Kicking off Saturday’s competition at Live Oak International, the Driving Marathon didn’t disappoint the gallery of spectators that came out and travelled from hazard to hazard to watch the drivers give it their all. Chester Weber completed the FEI Four-in-Hand course conquering all seven hazards with his team First Edition, Goveneur, Amadeus, and Ideaal with a total score of 152.02 taking the top honours on his home turf once again.
“The sun was out, and it was a perfect day for the Marathon at Live Oak International,” said Chester Weber. “My horses and team performed at the top of their game, and it all came together. Live Oak International is an exceptional Marathon as the cheers and spectator support make being on course extremely special.”
The FEI Horse Pair win went to American Jacob Arnold with a score of 159.92. Taylor Bradish from the US and Katydid Duchess with a score of 144.51 took home the top spot in the FEI Single Horse. For the FEI Pony Single Marathon class, Jennifer Keeler did it again with Zeppo with a score of 166.39; the pair had won the Marathon at Live Oak International in 2020. The FEI Pony Team win went to Mary Phelps with a score of 242.77 and the FEI Pony Pair top finisher was Katie Whaley with a score of 162.77. In first for the Intermediate Horse Team was Jean Thornton with a score of 212.31. All three drivers are American. Canadian Jerome Drolet was first in the Intermediate Horse Pair with a score of 198.27 and Janelle Marshall Intermediate Pony Single 125.38. US driver Andy Marcoux takes home the honours in the Intermediate Horse Single with a score of 144.46.
Driving continued at Live Oak International on Sunday with competitors chasing top honors for USEF National Champion titles. Winning the USEF National Champion Advanced Single Pony was Jennifer Keeler with her pony Zeppo. Taking the USEF National Champion award for Advanced Pair Pony was Katie Whaley, with Mary Phelps winning the USEF National Champion for Four-in-Hand pony. The USEF National Champion Advanced Horse Pair went to Jacob Arnold.
“It’s a remarkable story with Zeppo,” said Jennifer Keeler. “He is only 11 but was diagnosed with a metabolic condition. He had a flare up three months ago, and even coming to Florida let alone competing at this National Championship which of course was the goal, was very much in doubt. So, the fact that he has rebounded to be here today, to win this, is just an incredible testimonial to the heart of this pony. We did two competitions to prepare for this, we felt confident, but it was an incredible field of competitors,” said Jennifer Keeler.
Katie Whaley was thrilled with her result today in the cones phase which finalized her USEF Championship for Advanced Pair Pony.
“Driving down the road to come to Live Oak International is like Christmas morning. They make you feel special here. My young pony, Timmy this was only his third show in his life. To bump him up here for him to go FEI, and for him to do the dressage and the cones with this atmosphere I was so thrilled. I am really excited about this young pony,” said Katie Whaley.
Familiar Live Oak International competitor Mary Phelps stepped into a different category this year competing in the Four-in-Hand Pony for the first time at the tournament and only the second time in the division ever.
“My first Live Oak International with a four in hand. When I started driving Four-in-Hand, I thought we can do this, and we also only had one event before here, and I was blessed to have my trainer here, and he coached me through the week. It was a big step, four in hand at live oak and we did it!” Said Mary Phelps.
Jacob Arnold brought a younger team to Live Oak International this year, but the inexperience didn’t hinder his results. “I was super pleased; with the dressage, I used a horse that had only done one test before. He honestly performed better than my more seasoned horse. To run three seven-year-olds at an FEI show, and to have this result I was really pleased,” said Jacob Arnold.
In addition to the USEF National Championships, 14 additional driving awards were presented. Chester Weber 18-time USEF Champion Four-in-Hand was among those for his win at Live Oak International in the FEI 3*.
With a lightning-fast time of 34.32 in the jump off, Daniel Coyle took home the blue ribbon in the $37,000 Live Oak International CSI4* Longines World Ranking Class on Saturday. Daniel is a familiar face at Live Oak International, having won at the tournament in 2020.
“I was delighted Ivory TCS was able to win today. It’s always brilliant to go to a competition with confidence especially when you are working with animals. I won the World Cup qualifier at Live Oak International in 2020, the last time I was here, so that obviously puts on a little more pressure,” said Daniel Coyle. “I own this horse with Ariel Grange, which is cool for me. When I walked the course at first, I said this isn’t going to be so easy. It’s always tough to beat the clear rounds in front of you, and today that was Bertram. Bertram is always very fast in the jump off so if he is in the lead, you’ve got to pull something out and do something good.”
Bertram Allen (IRL) competes in the already-concluded Western European League, but that didn’t stop him from journeying to Live Oak Stud in central Florida (USA) for the final North American League qualifier of the 2021-2022 season. He rode Harley vd Bisschop straight to the top of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Ocala, besting an 11-horse jump-off in the Sunday feature.
“He’s 14 and an experienced horse,” Allen said of his mount. “He loves the grass, and the ground here is fantastic.”
A star-studded cast of athletes lined up for one last opportunity to earn NAL points toward qualification for the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Leipzig (GER). The field included points leader Conor Swail (IRL), defending event champion Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Hunter Holloway (USA), who took an NAL win in Las Vegas (USA).
Eleven advanced to Olaf Peterson’s (GER) jump-off, which featured tight turns, long gallop lanes, and eye-catching fences, including one uniquely constructed 1.60m plank, designed to resemble a post and rail wood fence.
Each combination seemed to outpace the next. Defending European Champions Andre Thieme (GER) and DSP Chakaria took an early lead (39.01 seconds), until Coyle set a stiff standard with his mount, Legacy (38.03).
“I saw that Daniel was maybe over a second quicker than [Andre], which I didn’t think was possible. So, I knew I had to give it everything, and it all came off and everything was actually very fast and well, and he really tried hard.”
Allen saved best for last, setting himself apart with an early expedient turn and a furious gallop to the last. His winning time was 37.67 seconds. “I think the main thing was to just stay [on the pace],” he said. “I maybe added one more [stride] to the double, and then we were very fast. I hoped we’d won it at the last.”
Top Canadian was Hyde Moffatt, who rode Gisborne VDL to 6th place.
Swail (IRL) finished fourth Sunday, but he ended the NAL season as points leader with 74 points, having won three World Cup events at Vancouver (CAN), Sacramento (USA) and Fort Worth (USA). Tiffany Foster (CAN) finished second with 59 points, with Natalie Dean (USA) third on 41 points.
Ocala competitors Coyle, Holloway, Rowan Willis (AUS), Kristen Vanderveen (USA), Margie Engle (USA) and Schuyler Riley (USA) also punched their tickets to Leipzig. The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final is set for April 6-10, 2022.
Complete results of the World Cup class HERE.
Complete Live Oak International results HERE.
~ with files from Live Oak International and Catie Staszak