Drivers Test Their Skills at Southern Pines CDE
The Southern Pines Combined Driving Event, held last weekend at the Carolina Horse Park, was a selection trial for singles and four-in-hands hoping to represent the United States at the World Equestrian Games, to be held in Lexington, Ky., in the fall.
While only three drivers will make the U.S. team, there is a possibility that an additional six drivers may be able to compete at the World Equestrian Games as individuals. This is dependent upon the number of European teams that will participate.
“Everybody is confident that six drivers will be allowed because of the light entries from Europe,” said Lisa Stroud, who was here as the representative of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) looking at the drivers’ performances.
The top three drivers in the USEF standings at the moment, Chester Weber, Jimmy Fairclough and Tucker Johnson, opted not to compete at Southern Pines. The U.S. team is slated to be announced by the first week in September.
However, there were seven four-in-hands that did compete, dueling for the six individual slots. Three of those drivers, Bill Long, Gary Stover and Cindy Jo O’Reilly, are Southern Pines residents.
After all three phases of the Combined Driving Event, 29-year-old Joe Yoder, from Montana, narrowly beat out veteran Long, who at age 65 has represented the U.S. in six World Championships.
Long was ahead of Yoder after dressage, resting in third place to Yoder’s fourth-place showing. But Yoder put the pedal to the floor for the marathon phase, clocking the fastest marathon of the seven four-in-hands to move into first place, while Long kept his third-place standing after the marathon.
In the cones, Long put in a masterful drive dealing with keen horses who he had to settle in order to make the tight turns required of the difficult course. He moved up from third to second after the cones, despite having 10.51 penalty points.
Yoder went last and almost lost his lead in the cones phase, incurring 22.49 penalty points. But he still finished with a score of 182.85 to Long’s 188.26.
Though Long finished second overall, he missed qualifying one last horse, Veron, by three points. Drivers and their four horses have to meet certain qualifications in order to be considered for the World Equestrian Games. One of the qualifications is that each horse has to complete an event with a qualifying score of less than 70 penalty points in dressage.
“They are big, strong horses. Bill does a lovely job of driving them,” said Jack Wetzel, who owns the horses and navigates for Long. “We hope to qualify Veron at Garden State in June.”
Wetzel’s horses were coaching horses before he lent them to Long to attempt to qualify for the World Equestrian Games. Long has been working on the dressage phase with horses whose main job used to be pleasure driving.
“I thought our dressage was a little better than what the score reflected,” said Long. “The horses were really listening in the marathon. I had a little memory loss in the seventh hazard but recovered quickly.”
As of April 12, Long is ranked ninth on the USEF four-in-hand rankings.
Gary Stover, who has qualified all his horses and is ranked 10th on the USEF list, was sitting second after dressage but incurred 17 penalty points in the walk section of the marathon due to one horse jogging rather than walking. Stover had his horses well under control in the cones course but still hit four cones. None of the four-in-hands went clean.
“The course included two zig zags and circles, so you had to push for time, which leads to mistakes,” said Stover.
Stover will keep competing his horses “to improve their performance.
“It’s a long way to the WEG,” said Stover, who ended up in fourth place.
Cindy Jo O’Reilly finished sixth and is ranked 12th on the USEF list.
Kate Shields, of Virginia, won the advanced single horse division, driving her Welsh cob to a score of 127.45.
Brianna Ek, an O’Neal School student, won the preliminary pony four division, which was uncontested, driving her grandmother’s four-in-hand. Her grandparents, Eleanor and Tom Gallagher, navigated for her in the marathon.
Marcie Quist won the preliminary pair horse division driving Halstead’s Shale (Hal) and Halstead by Legacy (Lucy).
“It was Lucy’s first CDE, and she stopped to look at everything,” said Quist.
Ed Werner, the only other competitor in the pair horse division, couldn’t catch up with Quist even though she had two cones down and got somewhat lost on the cones course. Quist won with a score of 161.08 to Werner’s 177.64.
Quist quipped, “I was only one away from losing.”
Quist’s other horse, Monty, won the intermediate single horse division with Judy Canavan, from Pennsylvania, driving. Quist has loaned Monty, who used to be Quist’s advanced horse, to Canavan. Monty, a 19-year-old thoroughbred stallion, is still going strong.
Leslie Griewe won the preliminary single pony division driving Alice’s Brass Ring. They scored 105.83.
The 60 CDE competitors had perfect weather all three days of the competition.
“It’s been a wonderful weekend. The park is fabulous, we have wonderful competitors, sponsors, volunteers and judges. The show couldn’t go off without them,” said organizer Claire Reid.
For full results, see www.drivingnews.us.
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