US driver Chester Weber has won the FEI Four-in-Hand Horse USEF National Championship for the 11th time.
Weber won the event at the Live Oak International Combined Driving Event in his home-town of Ocala, Florida, last weekend.
“It was probably one of my best cones performances ever,” said Weber, after he and Jane Clark’s KWPN geldings posted a phase that clinched his claim to the title.
Informally known as ‘Mr. Dressage’ for his exceptional dressage scores, Weber was also presented with the Jean Keathley Memorial Award, sponsored by Michael Freund, as the FEI whip with the lowest Dressage score at the Live Oak International. Weber’s final overall score after three days of combined driving competition was just 116.33 points.
“I am so fortunate,” Weber said, “to live in Ocala, which has the fourth-largest horse county in the nation, and appreciate how many people have come out to support the event. It’s important to me and to my family to see the spectator as our customer. Everyone who comes to Live Oak International, spectators as well as competitors, can expect a world class welcome.”
Weber may have made it look easy to navigate nearly 5000-pounds of equine power and speed, but it comes with a big commitment not only to his horses, but to himself: “There’s certainly a physical nature to the sport. I spend six days a week in the gym and subscribe to a healthy body, healthy mind approach.
“In 2004, I had a team who was so strong that they scared me a little,” the undisputed champion confessed. “That’s when I made a promise then to myself that I would not be put in a position like that again, where I was not in control. Because what it comes down to is, when you can control your team it not only results in being able to choose shorter lines and more effective strategies, but the result is a safer performance.”
It wasn’t muscle but ‘girl power’ that led to Sarasota, Florida’s Misdee Wrigley-Miller not only holding her own against ‘the boys’ but finishing as top lady driver in the FEI Four-in-Hand Horse division.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be sitting here next to Chester,” said Wrigley-Miller, whose 28.02 score in Cones contributed to her securing the reserve title in the FEI US National Championship.
“It’s probably the main reason why I’m doing this,” said Wrigley-Miller, who was just four years old when she drove her first pony and still recalls how “fun” it was. “Women can do this sport. In 2009, I took up combined driving and was hooked.
“What I probably need to do,” she said with a broad grin, “is go to the gym with Chester more often!” She also accepted the Anne Bliss Memorial Award, sponsored by Michael Freund, as the most elegant lady driver throughout the competition.
Putting the “international” in the Live Oak International CDE was Ontario, Canada’s Darryl Billing, whose 267.24-point score overall confirmed his position as one of the world’s best as well as third in the day’s standings. Billing, who spent his youth at the reins of everything from ponies to heavy horses, will be setting his sights north as he and his KWPN team head next to Bromont.
Sunday’s Live Oak International did not disappoint as a record number of spectators were treated to the lighter side of horse showing with a leadline class, and a coaching presentation by Grand Oaks Resort, featuring a Friesian four-in-hand put to a 1902 Brewster stagecoach.