OCALA, Fla--Chester Weber of Ocala earned his record 15th USEF Four-In-Hand Combined Driving National Championship title with an overall score of 166.69 penalties, and Lisa Stroud of Kennett Square, Pa., earned the Reserve Championship on March 18 at Live Oak International.
On the same day, at the same venue, Kristen Vanderveen of St. Charles, Ill., decisively won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier Grand Prix, guarenteeing herself a trip to Paris for the Longines FEI World Cup Final, April 11-15.
Live Oak International is the only show in the United States that offers both combined driving and show jumping, hosting both the show jumping World Cup Qualifier as well as five USEF Combined Driving National Championships including Four-in-Hand, Intermediate Pair Horse, Intermediate Single Horse, Intermediate Pair Pony, and Intermediate Single Pony divisions.
With a big lead after the dressage and marathon phases, Weber was able to take it easy in the cones phase in which he drove his KWPN geldings, First Edition, 8, Boris W, 11. and Asjemenou ,12. along with Jane Clark’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Splash, 14, and knocked one minor ball, adding three penalties to his overnight total.
"I WAS VERY pleased with the horses in the warm-up. We have only driven this combination in one other competition," said Weber. "Live Oak is always a little confusing for them because they have the World Cup Qualifier jumping course with flowers and everything built in the arena, which isn’t typical in our sport. But they handled that. I think this is a team that can consistently go clear.”
The same team in Thursday’s dressage phase earned just 40.11 penalties.
In the marathon,Weber used Reno, 8. in place of Splash, and the team earned the fastest time across all seven hazards adding 123.58 penalties to his score.
Stroud and her and Willow Star, LLC’s team of Dutch Warmblood geldings, Anesco 4, 12-years old, Ulco, 16, Olando, 21, and Enzo, 8, earned the reserve national champion, despite an inconsistent cones test, accumulating 9.34 penalties.
Stroud began competition in third place following dressage with 53.15 penalties, and jumped to second after marathon with 127.72 penalties.
“Cones was difficult today because of the atmosphere," said Stroud. "I loved my team at Live Oak. This was my ‘A’ team, and I had a lot of fun.”
It was the first competition for this team of horses since last June’s Bromont International CDE.
“I’m really fortunate because I have really great people working for me, and we only have solutions," said Stroud. "When you have that sense of confidence in the day it makes a big difference and reflects in the performance.”
Weber, who serves as Co-President of the Live Oak International with his sister Juliet Reid, stepped up to add the intermediate USEF Combined Driving National Championships, and they were a resounding success.
“From an organizer’s standpoint, we were really pleased to offer the intermediate championships," said Weber. "To have them in this group has been great, and to see entries come from everywhere to support the championships has been well worth it for us as an organizing team. I’m really proud of all the people who came out and contested those medals.”
FOUR DRIVERS earned inaugural USEF intermediate national titles.
These included Scott Adcox in the pair horse division with 185.39 penalties, Jennifer Keeler in the single pony division with an overall score of 144.70 penalties, Jennifer Thompson in the intermediate single horse division with 140.94 penalties and Katie Whaley in the pair pony division with 140.29 penalties.
As the only competitor in the intermediate pair horse division, Adcox of Myakka City, Fla.),earned the division’s national championship.
“It’s been great that we’re starting to recognize the lower levels and what they accomplish," said Adcox. "We need to try and encourage the lower levels to move up and encourage more people into our sport, so we have a sport in the future. That’s key,” reflected Adcox. “So when you start to acknowledge the work everyone has to do to be here then people outside the sport start to realize that it’s a real sport and it’s tough.”
Thompson of Lodi, Wisc., and her Funnominial C.G. retained their two-phase lead to win the Intermediate Horse, Single national championship over 12 competitors..
Whaley of Paris, Ky., one of two competitors, completed a clean round in cones to retain her overall lead for the Intermediate Pair Pony title, finishing on 169.26.
“I’m so thrilled that USEF has decided to acknowledge intermediate levels on a national stage," said Whaley. "It’s going to enhance the driving in this country. Everyone works hard on every level, and to be recognized in the intermediate is exceptional. I have a pony that has never been in a three-day event, so I thought perhaps this would be a good start. It’s really exciting for the sport that Live Oak’s organizing team had the foresight to bid for the intermediate championships. This really shows good things to come for the sport of driving.”
Keeler of Paris, Ky., drove a clean and cautious cones course with Zeppo to win the intermediate single pony title.
“I had always hoped that I would be in this position winning a national championship," said Keeler. "I think it’s safe to say if you had asked anyone, they would have expected it to be with our other pony, Amazing Grace] To say that it’s unexpected to win this with Zeppo, it’s the most incredible fairy tale possible. This is a pony who was too small, too afraid, and it’s just incredible that he was able to do what no one thought he could do. I’d also like to thank Chester and everyone that makes Live Oak possible. I always say, ‘there’s no place like Live Oak.’ I’m so proud to win this here on the toughest stage in our country.”
Jennifer Matheson won the FEI Pony Pairs over three competitors, and Leslie Berndl won the FEI Pony Single over four competitor.
UNDER PRESSURE in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Qualifier Grand Prix, Vanderveen and Bull Run's Faustino de Tili rose to the challenge, securing the first of only three clear rounds before producing the quickest trip of the jump-off to take top honors.
"It's very surreal for me right now," said Vanderveen. "I've always wanted to go to World Cup Finals. This is a bit of a last minute decision for me to come here and see if we could do something special today and get it. I'm over the moon excited about it. Winning the Grand Prix alone is a big deal to me, but going to Paris makes me really excited."
Two others joined her in the jump-off, Brianne Goutal-Marteau and former FEI World Cup™ Beat Mändli, who finished in second and third place, respectively.