Allentown, N.J. – Two of last year’s combined driving national champions successfully defended their titles this week at the Garden State Combined Driving Event. Taylor Bradish (Windsor, S.C.) secured the 2021 USEF Advanced Single Horse National Championship, and Chester Weber (Ocala, Fla.) took home his 18th USEF Advanced Four-in-Hand National Championship.
Bradish drove Katydid Duchess, a 2009 Welsh Pony cross mare owned by Jennifer Matheson. After posting the second-best score in the dressage phase, Bradish and Duchess showcased their skill in the marathon, finishing with the top score in that phase on Saturday. A solid cones round on Sunday gave them a final score of 142.47 and a second USEF National Championship in the division.
Bradish came into the weekend with a recent ankle injury, which she says made her question whether she’d be able to compete at all. But she credits a fit and ready horse with her successful outing, despite the challenges.
“She was awesome all weekend,” said Bradish. “I was happy with some of the [marathon] obstacles, not with all of them—I made some mistakes. It’s a difficult course for us because we don’t have hills in South Carolina where we’re from, so being here in hilly New Jersey was a little bit difficult, but she handled it. She’s super fit which is great. I was quite happy with the cones. It was slippery with all the rain, and I slid into two balls, but I was very close to making the time. It was definitely a nail-biter!”
Bradish is aiming toward qualifying for and competing in the FEI World Championship next year in France with Duchess and returning to the National Championship in 2022 to keep the streak going.
“It feels really good [to defend the title],” Bradish adds. “I’m very pleased with the horse; she just keeps getting better and better. I feel like, even from last year, I would have beat myself this year. She just keeps getting better and better every show.”
Weber has been the dominant force in the four-in-hand in the U.S. for years, and he kept his legacy going this weekend. With his team of KWPN geldings Amadeus, First Edition, Ideaal, Julius V, along with Reno, a gelding of unknown breeding, Weber started the weekend strong with an impressive 37.67 score in the dressage phase. He held his lead through the marathon, and although he was bested by eventual reserve champion, James Fairclough, in the cones phase, Weber’s final score of 145.47 was good enough to maintain the overall lead and take home the championship.
Weber stayed close to home over the past year, focused on working with younger and newer horses to his program with this championship serving as his goal event for the season. When asked how it feels to win an 18th National Championship, he said, “It feels a little better than the 17th one!
“One of our big goals for the program is national titles, so we prioritize that every year and yet again, we were able to get this done,” he added. “Driving has deep roots in New Jersey. It’s where I was introduced to combined driving and it’s nice to be back in the Garden State and competing there. Jimmy and I had some good sport and both of us tried our best.”
Looking ahead, Weber is aiming for a successful outing at the Live Oak International at his home base in Ocala, Fla., next March. After that, he hopes to compete for the 2022 FEI Four-In-Hand World Championship in Italy.
See full results at gardenstatecde.com/results.