Ocala, Fla. – The bucolic Live Oak Plantation set the backdrop for a morning of combined driving dressage as the 2015 USEF Driving National Championships for Single Pony, Pair Pony, Pony Teams, and Pair Horse divisions got underway.
USEF Single Pony Driving National Championship
Tracey Morgan (Beallsville, Md.) was first in the ring and presented a performance that could not be bested, scoring 43.84. Morgan and her own Fuego 88, a 14-year-old German Riding Pony gelding, executed a solid test highlighted by expressive canter and extended trot work. An eight-time National Champion, Morgan is poised to make a run for a ninth title.
“As the first in the ring, it is always nice to win the class,” said Morgan. “We are very confident heading into the weekend and would love to win another National Championship as we prepare for the World Championships later this year in Holland.”
In second place is Mary Mott-Kocsis, who scored a 54.02, and in third is Barbara Sims on a 55.42.
USEF Pair Pony Driving National Championship
Looking to defend her 2014 title, Amy Cross (Aiken, S.C.) drove Wendy O’Brien’s Welsh pony pair into the lead, scoring a decisive 42.82. Leading after dressage by a 10-point margin, Cross said of her test, “The ponies went into the ring, got a little heavy, and blew past some of their marks, which I wasn’t expecting. Overall though, they are a fun pair to drive and were still able to get it done.”
Looking forward to the next phase, Cross stated, “This weekend is going to be tough. The marathon course starts with the water hazard and then the gulch hazard, so it will really test everybody’s endurance and abilities. I am looking forward to it.”
Katie Whaley (Paris, Ky.) and her Welsh cross geldings presented a lovely test and scored 52.61 to land them in second place. Three-time USEF Pair Pony Driving National Champion Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, S.C.) sits in third with a 56.58.
USEF Pony Teams Driving National Championship
As the lone competitor in the Pony Team division, Heather Schneider (Palm City, Fla.) did not hold back, leading her Welsh pony team to a score of 58.40.
USEF Pair Horse Driving National Championship
In the most competitive division of the day, Pair Horse drivers Casey Zubek (Manhattan, Ill.) and Steve Wilson (Louisville, Ky.) will head into the marathon phase separated by a mere point. Zubek, who spent 2014 competing in the Four-in-Hand division, presented his pair beautifully, finishing on a 46.78. Standing in a close second is Wilson and his Lipizzaner pair on a 47.72.
Competition continues with the marathon phase on Saturday at 9:00am ET. National Championship titles will be awarded Sunday following the cones phase.
Live Oak International combined driving and jumping competition will be broadcast live Saturday and Sunday on the USEF Network.