June 26, 2014–A team of three U.S. drivers and two individuals are set to take on the challenge at the 2014 FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships for Singles. Taking place at The Royal Estate in Sandringham, England, the championships will run from June 27-29. Virginia “Boo” Fitch, Bob Giles, and Diane Kastama will represent the U.S. in the team competition, while Mary Gray and Giles with a second horse will compete as individuals. Marie de Ronde will serve as Chef d’Equipe, and Sara Schmitt will serve as coach at the 2014 championships.
Fitch, a resident of Penhook, Va., previously competed in the hunter/jumper arena before she developed rheumatoid arthritis. With the help of a quiet school-horse and a friend, she began competing in driving as a Grade II competitor. Fitch will drive Kiko, her own 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, in her first World Championships. In 2012, she and Kiko were second in the Intermediate Single Pony division at the Pine Tree CDE.
Giles (Morriston, Fla.) is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient who lost 90% of his hearing, has a fused elbow, and has only partial use of his right hand as a result of combat. A Grade II competitor, Giles is a well-known trainer and clinician. In 2014, he racked up several top-10 results, highlighted by a seventh-place finish in the Preliminary Single Horse division at the Kingdom of the Sun CDE. At the championships, he will drive Koos de Ronde’s Solo on the team and de Ronde’s Olando as an individual. Solo is a 20-year-old gelding of unknown breeding, and Olando is an 18-year-old KWPN gelding.
Kastama, a resident of Arroyo Grande, Calif., became paralyzed from the waist down following a car crash in 1991. She is classified as a Grade I driver, but has competed against able-bodied drivers for many years. Kastama has competed at World Championships since 2000, earning Individual Gold (2006), Silver (2002), and Bronze (2008), as well as Team Silver (2008) and Bronze (2002). She will drive longtime partner Rupert, her own 18-year-old Welsh Cob gelding, in Sandringham. At the 2014 Vineyard Classic CDE, Kastama won the Advanced Single Horse division.
Grade II driver Gray (Brunswick, Maine) has represented the U.S. five times at the FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships for Singles. For the 2014 edition of the championship, she will drive Nick Hammond’s Leyeswick the Rooster, an eight-year-old Welsh gelding.
The FEI World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships for Singles will begin with the dressage phase on June 27, followed by the marathon phase on June 28. The medals will be decided on June 29, upon completion of the cones phase.
For more information about the championship, visit http://www.britishcarriagedriving.co.uk/sandringham/.
Follow the U.S. Para-Equestrian team here.