Lexington CDE

To wrap up our coverage of last week’s Lexington Combined Driving Classic, here are the “Yaay, it was a successful event!” press release and a few more photos …

The third annual Lexington Combined Driving Classic, held October 1–4 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, was a resounding success, with nearly a hundred competitors in fifteen classes. This year’s event also hosted the Kentucky Cup (the official test event for next year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games) and six USEF National Driving Championships.

The Kentucky Cup / WEG test event technically included only the advanced/FEI-level horse teams class, but the rest of the competitors either benefited from or, depending on their perspective, had to contend with, the realities of the test event.

With rules and restrictions in place for next year’s WEG, and the ongoing road construction at the Kentucky Horse Park, competitors were limited to only one golf cart on the grounds. In addition, these were restricted to the actual roadways and were not allowed on the grass of the marathon course. The route from the stables to the warm-up and competition arenas was a mile-long loop around the back of the park. The main road through the park that the drivers were previously in the habit of using will be reserved for pedestrians at next year’s World Equestrian Games.

However, as several drivers noted, along with these minor hardships came the thrill of competing in the same arena that will hold next year’s WEG competitors. Another benefit: the tremendous learning opportunity that results from driving in front of next year’s WEG ground jury: Diana Brownlie (GB), Peter Bonhof (NED), Klaus Christ (GER), Martha Nicoll (USA), and Hanspeter Ruschelin (SUI). All five of them judged the advanced/FEI-level classes, while only three judged the preliminary- and intermediate-level classes.

In all but two classes, the leader after the dressage phase went on to win the class. Of these, veteran driver Larry Poulin had the best dressage score of the entire competition: 37.50 penalty points. This was Poulin’s final competition before he retires from driving to concentrate on ridden dressage. He described the move as almost like going on vacation because he has for many years been maintaining a rigorous schedule of training / competing in combined driving and training / competing—with the same horses—in ridden dressage at the Prix St. Georges / Intermediate I level. After his auspicious start, Poulin went on to win the marathon in the advanced/FEI-level horse pair class. He finished with 7.64 penalties on Richard Nicoll’s long cones course, but even those penalties weren’t enough to unseat Poulin from the top spot. In his final outing as a competitive driver, he emerged as the USEF National Pairs Champion.

The final section of Nicoll’s marathon course consisted of seven obstacles (the preliminary competitors did not drive obstacles four, “Mick’s Mountain,” or five, “The Hollow”). Several upper-level four-in-hand drivers felt that the obstacles were “not technical enough” to adequately test their horses, but this year’s event included everything from preliminary-level single ponies to advanced/FEI-level four-in-hand teams, so the obstacles of course had to accommodate everyone. Six of the current obstacle sites—although not necessarily the obstacles themselves—will be used in next year’s WEG. The two obstacles newly built for this year (numbers four and seven) will be altered and improved somewhat before next year but may remain essentially the same. The others will no doubt be made more technical for the World Championship. The surprise finisher in Saturday’s marathon was Mike McLennan, who showed a marked improvement in his obstacle driving from last year’s event, finishing the marathon in third place, with fewer than five penalty points separating him from the leader in the marathon, Australia’s Boyd Exell. After several days of heavy rain, the ground at the Kentucky Horse Park was somewhat muddy, and McLennan admitted that “the heavy ground was a little difficult for my horses; coming from Texas, we’re used to something different, especially since we haven’t had rain for two years. But we only lost one shoe out there and somebody found it, so we’re okay. The course was great; you can’t get any better than that.”

In the overall scoring, Chester Weber led the teams of horses from start to finish, and emerged from the cones competition with a record seventh consecutive USEF National Driving Championship. Of the marathon, he said that he believes the track will be “wonderful for next year: the obstacles are well constructed, super horse-friendly, and positioned so that the spectators will be able to see all the action.”

The largest class in the entire competition were the advanced/FEI-level single horses, with sixteen entries. Fritz Grupe led the field after dressage, with a score of 50.05. Grupe’s lead after the marathon was secure enough to handle some penalties on the cones course, but with several balls down and time penalties (a total of 10.77 points in all), his win ended up being a bit less secure than he must’ve liked. During the end of his run through the cones course, all the four-in-hand drivers gathered by the rail, awaiting their chance to walk the course, whooped and hollered as Grupe leaned forward after the final set of cones to urge his horse to gallop to the finish line. Not surprisingly, Grupe was pleased with his win in the USEF National Single Horse Driving Championship, especially considering that his horse had been driven as a single only three times.

