October 5, 2009 — It wasn’t easy, but Chester Weber never wavered and netted his seventh straight U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) National Four-in-Hand Driving Championship at the Kentucky Cup and Lexington Driving Classic October 4 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. This event served as the test event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Weber beat long time teammate Tucker Johnson (and another driver going for a record seven wins) by 10 points, but the rivalry challenged Weber all weekend.
“Tucker made me work really hard for this,” said the winner after adding 2.30 penalties in the cones.
Australian driver Boyd Excell proved he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2010 as he split the American pair in the overall standings with the team American Keady Cadwell hopes to drive next year.
Historically Weber finds the cones the most challenging of the three phases and felt the pressure Sunday, but he never flinched, even though he had a very fresh horse on his team for the finale.
Jamaica, the 2008 Farnam/USEF Horse of the Year is 18 this year and sat out the first two phases, a decision that meant for a good feeling left wheeler on Sunday.
“Jamaica was at the left wheel and was very difficult,” said Weber. “He must have been too fresh from not running the marathon. I guess that is what I get for trying to save an 18-year-old.”
An emotional Larry Poulin retired from the sport on a high note after he won the Pair Horse Championship field in an immaculate performance.
“I made it through the sport and finished on top,” said Poulin simply after his win. “It’s not all about me as it is about my horses. It has been five years for them to be here.”
Poulin comes from a family of prolific dressage riders and will return to the sport.
The 2009 National Championships also draws Suzy Stafford’s pony Courage to Lead’s career to a close. On the strength of an amazing marathon performance, they were 10 points clear of dressage winner Shelley Temple to win the Single Pony title.
“I wanted her to go out a champion,” said Stafford, a two-time individual medalist at the last two World Championships.
A new face won the Single Horse Championship, as Fritz Grupe maintained the lead he commanded on the first day despite the fact that his horse has only been driven as a single three times.
“It’s great to be here in Kentucky and to get a medal,” said Californian Grupe. “I was scheduled to be on a fishing trip in Alaska, but he was driving so well I decided to come. It is encouraging to know those of us from the West are competitive.”
Grupe won his championship by just over five points, making this the closest of all the FEI classes.
In the Pony Champs, Tracey Morgan and Lisa Stroud both extended their streaks, sweeping the Pairs and Team Championships, respectively. Both drivers won by comfortable margins.