Kronenberg, The Netherlands – It was a roller coaster of emotions and focus for the U.S. Team during the 2018 FEI World Driving and Para-Driving Championships for Singles held in Kronenberg, The Netherlands, on August 29 through September 2. With three challenging phases, Jennifer “Nifty” Hamilton emerged as the leading able-bodied U.S. Driver, with 158.52 penalties. Diane Kastama, Grade I, led the U.S. contingent in the Para-Driving division with 167.85 penalties. The U.S. able-bodied U.S. Driving Team, led by Chef d’Equipe Heather Briggs and Coach Thorsten Zarembowicz, placed seventh with 318.49 penalties, and the U.S. Para-Driving Team, led by Chef d’Equipe Marcie Quist and Coach Sara Schmidt, placed fourth with 331.02 penalties.
After two successful days of dressage, the U.S. able-bodied team looked ahead after a competitive Marathon phase that brought out a focus and determination to move up the leaderboard heading into the final cone phase.
“We came in feeling strong after an excellent week of training camp prior to coming to the show,” said Briggs. “We experienced challenges in the marathon, and we had to knuckle down and focus if we were going to move the needle [in the team standings] and battle for points. I couldn’t be prouder of how the team came together.”
In a field of 82 competitors consisting of 19 international teams, it was the two time USEF Single Horse Combined Driving National Champion, Jennifer “Nifty”Hamilton (Alva, Fla.) and Makari Design, her own and Milton Hamilton’s 10-year-old KWPN gelding, that led the U.S. team after the final day of competition. The combination only incurred three penalties in the final cones phase.
Fellow team member Jacob Arnold (Snow Camp, N.C.) and Uminco, Leslie Berndl’s 17-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding, was instrumental in the teams overall placing as the partnership between Arnold and Uminco produced the top U.S. marathon score in a very tight, competitive field. They incurred 1.92 time penalties in the cones phase to add to his overall score, ending on 163.91 penalties. Teammate Donna Crookston (Saltsburg, Pa) was bold with Viktor, her 10-year-old Dutch Harness gelding, who was close behind Arnold, adding 3.58 penalties to finish 165.04 penalties.
"I’m delighted for Donna,” said Briggs. “All her work throughout the year to get to this point with Viktor came together nicely. Their communication was the best I’ve seen to date.”
Vernon Helmuth (Lodi, Calif.), a veteran Pairs competitor, competed as an individual with Firminus, Peter Hüls’s eight-year-old KWPN gelding, to earn a personal best dressage score on the international stage with a 59.63. The developing partnership between Helmuth and Firminus completed the event with 194.03 penalities.
The Netherlands took home top honors with 283.87 penalties, France followed in second with 287.73 penalties and Poland placed third with 293.44 penalties.
Para-Driving Championships for Singles
In the FEI World Para-Driving Championships for Singles, consistency and experience was the key to success for the U.S. para-drivers.
Competing in her sixth World Championship, Diane Kastama (Arroyo Grande, Calif.), boldly piloted Oosterwijk’s Kasper, P.W.C. de Ronde’s 22-year-old gelding of unknown breeding, throughout the competition, moving up the leaderboard, placing seventh with 167.85 penalties.
With less than a point behind Kastama, Tracy Bowman (Martinez, Calif.) represented the U.S. for the first time in international competition with her own Taylomor Laurabelle, the 16-year-old Welsh Pony known as “Bella,” to a respectable eighth place with 168.58 penalties.
Bob Giles (Morriston, Fla.) competed in the Grade 2 division with First Lady, an 8-year-old mare of unknown breeding owned by P.W.C. de Ronde, Giles finished the competition with 172.14 penalties.
View complete results.
Stay up to date with U.S. combined driving by following USA Combined Driving on Facebook and US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use #USADriving.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.