Chester Weber made history – again – by winning the USEF National Championship for the eighth consecutive time. The USEF National Championship for singles was won by Robin Groves. That is quite a story. Robin was fourth in dressage, third in the marathon, and third in cones, but it called combined driving for a reason. Leslie Berndl took a commanding lead after dressage with Fritz Grupe’s horse Uminco and had a double clear cones run. Scott Monroe, who was second after dressage would have easily won the marathon but missed a course gate which was just outside the final hazard and was eliminated. Robin was ahead by just over 3 penalties going into cones, and when she hit number 16, everyone held their breath to see if she made the time. She did and beat Uminco who was the defending National Champion, driven by Fritz Grupe last fall in Kentucky. This is Robin’s second National Championship with Thor’s Toy Truck.
Chester Weber wins eighth consecutive USEF National Championship
Robin Groves wins her second USEF National Championship
Many cones courses today just utilize cones – no more boxes, U’s, L’s or other things that need to be rebuilt if knocked down. The bridge at Live Oak, while beautiful and set right in front of the spectators’ bleachers, claimed two victims. Karen Garrett tipped over when the wheel of her carriage rode up the side and out she went. The carriage righted itself and her horse Emily ran around the arena a couple of times before stopping near the entrance ( the gate was closed).
Leslie Berndl with Fritz Grupe's Uminco "Travis"
The promised storm arrived in full force with only two left to drive in the FEI four-in-hand class. Jim Fairclough had actually started his drive when Diana Brownlie rang the bell and called a halt to the class because of the thunder and lightning. Fairclough asked if he could drive anyway, and so did Chester Weber. Otherwise, they would have had to go back to the stables, unhitch, and then start all over when and if the storm ended. Somehow some part of Fairclough’s turnout caught the railing on the bridge and pulled the whole rail down and took it along. Grooms were down to get the piece unstuck from the carriage. Miraculously he was able to continue and still finished in second place. A big disappointment after winning the marathon.
Marcie Quist and Halstead's Shale 'Hal'
Marcie Quist and Hal finished second. Hal is the horse I drove and blogged about earlier this year.
We’ll have more coverage and photos in the next issue (May/June) of Driving Digest. Stay tuned!
Chester Weber in The Gulch
Marathon Day at Live Oak is like no other in this country. There are thousands of spectators who all need a place to park their cars, so there is a large group of people who handle just that. Admission is $5 per person. There are shuttles for the handicapped, but others have to walk from the other side of the road. Many bring their own chairs, but there is bleacher seating at every hazard. Of course the two most popular are the water hazard and the Gulch. Not only are they the most exciting, but there is shade! The Trade Fair is quite large, and there many food vendors even down near the hazards so it is quite a festive day particularly when the weather is nice, and this year it was practically perfect – sunny but not too hot. Tailgating is also popular and groups buy space – I think it is about 10 feet wide – and bring in food and beverage from the very simple to the very elaborate – and invite their friends to join them. Many tailgaters surround the water hazard, but only on one side, so there is still the other side for spectators and bleachers for them to sit on.
Nifty Hamilton won the Intermediate Single Horse class with her Morgan Battersea Rodney. She won most of the seven hazards which put her ahead of Marcie Quist who won the dressage.
Lisa Stroud at the Gulch
I spent much of the afternoon at The Gulch. It can be a difficult hazard to shoot, but this year the ‘off side’ didn’t have as many trees and posts in the way and the sun was shining. This might be the first year that no one tipped over in it. Because I was on the other side, I didn’t see the problem Chester Weber had, but apparently he missed a turn and the leaders came to a halt, the wheelers and carriage pushed into them, and it required quite a bit of brute strength to sort things out, but Chester managed and without putting any grooms down.
Jacob and Mike Arnold at the Gulch
Live Oak was Jacob Arnold’s second Advanced competition with his Morgan, Shadow. He was one of several junior drivers at the event – and all did very well considering the difficulty of the course and the stiff competition. Mike was instrumental in setting up the Live Scoring which enabled Richard Pringle to send the scores every few minutes to his web site so those at home and at the competition didn’t have to wait until the end of the day or trek back and forth to the score board.
