Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pine Tree Marathon

Pine Tree offers classes for Training, Preliminary and Intermediate, but not Advanced. It was really great to have WEG driver Gary Stover and Bob and Susie Cook (Cindy O’Reilly’s parents) volunteering as hazard judges. 

Tommy Doonan did the safety check

The weather couldn’t have been nicer, cool in the morning, bright sunshine all day, but the temperatures didn’t get much over 75 (that’s my guess, anyway).

While the number of young drivers may be small, they make up for it with skill.  Maggie Sullivan and Riena won the Intermediate single pony class, and was best junior driver.  Jacob Arnold did a great job driving his first marathon with a four-in-hand of ponies. It was hard to believe he’s only been driving four for a few months.  Brianna Ek drove her grandmother’s team of Welsh ponies at the Intermediate level, and was the only one in her class. She did a great job, but had a corrected course in the last hazard.

Maggie Sullivan at Obstacle 6

Ray Mansur, 3rd in Prelim Pair Pony

Kaboom and Sara Schmitt explode through The Gates

Brianna Ek driving through the 'graveyard' in The Bamboo City

Winners at Pine Tree go home with a lot of loot!  Claire Reid provides snacks and sandwiches for the volunteers and competitors while they wait for the results to be tabulated and announced. 


Pine Tree – photos from cones

Paul Grippa

Dana Diemer

Dana Pigford

Debbie Egan

Shelly Temple

Jacob Arnold

Dressage and Cones at Pine Tree

I spent my day working for the official photographer Kelly Butler.  She covered the dressage and I did the cones.  The cones is by far the prettiest of the two assignments.  The course drove well, in my humble non-driver opinion. There were quite a few double clear rounds. The course had some tight turns, but also areas where you could run a bit.  One competitor had a trace come undone and couldn’t fix it, so she was eliminated, unfortunately. 

There were many lovely turnouts, and they really shone in the bright sunshine.  There were three pony four-in-hands, two were driven by junior drivers and both went double clear. The other was Caroline Whittle with a team of Haflingers.

Shelly Temple drove a pair at Preliminary made up of her own Cooper and Jack Wetzel’s Harry.  They looked lovely and go together very well.  It seems like there were a several experience drivers with new or different horses and ponies.

I hope to be able to post some photos, but at the moment Kelly Butler is downloading the to her computer so the competitors can see them at the show. If not tonight, I’ll get to them tomorrow.

Results, when official, will be posted at

Pine Tree, the day before

All have arrived. All were fed a great dinner following the competitor briefing, and then there was still time to walk their dressage test or walk some hazards before it got dark, although the full moon might provide enough light for some hardy souls who are brave enough to walk among the grave stones in obstacle 2!

Kelly Valdes, Amy Dragsta, Ellen Ettenger in the office

While the number of competitors remains constant, it seems as if the size of their rigs keeps expanding!  There are ample camping spots at Pine Tree, but still, space is at somewhat of a premium.

Organizer Kelly Valdes reminded competitors that we compete at the pleasure of the landowners, and if abused, the fun will end. So she reminded people not to drive their golf carts, ATVs, etc. on Section A. She reminded people that golf carts would not be allowed in the area of the obstacles on Sunday.  It is sometimes hard to determine where one can go and one cannot. But one of the nice things about Pine Tree is that one really can walk to all the obstacles without a golf cart if one is the least bit fit. (And it would be good for us all to walk a little bit more!)

Tomorrow morning, Tracey Morgan will preside over dressage, with Lisa Singer at the side. Marcie Quist will judge cones.

Competitors await the briefing

Obstacle 4 - the Pumpkins

Pine Tree CDE off to a sunny start

Even though dressage and cones don’t start until Saturday, the parking area is filling up with trailers and competitors and their friends are walking the obstacles.

Waiting for the first competitor

The fun thing about having a competition around Halloween is the great opportunities the holiday provides for decorations.  Even some of the competitors have been known to drive the marathon in costume. After the seriousness of WEG, a two day, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate event is a breath of fresh air. And the air promises to be free of rain and excessive heat or cold.

Several of the obstacles, all on the property of Claire Reid and her Big Sky Farm in Southern Pines, N.C. have had some extra posts and rails added for more options for the course designer.

Here are some photos.  Some are hard to photograph because they are in the shade.

