Kathryn Barry drives the veteran to a wide margin of victory.
Some drivers might have hesitated to wear the number 13 while competing at the Metamora CDE, June 19-22 in Metamora, Mich. But it turned into a lucky number for Kathryn Barry as she steered the legendary Makuba to win the intermediate single pony division.
Makuba, an 18-year-old German Riding Pony, has proven himself not only in the competition arena but also as a sire who has shared his temperament, brain, and stunning good looks with countless offspring of mares of various breeds.
Klaus Biesenthal of Freeport, Ill., owns Makuba and drove him through the advanced level. Barry started to drive the stallion in competition last year. Prior to driving Makuba, Barry did a lot of dressage under saddle with him, taking him through the Intermediaire 1 level. Barry and Makuba showed off their skill by earning the best dressage score of all the intermediate divisions, 41.60, from judges Muffy Seaton and Tracey Morgan.
“I actually felt like it was a bit on the sluggish side,” said Barry. “He really wasn’t quite himself, but I was very happy with the consistency of it. He’s such a fantastic animal—I’m very lucky.”
Makuba showed that the old man still has what it takes on the marathon, winning four of the seven obstacles. “The marathon was a blast,” Barry exclaimed. “Personally, I would have liked to have driven it smoother, but the comments I got from other drivers were how smooth it looked.
“My goal was to be within the window of several of the other competitors. Debbie Schuster [who won the other three obstacles, with Barry second] is always good in the hazards, and I just wanted to be close to Debbie in the hazards.”
Barry was complimentary of the course and obstacles, designed by Metamora’s own Richard Pringle. “You had choices. Not everyone had to go the same way. You could choose ‘my horse goes better fast or my horse goes better with tight turns.’ My horse goes well with a combination of the two. If you go too fast, the steering goes out; if you’re too slow, he steers too fast. So to take an option of different turns made it a very smooth course for me.”
Barry had just one ball down in the cones—at obstacle No. 13—but maintained her lead. “Cones is my weak point with this horse, from years of him being driven so fast by Klaus, so I said ‘OK’ and cantered the cones. He steered great. I felt like I was able to make a lot of the decisions,” Barry said. Even with the faults, Barry finished more than 20 points ahead of Debbie Schuster.
“He is an all-around good pony. He’s so sane, and you can do anything you want with him,” Barry said of Makuba. Barbara Chapman, host of the Metamora CDE along with husband Frank Andrews on their Windrush Farm, drove animals sired by Makuba in the Metamora competition.
Peter Harding, of Inverary, Ont., Canada, was a first-timer at Metamora and went home with the win in the intermediate pair horse division.
With his pair of Cheval Canadians, Joe and Jumper, he earned the best dressage score of their career. “It just felt right,” said Harding. “We’ve been working very hard to get the boys to bend ever since we’ve gone to intermediate. We peaked at just the right time.”
When Harding decided to purchase a pair of horses, he went to Ferme des Berges in Quebec and asked to see 4-year-old geldings, upon which he was taken to a pasture with 300 head from which to choose. After selecting several, he returned after they had been green broken and made his final pick.
Harding’s only competition in the class was hometown favorite Gary Wasserman, who drove a flashy pair of Dutch Harness Horses in the event. Wasserman beat Harding on the marathon, but Harding’s lead of over 18 points kept him in first place heading into cones.
Doing well in dressage in order to build a comfortable cushion going into the marathon has been Harding’s strategy, and it paid off. “Touch wood, we’re consistent in the cones,” he said. That proved to be true as they managed to incur only 3 penalties for a ball down, while Wasserman incurred 17.98 faults for balls down and time penalties.
Anne Marie Anderson, another Ontario driver, took home the blue ribbon in the intermediate single horse class, beating fellow countryman Mike Gibbs. Driving Windyways Cassiopia, Anderson didn’t win any of the three phases, placing second in dressage and third in the marathon, but she stood first going into the cones phase and even with two balls down, retained her lead.
Two horse four-in-hands were entered in the intermediate division, always a crowd pleaser: Darryl Billing from Ontario and Casey Zubek of Illinois. Zubek kept the pressure on Billing, but Billing managed, by driving conservatively but accurately, to keep on top in all three phases.
Billing has been a regular competitor at Metamora, crossing the border for about 15 years. He started driving four-in-hands three years ago. Formerly a pair driver, he realized that they were always taking three horses to the shows and leaving one behind, and at home, he had two pairs to drive and keep fit, so it made sense to him to start driving them together.
“We had the harness and started doing it, and we enjoyed doing it,” he said. His horses are Dutch Warmbloods; the two black mares were previously Royal Canadian Mounted Police horses. Billing plans to move up to the advanced level as soon as his horses’ FEI passports are completed.
Metamora was a family affair for the Hamiltons, who made the long trek from south Florida to attend the event. Both mother Nifty and daughter Jan Jan drove in the preliminary single horse class, but as the announcer remarked “Mother knows best” as Nifty accepted the blue ribbon, while Jan Jan received the red.
Jan Jan has set her goal to win the American Driving Society’s Preliminary Championship. This is a “paper championship” where junior drivers submit their scores to the ADS without any actual head-to-head competition. The Hamiltons plan to spend their summer vacation competing at Midwest events. Heading from Metamora east to Bromont (Que.) , they’ll turn west again to Hickory Knoll (Wis.) and finally Illinois’ Iron Horse before heading back to Florida.
Ann L. Pringle