Friday, May. 31, 2024

Weber Wins Four-In-Hand Title At The Laurels At Landhope

It’s a record-setting fifth national title for the driver.


Chester Weber admitted he knew halfway through the cones course at The Laurels at Landhope CDE that he was on his way to his fifth, and record-setting, USEF National Four-In-Hand Championship.
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It’s a record-setting fifth national title for the driver.

Chester Weber admitted he knew halfway through the cones course at The Laurels at Landhope CDE that he was on his way to his fifth, and record-setting, USEF National Four-In-Hand Championship.

“I knew I had it locked. I knew I could have hit eight balls and still won,” said Weber, who was 23.24 points ahead of his nearest rival and eventual reserve champion, James Fairclough, at the Sept. 7-9 driving show in West Grove, Pa.

Clutching the Vanderbilt Cup, which goes to the winner of the national team championship, he said, “I know there are people with their names on it more than once but none like me, five times in a row.”

Despite his win, “I was a little disappointed in my cones performance. My focus needs to be better. There wasn’t a whole lot of pressure—pressure does make me focus better,” said Weber. He knocked down two balls and garnered only 6 penalty points.

Since last year’s championship, Weber has added two new horses, Para, who was right wheel in dressage and the left wheel on the marathon, and Boy, right lead in marathon and cones. He also brought back Senate, who sustained a tendon injury at last year’s World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, and who was in the right lead in dressage and the right wheel in cones.

At the 2006 WEG, Weber was standing seventh individually going into the cones phase, but went off course in the cones and was eliminated.

The heat index soared on marathon day, so the organizers added 2 minutes to the time for the walk section, 5 more minutes to the vet check and eliminated one advanced hazard on the side of a hill.

“There isn’t a lot you can do about the weather but be sure your horses have enough electrolytes and water in these extreme heat conditions,” said Weber, who works his horses in the early morning hours at his Live Oak Farm, the Ocala, Fla., site of next year’s national team championship.

Weber trains with legendary German driver, Michael Freund. But after last year’s WEG, where he dropped from first individually to seventh after the marathon, he decided he needed to concentrate more on his marathon. He began working last November with Koos De Ronde, a specialist in that phase who won the marathon at the World Equestrian Games at Aachen.

“I think the training with Koos paid off,” said Weber, who had the Dutch man ride with him on the marathon. “Two of my goals this year were to be the national team champion and to take the FEI North American Driving Challenge, which I have won at least three times. I actually think I have sealed that up since I have three wins at three [FEI] shows.”

Just When It Counts

Scott Monroe of Sharon, Conn., and his Bethesda After Dark’s repeat victory (126.03) in the advanced single horse division was their third advanced win of the 2007 season in as many shows.

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After taking the blue ribbon at the Garden State (N.J.) show in the spring, he added The Laurels and the upcoming Gladstone CAI-B (N.J.) to his itinerary “mainly because I love the sport, but the calculating side of it is we are getting ready for Fair Hill [Md.] International where the national advanced single horse championship will be contested,” Monroe said.

Beyond that lies the 2008 World Single Horse Championships in Poland, a goal for Monroe. He and Bethesda After Dark were on the U.S. squad that competed at the 2004 finals in Sweden where he was the highest-placed American and 12th individually. He also competed in the 2006 finals in Rome, Italy.

“Shadow” is 14 and fitter now than ever. Monroe has owned the 15.1-hand Morgan for 11 years and respects his partner. “Four or five shows a year are plenty for him. There are only so many miles in those legs,” he said.

Monroe does not travel to the southern circuit in the winter because he has to run his Monroe Tree Company, which cares for ornamental trees. “There’s enough work there to pay for my horsey habits,” he said with a laugh.

When competitions in the Northeast conclude, he rides Shadow and has played Santa Claus with him. “We found a flashing red nose light we put on his nose. We hooked him to a sleigh to go to a neighbor’s house and give presents to the children,” Monroe said.

What started with a birthday gift of driving lessons became the springboard for Newt Brosius’ combined driving career. Brosius, who is the treasurer of the Brandywine Valley Driving Club, has moved around the country, but came back to his family’s Chester County farmstead, 1⁄4 of a mile from the Laurels, which is run on part of his old family farm.

