Lisa Singer was the home town hero at the Laurels at Landhope, Sept. 10-12 in Unionville, Pa., winning the national advanced pairs title for a record seventh time in front of friends and three generations of her family.
Sporting her tricolor, Singer, of Chadds Ford, Pa., smiled as she put her two grandchildren, 3-year-old Lain, and 2-year-old Asher, in the carriage beside her after the awards ceremony. “I feel cool. My mother is here today, my daughters and my grandkids too,” she said.
She admitted she was nervous prior to the tough cones course, however. “There was nowhere to canter, and it was really bumpy,” she said. “So I took a lot of tight turns and kept it going.”
Singer drove Mimi Thorington’s chestnut Morgan, Avalon Avant Guard or “Farm.” The 17-year-old has been with Singer at each of the national championships and five World Championships. He partnered with another chestnut Morgan, Lar Ami Bengali, or “Gali,” 8, for the marathon and the cones.
Singer also used the Morgan Count On Me, 10, in dressage.
A new dressage test for the advanced competitors elicited mixed reactions from Singer. “Let’s say at home it was great. Hereit was another story. It kind of looked a little choppy and [had] a lot of one-handed [work],” she said. At five times during the test, drivers are required to use only their left hand on the reins.
Hazard 6, a new element to the marathon, incorporated a ramp with a steep drop on the far side. “This was better than I thought, but Gali lost a shoe,” said Singer. “My horses were great going down, although they hesitated going up. I thought it was awesome that Larry [Poulin, reserve champion] didn’t use the bridge but went around it. But his horses are faster and more powerful than mine.”
Graburn Sets A Goal
Sterling Graburn, a Pennsylvania native who now lives in Florida, provedhe could overcome last-minute adversity to take the advanced single horse class. The victory also gave him the North American Advanced Singles Challenge title.
Quincey, a gray Belgian Warmblood, 11, and Graburn led from the dressage phase. Their only mishap on the marathon, which they won, was a pulled shoe in Hazard 5, a new water complex with a wooden bridge. However, the imported gelding gave Graburn some nerve-wracking moments in cones when he reared in one set of cones and swerved to miss another. The pair almost lost the blue ribbon, but despite their 30 penalties, they retained the lead.
“He can hold it together in dressage, but between the two of us, we get a little excited in cones. We don’t have time penalties, but sometimes we have a few balls lost,” said Graburn, the son of the late famed driver and trainer, Sally Graburn. “I started driving him single in November, and we made the long list [for last year’s World Championships]. But since we like to go bowling in cones, we didn’t make it.”
Graburn came to the Laurels with a purpose in mind. “I really wanted to go clean in cones here rather than make the time. Winning first place is nice, but I really wanted to see if I had this horse straightened out, and obviously we still have work to do in cones,” said Graburn, who is ranked 24th worldwide among singles drivers.
Bill Long of Southern Pines, N.C., has been working with a team of German and Dutch horses for 18 months, and that effort paid off with the advanced multiples win. “Now I will definitely try for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen [Germany],” he said.
His key to success was switching in his spare horse, Iwan, a 16.2-hand Dutch Warmblood. Long also used a new right leader, Duplo, on the marathon for the first time. “He was a little strong, but I was really pleased with him,” he said. “I put him in places where I am not sure he wanted to go, but he went for me.”
Long was the first advanced competitor to try the wooden ramp in the new water complex, and his horses didn’t hesitate. “I guess when everybody else saw me make it with a four, they thought they, too, could do it with a pair or single,” he said with a laugh.
After her win in the advanced single pony class, Suzy Stafford feels closer to her goal of making the World Championship pony team with Beverly Lesher’s Courage To Lead.
Stafford, 27, of Bear, Del., works as an assistant trainer to Singer, who had Lesher’s pony in for training.
“Lisa mentioned to Bev that if she wanted the pony to go to Bromont, Canada last year, I would compete her to get her some miles for experience at a bigger show,” said Stafford. “I did really well there with ‘Katie,’ and it sort of sparked Bev to ask me to drive her at another show.”
After the pair competed at Fair Hill (Md.), Lesher suggested they try to make the U.S. team. They are now long listed for the 2006 World Championships after winning at Live Oak (Fla.) and Bromont.
The former eventer posted the best marathon score of the advanced divisions.
“I couldn’t have done that without a great navigator, Claudia DeLorme, who has been with me for a few years,” said Stafford.
Lisa Stroud, who owns Landhope Farm, which hosted the event, won the advanced four-in-hand ponies with her gray Connemaras. Tracey Morgan of Bealsville, Md., hadn’t had her pair of Dartmoors out together in a year, but the twosome swept all three phases of the advanced pony pairs.
A New Passion
Bob Fetters followed up on a suggestion from his wife and daughter late in life to start combined driving. The marketing manager was thrilled to come in second in the preliminary pony singles, a ribbon that gave him the Doe Run Carriage Preliminary Driver Championship.
After struggling for two years with his previous pony, Fetters found Captain Crunch. “This award is for consistent competitors, which ‘Crunchie’ is. He had no breeding, is kind of tubby and short legged, and never saw a hill until he got here in Chester County,” said Fetters, of Unionville, Pa.
A longtime Pony Club father, Fetters helped his wife, a district commissioner for the Rosetree Pony Club, and his daughter, with horses and had been racing small sailboats for 20 years.
But that required athleticism. “Once you get older, you get worse and worse,” said Fetters, 65. The two women suggested he switch to driving, and he found Crunchie a year ago.
“He is very honest and has a big heart and was used by an advanced driver at the time,” said Fetters, who trains with Lisa Singer’s assistant, Suzy Stafford.
Fetters finished the series with a tally of 302.24. “For someone who learned to drive when they were older, it was great,” he said.