Obstacle 1, The Woods

Obstacle 2, Bamboo City

The Hump

Obstacle 4, The Pumpkins

Obstacle 5, Princeton Triangles

Obstacle 6, The Gates

Silver and Bronze for U.S. Drivers

In today’s world, everyone who wanted to know knew within seconds that the US team won a silver medal and Tucker Johnson won the individual bronze medal.  As wonderful as technology is, I can assure you that it doesn’t take the place of being here and seeing it in person!

Fairclough, Weber, Johnson and chef d'equipe Young on the medal podium

After being here for six days, there is an interesting camraderie among the driving fans and in my case, the media covering driving.  (There are over 1000 accredited media here.) We all have our routines down.  In my case, after departing the media shuttle in the campground area, I go to the Media Village for a cup of coffee and to pick up the latest schedules, maps, etc.  Then I wait for a hospitality volunteer to take me and others up to the driving stadium in a golf cart. (It’s up hill going up, so I save myself to walk back.) Then I go up the back stairs to the sky box section reserved for the media. There are tables and electric so journalists can file their stories.  I join Mike Arnold there who keeps on top of everything and posts the latest to Driving News. Then I head down to the area beneath the stadium seating to the section reserved for photographers which runs along the length of the stadium. 

Bill Long was the first to drive since he was unfortunately eliminated on the marathon. This was not to be his day either.  He went from cone 6 to 8 without going through 7.  Next to go was Casey Zubek, also eliminated on the marathon. One of his horses ran over the white 12C marker. When the whistle blew so it could be reset, he didn’t stop but continued on through 12,14,1 5, 16, 17.  So he was also eliminated.

Chester Weber

The time allowed way 2 minutes 7 seconds, and it was a very tight course.  There were few opportunities to make up time. 15,16, 17 were very tight and drivers had to drive straight into a corner where there was a judges booth set, and the crowd on either side, before making a sharp turn to get to 15. 

A break had been planned after the first 15 drivers went, but there was a glitch in the electronic timer so there were some delays while they tried to fix it.  Twice drivers were asked to leave the arena and wait until it was fixed.  Chester Weber had to leave twice.  Then it was announced that they were going to time it manually and that grooms would be allowed to carry their own stop watches and talk to the driver.  So there was a delay while they were allowed to go and get their stopwatches.  Then apparently the electric timer was fixed, and Chester was allowed to drive, after about a half hour delay. 

It was worth the wait.  He had the first double clear round of the day, and then Jim Fairclough followed him and had the second double clear round of the day!

Jim Fairclough

Tomas Eriksson  who had such a strong marathon yesterday went through 19 backward and thus lost the bronze medal for the Swedish team.  The German team who moved into that place, said at the press conference that they didn’t like to win a medal that way, but that was the game.

Tucker Johnson, sitting in bronze medal position, had one ball down but no time penalties so he secured the silver medal for the US team.  Chardon hit 12 C, but was within the time.  This four-time World Champion knows how to play the game, and secured the gold medal for The Netherlands.  Boyd Exell had no course faults, but had 3.54 time penalties, but it was good enough to give him his first gold medal.  Chardon would take the individual silver. 

Tucker Johnson

They presented the marathon ribbons and then the cones ribbons to the top 10 drivers so there were victory laps over and over.  Then the individual medals were presented followed by the team medals. 

Johnson, Excell, Chardon - Individual Medal Winners

All the medal winners then went directly to a press conference, and then had to line up for closing ceremonies.  It was fun to see the drivers walk into the main stadium with their flags waving.  I’m sure they would rather have been back in the stable celebrating with their crews, but it was only 4 o’clock, so I think they’ll have plenty of time yet tonight. 

Volunteers enter the main stadium for closing ceremonies

US Drivers at Closing Ceremonies

Yesterday 44,954 people came through the gate, bringing the total to 468,340.  The driving stadium was sold out for cones, but I haven’t found out yet exactly how many that is. 

It was a great week, and everyone I talked to agreed.

Marathon at WEG

When I arrived at 8:30 this morning heading for the Media Village, I noticed that there were already people in the bleacher seats at the water obstacle (#2). Perhaps this doesn’t seem strange to you, but the marathon didn’t start until 10 and the first drivers wouldn’t get to the hazards until about 11!  After getting a second cup of coffee and a bagel, I gathered my gear and headed out to take a final look at the hazards.  I decided to hang out at 4,5,6,7 because they were fairly close together.  1 and 8 were a hike away, and 1 was going to hard to photograph. 2 was the first water hazard and I figured it would be mobbed with spectators as well as other photographers. 3 was very pretty but way too shady for good pictures. 