Brosius, who won the preliminary pair horse class at last year’s Laurels and this year’s spring Gladstone CDE, took the intermediate pair horse class this year (158.27) with his pair of 15.1-hand, 7-year-old, bay Morgan geldings, Joker and Rowdy. The Avondale, Pa., man got them two years ago from someone who bought them from their Amish breeder.

“I moved up, doing a couple of intermediates, but I have been struggling lately, working with them as a pair,” said Brosius, 62. “These guys are not well matched in their gaits, so I bought Rowdy’s brother, Stevie, as a 5-year-old in December” to replace Joker, said Brosius. “I am anxious to step back down to training and start with Rowdy and Stevie as a new pair.”

Brosius worked in the insurance business for 30 years and then retired to operate a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont seven years ago. He started driving when the Brosiuses got their first horse, a Vermont-bred Lippitt Morgan mare, 20 years ago. His wife, Gini, gave him some driving lessons from Lisa Singer for a birthday present. A recreational driver for 15 years, Brosius turned over a new leaf when he began competing in CDEs three years ago.

Veterans With Goals

Already a 2005 World Pony Driving Championship veteran for her homeland of Canada, Jennifer Matheson has the 2009 World Pony Driving Championships definitely in mind for herself and her Dannyloo. They’re well on their way as winners of the advanced single pony class after they were the only duo of 20 advanced drivers to have a double-clear round in cones.

Now an American who was an alternate to the U.S. team at the 2007 World Pony Driving Championships, she also would like to garner the national advanced single pony title.

The Aiken, S.C., resident searched for two years for an advanced-level pony when she saw and bought the dark chestnut, 10-year-old German Riding pony stallion four years ago after he won the gold medal at the 2003 World Pony Finals in Austria. “He was absolutely outstanding. And as soon as I saw him, I knew he was for me,” said Matheson.

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Mathseon, 47, grew up in the Montreal-Toronto area and met Bill, her husband, who was a polo player, at a bridge card game while they were in Florida. She now manages Katy Did Farm, owned by her mother-in-law, Katrina Becker. It is a private driving facility and home to two breeding programs, one for warmbloods and the other for ponies.

She started driving by acting as navigator for her mother-in-law, who drove a horse. When Matheson decided to takes up the reins herself, she chose ponies. At the same time Matheson’s daughter lost interest in her ponies, so Matheson broke them to drive.

Although her husband no longer plays competitive polo, after 17 years of marriage, “He tolerates me going off twice a year for an extended period of time, doing the northern circuit,” said the mother of three teenagers.

A “pony on a rope” could have been the genesis of Alan Aulson’s driving career. The Aulson children asked their father if they could have a pony they saw tied in a yard near the Aulson’s Great Rock Farm in Georgetown, Mass. He told them “there will be no pony in this house because I would have to take care of it.”

As a youth growing up in the city, Aulson had worked at area barns to pay for a chance to ride horses for free and he did not want a replay of that scenario.

But one day when he came home from running his construction company, his three children greeted him with the question of “guess what we got?” His wife of 32 years, Maureen, had relented, getting “the pony on a rope” for their then-5-year-old daughter, Michelle.

When their children got out of college and showing, “We decided to do it for ourselves,” recalled Aulson, 59, who was the advanced pair horse winner (134.41).

Aulson and his wife, who acts as his navigator when friend Greg Anthony can’t, started driving at CDEs eight years ago and bought their first Morgan horse, Meddo’s Chief George.

The president of his own construction company, Aulson built Black Prong Equestrian Center in Bronson, Fla. Intended to be a private training facility, it has since grown into the site of CDEs and is the base for some drivers wintering in Florida.

Chief, now 16, was joined five years ago by two Iowa-breds, Nordby’s Coal Duke, 9, and Nordby’s Coalie Coal Dust, 12, all black geldings which Aulson used at The Laurels.

He and his Morgans were chosen as alternates for the U.S. squad at the 2005 World Pairs Championship in Austria and drove in the Salzburg show as well as some other European shows. He was also an alternate for the 2007 World Championships and won the national pairs horse championship. After the Laurels, he planned to head to the Fair Hill International CDE to defend his title.

While they were at The Laurels, their oldest daughter, Michelle, was at the Morgan Worlds Championship, showing some of the family’s young Morgans. She took the world classic pleasure driving title twice in a row there and was classic reserve world champion under saddle with Whispering Rhythm and Blues. Their other daughter, Tricia, scores at shows.

Nancy Degutis

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