competition in the US in addition to producing some very successful Thorobred racehorses.  This is Chester’s third time giving back to the sport by helping with the ponies and leaving his World Class Driving horses behind.   

Peter Tischer, of Frankfurt is a former member of the German Four-in-Hand Driving team and a top trainer in his home country.  Peter was recently hired by the USEF to lead the training effort for the developing Four-in-Hand Drivers in preparation for the World Equestrian Games to be held in Lexington, KY in 2010.  Peter also came to the US to share his expertise with long-listed drivers from the Pony and Single Horse contenders at Big Sky Farm in Southern Pines, NC in July.

Related Links

Official website for the 2009 Pony Driving World Championships