Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 30
For most riders, competing in one discipline is more than enough of a time commitment. Maybe an event rider will go to a dressage or jumper show as a schooling exercise, but for the most part riders tend to stick to one discipline.
Carrie Wehle takes cross-training to the next level.
Not only is she an event trainer, but she regularly competes in Grand Prix dressage with Aconto and has competed in combined driving with a number of horses. According to Wehle, who hails from Rochester, New York, the additional sports were a bit of an accident.
“We live in upstate New York, so there’s three months to do whatever you want to do, and you could do four competitions a weekend if you could be in four different places at once, but you can’t,” she said. “And then we winter in Aiken [South Carolina] and really focus on dressage, and so that’s been great. It’s been a ton of fun. It keeps me off the streets, you know!”
Combined driving found its way into Wehle’s life several years ago. One of her clients came to her looking to sell her daughter’s Haflinger pony. Since Wehle’s sister was expecting, and “every kid needs a pony,” Wehle purchased the pony. He came with a cart and harness, so Wehle figured why not, especially since the famed Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition was in nearby Pittsford, New York.
“It’s sort of like starting your eventing career at Rolex,” she said. “My first show for driving was Walnut Hill. I was a Volkswagen at a Ferrari show, but he did, and he went out, and he was second [in the marathon], which was super cool.”
She then got a Dutch Harness Horse to drive, and after she sold him, she found herself itching to get back at it, so she trained her off-the-track Thoroughbred Foghorn J. Leghorn (who has also done eventing, dressage, timber racing, foxhunting and more recently a side-saddle competition) to drive. She now has a Friesian cross for that discipline.
Dressage was another sport that Wehle fell into because the circumstances were right.
“I had a really naughty Thoroughbred [Foghorn J. Leghorn] that I completed my bronze medal on by accident, and I was like, ‘OK that’s done, so I have to move up to fourth level.’ And got two scores for my silver and then moved him up to [Prix St. Georges],” she said.
She’d recently sold her Dutch Harness horse when Aconto became available.
“I kind of said, ‘OK, it would be cool to finish my gold medal,’ so I bought him and finished my gold on him, and I’ve done 31 Grand Prixs on him,” she said. “It’s so much harder than you could ever, ever imagine, but it’s been a real learning experience.”
She’s used that experience to help her with Amy Winnen’s Edelmann, who sat second after dressage in the Bates preliminary rider division at the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships. A pair of rails in show jumping dropped the 12-year-old Polish Warmblood (El Bundy—Soja) to third on a 37.9.
“He’s a phenomenal jumper,” Wehle said. “He’s pretty fit, and he ran his little heart out [on cross-country]. He was still a second slow, but he put everything he had into it. This was a horse that when I first got him, he didn’t do water, and now he’s into the water—he never looks at it twice; he’s into the water, into anything. He understands the technicalities, understands everything. Just super game and super honest and just a cool horse.”
Though Wehle plans to continue to make eventing “Eddie’s” main focus, the pair does dabble in fourth level dressage.
“Shawna [Harding, who helps me in dressage,] got on my case a bit with this horse and said, ‘This needs to be your next Grand Prix horse,’ and I said, ‘No, I’ll keep doing the dressage, but as long as he can jump [I’ll stay eventing].’ And she was funny; she watched the live feed yesterday, and she said, ‘Wow that was kind of impressive,’ and I sent her a text back, and I said, ‘Now do you see why I don’t want to do just dressage on him?’ ”
And while Wehle enjoys being a jack-of-all-trades, eventing will always be her main focus.
“I’m an eventer at heart,” she said. “The dressage is super challenging; I had no idea, and how different it is.”
The Chronicle is on-site at the USEA American Eventing Championships bringing you coverage and beautiful photos from the competition. If you know a pair with a unique story, email Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ride times and live scoring are here: https://eventing.startboxscoring.com/eventsr/aec/ht0819/
The schedule is available here: https://useventing.com/events-competitions/aec/aec-schedule-of-events