All In the Family: Gallagher, Granddaughter Take First Place at Pinetree Combined Driving
It was a doubly sweet victory for Eleanor Gallagher and her granddaughter Brianna Ek as both took first-place ribbons at last weekend's Pinetree Combined Driving Event (CDE) held at Big Sky Farm in Southern Pines.
Gallagher has competed at the International level and currently drives a four-in-hand of Welsh ponies. Gallagher has encouraged her 15-year-old granddaughter's interest in driving, and now both compete in combined driving events in different divisions.
"It's really fun to be with Grandma. Driving is a family thing and we also play tennis together," said Ek, who lives with her grandparents.
Besides driving her own pony, Ek also navigated for her grandmother in the marathon phase of the CDE.
There are three phases in a CDE; Dressage, Cones and the marathon.
"At this stage, to have my granddaughter on the carriage with me is an absolute delight," said Gallagher.
Ek, a sophomore at the O'Neal school, scored a 101.67 driving her Welsh pony Cinderella. She bested 14 other competitors in the Preliminary Single Pony Division. It is the first blue ribbon for Ek at the Preliminary level.
Ek was first after the Dressage and cones phase of the CDE which was held on Saturday. Ek and her 5-year-old pony scored a 43 in Dressage, the best score of the Preliminary division earning them the Best Overall Dressage award for her division.
"I'm normally not very good at Dressage," said Ek. "I'm not a person who hits her marks, and sometimes my pony will stick her nose out. I usually do better in cones."
The marathon phase on Sunday went well until the end of the course when Ek circled between the last obstacle and the finish, thereby incurring 10 penalty points.
In the marathon phase, which tests the driver's skill at determining pace (each division has a designated speed), American Driving Society rules state, "a competitor cannot deviate from the course. They must follow the track between the last obstacle and the finish of Section E. Competitors who halt for no reason, zigzag or leave the track in any other way will incur 10 penalties for each occurrence."
"I was pretty nervous (after incurring 10 penalties) but I still ended up winning by five points," said Ek.
At the end of Ek's marathon, Ek and her navigator, Sarah Brown, jumped off Ek's vehicle and onto Gallagher's vehicle to serve as navigators in the marathon phase of the four-in-hand pony division.
Gallagher was uncontested in the Intermediate Pony Four division, winning with a score of 136.72. Gallagher drives a four-in-hand of 5-year-old Welsh Hackney ponies.
Before driving a team, Gallagher competed in the single horse division in the 2002 and 2006 World Horse Driving Championships.
"After driving a four, I would never drive a single again," says Gallagher. "There is so much going on all the time. In the marathon, it's very joyful just to get the four through the gates (obstacles). It's a challenge especially when you are older than and not as quick as accomplished younger drivers. I wasn't as fast as I should have been in the marathon because I had the girls on the back. I put safety first. I didn't want to take any chances."
Gallagher has her sights set on moving up to the Advanced division at the spring Southern Pines CDE while Ek hopes to move up to the Intermediate division.
"I'm thrilled for Brianna," says Gallagher. "It's a real accomplishment and it's important for young people to be acknowledged for their accomplishments."
For full results, go to the Moore County Driving Club web site: www.mooecountydrivingclub.com
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