I will catch you up on the rest of Live Oak today. Unfortunately (for me and this blog), my husband Richard was the scorer at Live Oak, and in order to be able to do the Live Scoring – which proved to be immensely popular, he had to use my computer – so that meant I wasn’t able to upload my photos or write after Friday. Even after the marathon was over on Saturday, the schedule for cones had to be done, and while it may sound simple, it takes quite a bit of effort when there are special events, such as a drive through by Gloria Austin and her coach, some of the antique cars from the car show which was held Sunday, and fitting in a bunch of special awards. Torrential rain, thunder and lightening caused the classes following the FEI four-in-hands to be cancelled, and so we packed up our soggy selves and equipment and headed home to North Carolina. So stay tuned and I’ll give you the ‘rest of the story’ later today.
We used to call it Advanced, but when a show is recognized by the FEI, they call Advanced FEI. Today the FEI drivers drove their dressage tests. It was another pleasant day, cloudy, but mild. Thunderstorms are predicted tonight. Because there has been so much rain – which has made the dressage arena lush and soft, – everyone is concerned about the condition of The Gulch obstacle. They are hoping that it will dry up so they can put some more gravel on top so it won’t be mucky. But Mother Nature will do what she wishes, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Something new – in this country at least – was Live Scoring! Scorer Richard Pringle along with Mike Arnold who operates DrivingNews.us were able to set it up so that scores were posted to the DrivingNews.us website every half hour or so. Fans didn’t have to wait until evening to know how their favorite driver did. Go to http://drivingnews.us for all the scores and Live Scoring throughout the weekend.
Live Oak Dressage Booths
Even the dressage booths at Live Oak are very attractive. After the single horses and ponies, they had to be rearranged so that three went to the top of the arena, and the other two placed at B and E. Their crew was so efficient it only took them eight minutes to get them in place.
Chester Weber's leaders
Chester Weber scored the best score of the day with 36.86. Since Live Oak is hosting the USEF National Championships for Singles and Fours, Chester is well on his way to an eighth (I think!) Championship – consecutively. It was a beautiful test to watch and there were hundreds of spectators (and remember it is only Thursday!) to watch and cheer for the hometown favorite. Jim Fairclough is second, with David Saunders third. Shelly Temple is leading the single ponies with a score of 45.95.
Megan Sibiga with Beaverwood's Balsa
California’s Leslie Berndl won the FEI Single Horse class driving Fritz Grupe’s Uminco with 49.92. There are quite a few drivers from the west, including Josh Rector of Arizona and Joe Yoder driving Mark Schmidt’s team, and Megan Sibiga with a single pony.
A favorite tradition – the course walk with the infamous beer stop – was cancelled to preserve the footing of the track. However, beer was plentiful at the briefing and included a barbecue dinner for everyone.
I can hear the thunder and see the lightening from my hotel room. Hopefully the storm will be brief and not dump too much water on the already lush Live Oak grounds.
Waiting for the jog
Competitors checked in and picked up their packets today. Obstacles were open for inspection, so competitors were happy walking the hazards. The temperatures were in the 70s – very pleasant. The big event today was the Horse Inspection which started at 3 p.m. With so many four-in-hands it takes quite a while. Deb Laderoute, David Saunders and Bill Long each had horses spun by the jury, headed by Diana Brownlie.
Scott Monroe and Shadow
The area at Live Oak for the Horse Inspection is very lovely. Live Oaks provide shade for both horses and humans and is much appreciated. The Spanish Moss hanging from their limbs makes a very tranquil setting. T.D. Philip Bateman commented on the site as being very satisfactory.
Chester Weber has always impressed me with the way he presents his horses to the judges.
We arrived in Ocala last night and had a nice dinner at the Gilliland’s with the other officials who have already arrived. Richard is scoring, and I will be helping where needed, blogging and taking photographs. I have a new camera so I’m eager to see what it can do! Today packets will be passed out starting at 11. Even though it is only Wednesday, a lot of competitors have already arrived. Some even on Monday. There will be a lot of clinics, lessons, and meetings for those Advanced drivers who are hoping to go to World Championships. I think there are 12 four-in-hands here. The horse inspection will take place at 3 this afternoon. It is always interesting to get a first look at the advanced horses.
The weather forecast looks quite pleasant for the rest of the week – high 70s and partly cloudy. No rain. I guess they had quite a bit of rain last week, but hopefully it will dry up, but not too much – we don’t want dust either.