What really blew me away was when the first driver got to my section of the marathon.  All of a sudden there were thousands of spectators!  I started out at number 6 – the Squirrel Grove.  There were only a few dozen people standing around and then after the first competitor finished number 4, all of a sudden hundreds of people headed toward the Squirrel Grove and 5, the Stone Garden.  For the rest of the morning, there were thousands of spectators.  Sometime in the afternoon, I noticed the crowd diminish.  I think it might have been because the non-driving spectators headed off for the Vaulting finals, and/or to Keeneland because they started today.   

Boyd Exell at the Stone Garden

Announcer Geoff Morgan did a fantastic job educating the non-driving folks about what they were watching. 

With so few entries, 10 minutes was scheduled between competitors, so that meant that there was plenty of time to move to another hazard without running and getting heat stroke.  It was another cloudless day, and it got hot in the afternoon. My one complaint might be that there were no food or drink concessions in the obstacle areas. 

Tomas Eriksson in Walnut Hill

The only blemish to an otherwise great day – no accidents – no other incidents that I am aware of – was that sometime during the night someone slashed up the grooms seats on the marathon carriage of Ijsbrand Chardon.  It was not discovered until his grooms went to get it to get ready for the  marathon. There is a complete police force in place at WEG and they had a detective on the scene immediately to investigate, but it did throw things into a tizzy for a while.  Eventually it was determined by the Ground Jury with the approval of all the chefs d’equipes, that Chardon’s starting time could be delayed until the end so that he could assure himself that his carriage was safe to drive (there was some concern about sabotage to the brakes).

Ijsbrand Chardon in Squirrel Grove, #6

You can see the complete results at  Regardless, Chardon won the marathon, Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson was second, and Boyd Exell of Australia was third.  Chester Weber had two grooms down in different hazards, and so did Jim Fairclough.  Tucker Johnson had a very good marathon and finished 7th. 

Tucker Johnson at 4, Walnut Hill

Team-wise, the US is still in silver medal standing, with little chance of moving up, but they are 11 points ahead of bronze medal standing Sweden. Tomorrow the battle for the individual gold will be between Exell and Chardon. 

I took over 1000 photos today and wish I had the time and space to share more.

Friday at WEG – What a Day!

By now many who are following the WEG know that Boyd Exell won the dressage and I believe set a new world record with his score of 30.08!  I’m not a judge, and was hoping that Chester Weber’s score (and Chardon’s – a tie) would be the top ones, but when Boyd left the arena, there was no doubt in my mind that his was the best test of the competition. The next amazing thing was that Tucker Johnson tied with Theo Timmerman with another identical score: 40.19!  Two Americans and two Dutch drivers, so team-wise, the US and The Netherlands are tied for first going into the marathon.  Tomorrow is going to be a great day!

At the press conference today, Boyd and Tucker both said that they thought that obstacle 8 would be the most difficult – the most technical and with the hump in the middle, tiring for the horses at the end of the marathon.  They also expressed that they thought the open hazards would result in some very fast driving, and with fast driving come mistakes. 

Of the US drivers, Mike McLennan and Josh Rector drove in the morning, Tucker Johnson, Cindy O’Reilly and Gary Stover in the afternoon. I thought Josh should have been given a slightly better score (he thought so too!).  I also thought that Cindy’s score was a little harsh.  The horses glistened and her turnout was lovely.  I know that isn’t the most important thing, but she has worked really hard all year and gets the “most improved driver” award in my opinion. But having to follow Tucker probably didn’t help her any.

Mike McLennan

Josh Rector

Cindy O'Reilly

Gary Stover

The top ten drivers drove their teams into the ring at the end of the competition to receive their ribbons for dressage.  Watching them do their victory laps is what I live for!  To me there is nothing more breathtaking than 40 beautiful horses driven by 10 very happy drivers to the applause of thousands. 

Tucker Johnson

Boyd Exell

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, Len Courtemanche invited a few photographers and journalists to meet the team who actually built these beautiful obstacles.  And they are much more attractive now than the first photos I posted because they are fully decorated with flowers and other stuff.  They have spent months and months in the cold and wet of winter  and hot and dusty months working on these and the craftsmanship is outstanding. 