After all three phases of the competition, the following drivers won their classes at the 2009 Lexington Combined Driving Classic.

Preliminary — single pony: Paul Maye of Fairfield, VA (overall score: 99.88); single horse: Dean Lacey of Garden Valley, CA (99.84); pony pair: Boots Wright of Ocala, FL (106.53); and horse pair: Lew Smith of Round Top, TX (124.09).

Intermediate — single pony: Debbie Schuster of Chardon, OH (114.99); single horse: Marcie Quist of Vass, NC (136.71); pony pair: Caroline Whittle of Columbus, NC (141.38); horse pair: Misdee Wrigley Miller of Lakewood Ranch, FL (141.58); and tandem pony: Mark Dahlberg of Solon Springs, WI (179.48).

Advanced/FEI / USEF National Championships — single pony: Suzy Stafford of Bear, DE (120.92); single horse: Fritz Grupe of Stockton, CA (134.08); pony pair: Tracey Morgan of Beallsville, MD (130.40); horse pair: Larry Poulin of Petersham, MA (123.52); four-in-hand of ponies: Lisa Stroud of Kennett Square, PA (145.14); and four-in-hand of horses: Chester Weber of Ocala, FL (131.35).

Next year, in place of the Lexington Combined Driving Classic, will be the eagerly anticipated 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The driving portion (four-in-hand teams of horses only) will begin with the first day of dressage on October 7 and end with the cones competition on October 10, 2010. 


Kelly Valdes on the marathon (intermediate-level single horse)



Mike McLennan on the marathon (adv./FEI-level four-in-hand of horses)

Pat Hastings on the marathon (intermediate-level horse pair)

Philip Needs on the marathon (intermediate-level single pony)

Tucker Johnson on the marathon (Reserve National Champion — four-in-hand of horses)

one of the other ubiquitous four-legged creatures on the marathon course

Jimmy Fairclough on the cones course

Judy Fryer on the cones course

Katie Whaley and the one ball she knocked down on the cones course

Sorry about this … but Monday flew by in a haze of catching up on things and meetings. Let’s pretend that today (Tuesday) is the “tomorrow” I promised you on Sunday night, shall we?

Here, then, are photos from the cones competition and the various awards ceremonies throughout the day on Sunday.

Paul Maye had the best dressage score among all the preliminary-level competitors (47.33) and won the prelim single pony class

Boots Wright and her pair of ponies won their preliminary-level class

Dean Lacey brought his Half-Arabian to the KHP for the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals and stayed for the CDE; they capped off the weekend by winning the preliminary-level single horse class

Misdee Wrigley Miller had a lead of nearly ten points after dressage, so a few balls down on the cones course didn’t stop her from winning the intermediate-level horse pair class

Suzy Stafford finished second in dressage, first in the marathon and first in cones, on her way to winning the FEI-level single pony class and the National Championship

after the awards ceremony for her class, Courage to Lead was officially retired from competition; here, her trainer (Lisa Singer) and owner (Bev Lesher) are attaching her fancy flower blanket to her harness …

… and then Bev Lesher drove her pony in a final lap of honor

Tracey Morgan (here, on her lap of honor) won the FEI-level pony pair class and National Championship

Lisa Stroud and her team of Connemara ponies

Fritz Grupe, formerly a pair horse driver, won the dressage phase and the overall National Championship in the FEI-level single horse class

Larry Poulin won his final National Championship (pair horses) in combined driving, before officially retiring from driving competition to return to ridden dressage

Chester Weber on the cones course, on his way to winning a record seventh (consecutive!) National Championship …

Chester Weber on the podium

Today was a full day of cones competition, several awards ceremonies, and two retirement ceremonies.

Bev Lesher’s pony, Courage to Lead (driven to the winning spot here this weekend by Suzy Stafford), is being retired from competition to take up a new life as a broodmare.

Veteran international pairs competitor (he’s represented the U.S. at an amazing ten world championships), Larry Poulin is retiring from driving competition to go back to ridden dressage.

And, in the KY Cup (the WEG test event) class, Chester Weber emerged the winner and claimed a record seventh consecutive National Championship.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll have lots of cones photos and a detailed recap of the weekend. In the meantime, complete results are available at www.hoefnet.com.

