Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Weber Takes Sixth Consecutive National Title At Live Oak

He tops the four-in-hand division on his home turf in Florida.

Adding another title to an already impressive list, Chester Weber made driving history by winning the USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship for the sixth consecutive time at the Budweiser Live Oak CAI-A in Ocala, Fla., March 27-30.
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He tops the four-in-hand division on his home turf in Florida.

Adding another title to an already impressive list, Chester Weber made driving history by winning the USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship for the sixth consecutive time at the Budweiser Live Oak CAI-A in Ocala, Fla., March 27-30.

Only Tucker Johnson has won this championship as many times, but not in consecutive years. It has been just a few months since Weber won his fifth title at The Laurels (Pa.), last September.

Although the championships come early in the season this year, drivers who will be competing in World Championships during the summer and early fall appreciate having the national championships in the spring.

“It’s hard to get fired up when [the national championship] is right after coming home from Europe,” said Weber.

Weber started by taking a 20-point dressage lead over James Fairclough. Despite distractions from hosting the event on his family’s Live Oak Plantation and managing the barn of his friend Darren Chiacchia, an eventer seriously injured from a fall the previous week, Weber still managed to focus on his performance.

Fairclough narrowly edged out Weber on the marathon, but it didn’t narrow the gap enough to create much tension going into cones in the two-entry class.

Graburn Gets It Done

Sterling Graburn and Dante came from behind in an exciting finish to win their first USEF National Singles Championship.

With a ninth place in dressage (scoring 69.89), Graburn needed a strong marathon to move up in the ranks, and he managed to win the marathon, putting him in second place going into cones. His partner, Wendy Ying, who placed eighth in dressage and was second in the marathon, went into the final phase with a sliver of a lead (1.28 points) ahead of Graburn.

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Graburn posted a double-clear cones round, with an amazing time of 2:55.15 on a time allowed of 2:58. It was one of the few fault-free rounds on a course that had two multiples and required three trips over a wooden bridge in the center of an island of azaleas.

Live Oak Tidbits

  • Current 2006 World Disabled Champion Single Horse Driver Diane Kastama brought her Welsh Cob Jasper to Live Oak to test her skill against some of the best U.S. singles drivers and finished 10th in the championship division.
  • Veteran driver Lisa Singer entered the intermediate division to introduce a new, young horse to her team. Singer’s new horse Tilba, a mare, chose the Live Oak weekend to come into season and decided that she did not wish to be touched with the whip, so in Singer’s words, she was driving a “wet noodle.” Still, Singer was pleased with her performance and went on to win the division.
  • Although Miranda Cadwell won the FEI single pony class, 18-year-old Samantha Orem managed to edge out Cadwell to win the marathon. Driving Admiral John, a 12-year-old Haflinger gelding, Orem felt it quite an accomplishment to beat a World Champion driver, and she finished second overall.

Not to be outdriven, Ying started the course like a bullet. But after her horse Duke slipped badly on the bridge, going completely down on his belly, Ying slowed the pace for the next several sets of cones to make sure Duke was not hurt. Satisfied he could continue, they turned on the afterburners and finished with a time of 2:52.40.

But when she knocked off the ball on the right cone of set 20, she had to settle for second. Ying and Graburn were happy to have the champion and reserve all in the family.

The couple, who train together in Bonifay, Fla., continually challenge each other to drive faster and better, and they have encouraged all the singles drivers to work together to strengthen their performances for the ultimate goal: the World Championships.

Double Cadwell Wins

The five-man jury awarded Larry Poulin, who drove Natasha Grigg’s pair, Rivage and Wiley, the best dressage score—a 44.67—in the FEI divisions.

But Keady Cadwell, who finished second in the dressage in the FEI pair class, took home the overall title over Poulin and David Saunders.

Pleased with her marathon, Cadwell, of Southern Pines, N.C., said her KWPN horses were “very accurate.” New to her team was Adrian, a Dutch Warmblood recently purchased from Chester Weber.

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Keady’s sister, reigning World Pair Pony Champion Miranda Cadwell, drove her new pony Kabaam to victory in the FEI single pony class.

Formerly competed in ridden dressage competition, Kabaam was at home in the Live Oak arena. “Actually, he likes to show off for people, ‘Look, I’m in the ring!’ ” said Miranda.

The grin on her face throughout the marathon showed Miranda was equally pleased with her pony.

Blazing Fast Ponies

Following the FEI Code of Conduct, which demands that the welfare of the horse “must take precedence over all other demands” the jury added 2 minutes to Section D, a 1,000-meter walk, and 1 minute to the vet box for the FEI division as the temperature and humidity increased throughout the day.

Allison Stroud, winner of the FEI team pony division, was impressed with the decision. “It was a tremendous benefit for everybody,” said Stroud.

Stroud’s gray Connemaras won four of the seven marathon obstacles, including the infamous Gulch, and the technical and difficult last obstacle, Martin’s Maze, which all the marathon winners agreed was a “bugger.”

“My ponies are typically very quick on the marathon,” said Stroud, of West Grove, Pa. “The course was very flowing and open, and they were happy to get on with it.”

Ann L. Pringle

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