We’ve had several days of cloudless blue skies, and the next two days promise to be the same.  It may be a little warm – in the 80s, but the humidity is low because they’ve had very little rain here for a long while.

The marathon doesn’t start until 10 which means that the first driver won’t be in the obstacles until about 11.  It’s going to be over way too soon.  Because the obstacles are spread out so far, and with so few entries, it is going to be impossible to get to see them all.  I’m sure there will be a crowd at the water – # 2, so I’m not going to try and shoot that. 

I hope there will be a large crowd. The jumping doesn’t start until evening, so it won’t be a distraction for those who are there for the daytime.

I also have to say that I think I’ve seen almost all my friends in the driving world from this country and abroad in the last few days. Every few minutes I seem to run into someone else whom I haven’t seen in ages!  I’m also seeing many friends both from Metamora and Southern Pines. And I think that the entire Southern Pines driving community must be here because three of the drivers are from Southern Pines.

More later……

Weber and Chardon tied after first day of dressage at WEG

Chester Weber

After the first day of dressage at WEG, Chester Weber (USA) and Ijsbrand Chardon (NED), defending World Champion, are tied for first place with a score of 35.97. Chardon was the second to drive this morning and set the bar high.   Jim Fairclough followed Chardon and with a score of 51.97 is standing sixth.

Ijsbrand Chardon

There were only six drives in the morning session, which started at 9.  It was over a little after 10, leaving a four hour lunch break.  It was great to see so many people in the stands.  I don’t know the capacity, but I’m going to find out. The main tribune was completely full for the afternoon session and the stands across the arena were almost full.  While many spectators were driving people, I’d say most were not, which is great!

Jim Fairclough

Theo Timmerman of The Netherlands is standing 3rd, which is putting their team in a great position as a nation.  Koos de Ronde is still to drive tomorrow.  Bill Long received a huge applause as he finished his test.  His score of 64.90 was surely a disappointment but his many fans were happy to see him driving in another world championship.

Bill Long

Even though some have expressed doubt about this being a ‘real’ World Championship because of the low number of entries (which is truly disappointing), it certainly feels like a real World Championship! The crowds cheer loudest for their countrymen. When hanging around the driving venue, we see many friends and recognize others. But when venturing to other areas of the Park, it feels more like a huge state fair or festival.

As of Wednesday, attendance is 351.574!  Many days attendance has been over 30,000.  There is not a cloud in the sky, and the temperatures are cool in the morning but getting to 80 by afternoon.  I think some drivers are concerned about the 80+ temperatures on Saturday.

Tomorrow Tucker Johnson and Boyd Exell will drive, so it will be very interesting to see if they can best Weber and Chardon’s score.

Horse Inspection and Presentation at WEG

Brilliant sunshine, very cool mornings, perfect fall weather in the afternoon and evening. Twenty-six teams were presented for the Ground Jury this morning. There were many horses who were asked to jog twice and several who were put in the holding box for reinspection.  Unfortunately several were not accepted for competition: one of Deb Laderoute’s (Lucky Boy), Ludwig Weinmayr of Germany (Red Run), and two of David Saunders (Sam Spade and Rocky) which sadly meant that he will not be competing.  Every spectator felt so badly for David Saunders after two years of hard work to finally get to the championships. 

The jog pad

Gavin Robson's team wait their turn

It was fun to see Presentation the way it used to be at a World Championship. Each competitor had three minutes to be judged by one of the three judges and then a bell rang and they moved around to the next judge for three minutes, and then after three minutes moved again to be judged by the final judge. The first place will receive $5000!  All entries were given a bottle of champagne as they entered the dressage arena. While they didn’t actually drive in the dressage ring – the judging took place behind the booths  on three sides – they did get the opportunity to let their horses have a look at what they will see tomorrow during the dressage test. 

It was fun to watch the grooms get the teams ready to be judged. 

Getting ready for Presentation

The Finished Product - Jim Fairclough with Jane Clark

Jim Fairclough, who has won Presentation many times, was second to Chester Weber. Tucker Johnson was third.

Being judged

Dressage starts tomorrow at 9 a.m.  Because of the low number of entries, there will only be six drivers in each of the four sessions.  Nice long lunch break which will be appreciated, because it is a long walk from the dressage stadium to the food courts.  Although those volunteers, staff and others who have golf carts have been very considerate and offered those who are walking rides.

The day ended with a reception at Freedman Harness in nearby Midway, Kentucky.