Here are the promised marathon photos. I’ve included six photos here and am saving several of my favorite shots for a blog post on Monday that will recap the entire event. So be sure to check back!

Caroline Whittle is leading the intermediate-level pony pair class

Misdee Wrigley Miller

Suzy Stafford and Courage to Lead, who won an individual bronze medal at this year’s FEI World Pony Driving Championships

Lisa Stroud and her team of ponies

Boyd Exell won the marathon phase in the FEI-level horse team class …

… but Chester Weber is still leading the FEI-level four-in-hand drivers (horses). Tomorrow’s cones course will decide the winners of all these classes and more, as well as six USEF National Championships

As noted above, it was a glorious day on the marathon course today … blue skies, sun, cool temps and breezes.

I’m still sorting through photos and will post some later this evening. In the meantime, though, here are the results after today.

In the preliminary-level single pony class: Dona Love won the marathon, Paul Maye came in second, and Beverly Patrick came in third. Overall, Paul Maye is still in the lead, followed by Dona Love in second and Suzi Dixon in third.

In the preliminary-level pony pair class: Wendy O’Brien won the marathon (even though she had already been eliminated from the overall competition during the dressage phase), Boots Wright came in second, and Meghan Benge came in third. Overall, Boots Wright is still in the lead, followed by Meghan Benge in second and Irene Gillis in third.

In the preliminary-level single horse class: Francois Fleury won the marathon, Dean Lacey came in second, and Celeste Pitts came in third. Overall, Dean Lacey is still in the lead, followed by Bonnie Hudson in second and Pamela Gordon in third.

In the preliminary-level horse pair class: Lew Smith won the marathon and is still in the lead overall; Fred Dearborn finished in second place in the marathon and is now in second place overall. Glenn McGirr was eliminated on the marathon.

In the intermediate-level single pony class: Debbie Schuster won the marathon, Philip Needs came in second, and Lorraine Potter came in third. Overall, Debbie Schuster is still in the lead, followed by Janelle Marshall in second and Lorraine Potter in third.

In the intermediate-level pony pair class: Linda Yutzy won the marathon and remains in second place overall, Caroline Whittle came in second on the marathon and remains in the lead overall, and Ray Mansur came in third on the marathon and remains in third overall.

In the intermediate-level tandem pony class, Mark Dahlberg of course won the marathon and remains in the lead overall, as he’s the only competitor in the class.

In the intermediate single horse class: Bob Giles won the marathon, Marcie Quist came in second, and Kelly Valdes came in third. Overall, Marcie Quist is still in the lead, followed by Boo Fitch West in second and Sue Mott in third.

In the intermediate horse pair class: Rae Fischer won the marathon, Misdee Wrigley Miller came in second, and Geoffrey Gee came in third. Overall, Misdee Miller is still in the lead, followed by Raie Fischer in second and Pat Hastings in third.

In the FEI-level single pony class: Suzy Stafford won the marathon and remains in the lead overall, Sherri Dolan came in second on the marathon and remains in third overall, and Shelley Templs came in third on the marathon and remains in second place overall.

In the FEI-level pair pony class: Tracy Morgan won the marathon and remains in the lead overall, Katie Whaley came in second on the marathon and remains in third overall, and Jennifer Matheson finished in third on the marathon and remains in second overall.

In the FEI-level pony team class: Lisa Stroud won the marathon and remains in the lead, and Elizabeth Keathley finished in second on the marathon and remains in second place overall (they’re the only two competitors in the class).

In the FEI-level single horse class: Scott Monroe won the marathon and moved up from third to second overall, Fritz Grupe came in second on the marathon but remains in the lead overall, and Mary Ruth Marks came in third on the marathon. Robin Groves moved from second down to third overall. Both Robin Foster and Bill Peacock had turnovers (no one was hurt, as far as I know) and retired.

In the FEI-level horse pair class: Larry Poulin won the marathon and remains in the lead, and Lisa Singer finished the marathon in the second spot and remains in second overall.

In the FEI-level horse team class: Boyd Exell won the marathon, Chester Weber came in second, and Mike McLennan came in third. The overall placings didn’t change: Chester Weber, Tucker Johnson, and Boyd Exell. Wendy Ying retired on section A of the marathon, and three drivers (Eugen Hug, Bill Long, and Casey Zubek) were eliminated.

Stay tuned for photos and tomorrow’s exciting finish on the cones course.

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