[of the obstacles], and that’s good for me because they have a big stride. So if all goes to plan I think I will have a good day.”
In her national championship debut, Mary Phelps (Columbia, Ky.) had a smooth test to put her and her own American Shetland Pony pair in second place with a score of 62.65. Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, S.C.) and Katrina Becker and Carina Crawford’s mixed pair are close behind Phelps in third place with a score of 63.06.
James Miller and his Dutch Warmblood team
USEF Pair Horse Combined Driving National Championship
James Miller (Paris, Ky.) had a spectacular performance in his first national championship. Conquering his nemesis, one-handed deviations, Miller drove wife Misdee Wrigley Miller’s Dutch Warmblood geldings to win the dressage phase with a score of 48.90. Despite being a new competitor to combined driving, he showed great poise in the atmosphere of Live Oak International, compared to his usual comfort zone on the polo field.
“In this sport, there is a lot of mental preparation, and actually, that is the biggest adjustment for me, just everything that goes into it. Not only are you having to do your dressage test like today, but this morning we were walking hazards and planning and talking about the next couple days. It is a tremendous amount of mental pressure,” Miller said. “It makes you respect the sport that deserves far more respect than it receives.”
Defending-champion Steve Wilson (Louisville, Ky.) and his own mixed KWPN and Lipizzaner geldings had a solid test to slot into second place with a score of 55.04. Josh Rector (Dyke, Va.) and his, Jessica Buchanan, and Rainier Tanglao’s mixed pair sit in third place with a score of 70.26.
Chester Weber and his four-in-hand team
USEF Four-in-Hand Horse Combined Driving National Championship
Weber (Ocala, Fla.) had an excellent test with a combination of horses that are only in their second outing. His, Jane Clark, and Fritz Grupe’s Dutch Warmblood geldings showed great harmony and performed lovely movements. Weber won the dressage phase with a score of 36.51.
“In four-in-hand driving, we often talk about the blocks and how the horses work together as a cohesive unit. I was really pleased with that today,” Weber explained. “I felt like they really came into the ring with a presence. This is a spookier ring; they come out of a hole down there and they don’t see any of this until the crest that hill. It takes having a really bold team.”
Misdee Wrigley Miller (Paris, Ky.) had a beautiful test with her own Dutch Warmblood geldings to sit in a close second with a score of 41.47. Allison Stroud (West Grove, Pa.) and Willow Star LLC’s Dutch Warmblood geldings are in third place with a score of 51.79.
Watch the remaining Intermediate Single Pony and Horse divisions perform the dressage phase in the Competition Arena at Live Oak International beginning Friday at 8 a.m. ET on USEF Network.
Photography Courtesy Chester Weber/Picsofyou.com