Articles: Horse News
Weber Makes it Record Eight in a Row; Groves Holds on to Singles Title at
the 2010 USEF National Driving Championships at Live Oak International
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2010
By Joanie Morris
Ocala, FL - With impending storms looming, the fourth and final day of the
Live Oak International presented by US Trust featured a difficult cones
phase and clear rounds were hard to find. But the best drivers in the US
prevailed and two USEF National Champions were crowned based on their
incredible three phase performances.
A massive storm held off until the final few drivers, and then the weather
deteriorated quickly. Chester Weber and Jimmy Fairclough had the option to
wait out the weather, but as they were warmed up and ready, they both
decided to drive. The weather got worse so their choice proved wise as the
Organizing Committee ended up being forced to cancel the final two classes
of the afternoon.
Weber's road to his record eighth USEF National Four-in-Hand wasn't without
incident; he used all of his experience to get out of a difficult situation
at one of the hazards in Saturday's marathon, the only blemish on another
fantastic performance. He then had the only double clear round in the Cones
so his final phase in the pouring rain was remarkable.
"Yesterday's problem made it hugely obvious to see that nothing is for
sure," said Weber about breaking a record he set in 2009 for the number of
national championship wins.
Weber used the opportunity to put two of his pairs together, but it was the
first time he had driven all four in the cones as one team.
"I drove Grumus and Para in the wheel and Horace and Boy in the lead," said
Weber. "The first time I ever drove them in the cones was about an hour
before they went in the ring."
The gamble proved not to be one, and Weber hopes that the dynamic foursome
will be his cones team for WEG.
"My plan has always been to drive them together, but that was a little
nerve-wracking," said Weber after a phenomenal performance.
A steely veteran of the sport, Weber has had a lock on the National title
for the better part of a decade. He is also the reigning Individual Silver
medalist from the 2008 FEI World Driving Championship and, like the rest of
the four-in-hand world, has his focus firmly set on the 2010 Alltech FEI
World Equestrian Games (WEG).
Despite having won eight straight titles, winning on his family's Live Oak
Stud is special but it is not easy.
"It's really nice, there are a lot of local people who have watched my
drive, they see me driving up and down the road and at the local shows. It's
a great community event," said Weber. "But it is a lot of work; I think it's
a little confusing for the horses. The rest of your life doesn't stop."
Jimmy Fairclough wasn't going to let Weber take the honors without a
fight. Fairclough won the marathon and got within 12 points of
Weber. Driving Jane Clark's team, Fairclough had an unfortunate incident in
His leaders spooked at the bridge and then slipped badly into the other
horse. It then pushed the wheelers into the corner of the bridge and got the
railing caught in the carriage, his horses handled it professionally and
stood stone still while they freed the carriage. He had 10 seconds added to
his time for the repair but then finished his round without further incident
and finished only a couple of seconds slow.
"I came around the turn a little fast," said Fairclough. "The leaders looked
at the bridge and one went to go and slipped and fell right into the other
horse. The rest was really good, after that I was only a couple of seconds
Fairclough also has planned his season around this autumn's WEG and was
driving a brand new pair of leaders this weekend.
Leased from Keady Cadwell, Uniek and Splash proved their mettle this weekend
in all three phases.
"I would rather have it happen here than at WEG," said Fairclough. "This was
good except for what happened. That spot was really slippery."
Robin Groves hung on to her spot in the USEF National Single Horse Driving
Championship and took the top honors with Thors Toy Truck after a brave
driving effort in the Cones section topped off a very professional effort
over the three phases.
"It's been a wonderful weekend," said Groves. "I was a little disappointed
with the dressage but I was happy with the score. The rest was everything I
could ask for."
Groves (Brownsville, VT) was third after the dressage phase, and rocketed to
the top after a stellar marathon phase on Saturday and then had one ball
down in the Cones. Her three phase score of 139.72 left her with an
incredibly narrow lead over Leslie Berndl.
"I had some nerves about two hours before I went when I was out grazing my
horse," said Groves. "But I got rid of them; I am kind of cold-blooded that
Bred by Lana DuPont who gave the 15-year-old veteran to Groves last year,
Thors Toy Truck is a total professional - the Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding
was focused and attentive throughout the cones.
"He's a tough little character," said Groves. "He is actually the nephew of
Kim (Stover's) horse."
Thors Toy Truck was runner-up in 2009, and he won the National Championship
in 2007. Groves hopes for a spot on the FEI World Single Driving
Championship team in Patroni, Italy in the late summer, but will head to
Southern Pines CDE in two weeks and then on to Garden State to keep
polishing her performance.
"It was a really good day," said Groves. "Always there's luck too, it can be
your moment and then something changes."
Berndl won the dressage phase with Fritz Grupe's Uminco on Thursday, and
'Travis' was the 2009 National Champion with Grupe. He recently handed the
reins to Berndl and the pair has quickly forged a strong
partnership. Despite picking up a few extra penalties on the marathon they
drove a stellar cones round to add nothing to their score and finish on
140.11 for the three phases.
Brendl has practically doubled her time driving Travis since the competition
began. She had driven him five times before Thursday's dressage phase.
"He's a great horse," said Berndl after her dressage test. "He's really
Kim Stover kept her third place spot in the overall standings with a
consistent performance in a very competitive division all weekend. She won
the marathon to climb back after the first phase. Laughlin is only nine
years old and although he too was somewhat spooky at the bridge, Stover was
proud of how he handled the atmosphere and had one time fault.
"My mission was to go double clean," said Stover. "I was one second over the
time - he didn't like the bridge, but he got over it. He's still young and
he's half thoroughbred so with this crowd I had a lot of horse in front of
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