Another Successful Lexington Combined Driving Classic
RELEASE: October 7, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Jennifer Singleton
The second annual Lexington Combined Driving Classic, held October 2–5 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, was a resounding success. Out of the initial pool of 70 competitors, 15 received blue ribbons in their divisions.
Competitors arrived from as close-in as Lexington, Paris, and Cynthiana, KY; from as far away as Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Canada, Texas, and Colorado; and from everywhere in between.
Over two full days, the drivers performed their dressage tests in front of three FEI-level judges: Diana Brownlie of Great Britain, Klaus Christ of Germany, and Martha Nicoll of the U.S.
Among the preliminary-level drivers, Janelle Marshall of Williston, SC, and her five-year-old Connemara pony, Cap’t Jack Sparrow, received the best dressage score: 45.78 penalty points. Several of the intermediate-level drivers received dressage scores in the mid-40s, but of those three, Kimberly Stover of Smyrna, DE, and her seven-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred-cross, Laughlin, received the lowest score: 44.44 penalty points. At the advanced (FEI)-level, Larry Poulin of Petersham, MA, also an accomplished dressage rider at the FEI level, drove Natasha Grigg’s pair of gray Warmbloods to a score of 45.65 penalty points. For his efforts, Poulin was awarded a special ribbon for having achieved the best FEI dressage score in the competition.
Saturday’s marathon phase witnessed the elimination or retirement of 17 competitors. As several of the drivers noted later, and as could be seen at the time by the spectacular clouds of dust being kicked up by flying hooves and carriage wheels, the ground was quite hard because of drought conditions in central Kentucky this summer. Some drivers were eliminated because they inadvertently turned left out of the water obstacle instead of turning right, thereby missing a portion of the track and a mandatory gate. One competitor’s pony fell down in obstacle #4 and then got its hoof stuck. By the time the pony’s foot was unstuck and he stood back up and was ready to go, the maximum time allowed had run out. Some drivers just had moments of bad luck—equipment failures, broken shafts, etc.—that kept them from continuing on course.
When asked later for his thoughts on the marathon course (designed by Richard Nicoll), Rae Fischer of Listowel, Ontario, Canada, said that he thought the very first obstacle on the marathon was quite a challenge—“really technical and tight”—but that, of course, it was the same for everybody. By the end of the weekend, Fischer had won the intermediate horse pair division. When Fischer received his ribbon, announcer Geoff Morgan, a fellow Canadian, reminded him that although blue may signify second place in Canada, here it means you’re first.
The winners of the single-horse and single-pony divisions at the FEI level are no strangers to international competition. Donna Crookston of Saltsburg, PA, and her twelve-year-old Morgan, RG Cowboy’s Black Cadillac, were on the U.S. team at this year’s FEI World Singles Driving Championship in Poland. Suzy Stafford of Bear, DE, who competed in Lexington with Bev Lesher and David Forney’s 11-year-old Morgan, Courage to Lead, also competed at the 2005 FEI World Pony Driving Championships in England. At that event, she won an Individual Gold medal with the now-famous pony Bouncer, who has since modeled for Breyer.
In the FEI horse pair division, Poulin was in the lead by less than a single point going into the cones phase. But in the end, he had too many penalty points in cones and ended up in second place behind Keady Cadwell of Southern Pines, NC. After traveling 17 hours from Massachusetts and competing at the Kentucky Horse Park for the first time, Poulin’s view of the event is that it “doesn’t get any better than this.” To back up his claim, he cited the lovely surface in the dressage and cones arena (a polo field on most days), the large amo