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Sara Schmitt Wins USEF National Combined Driving Pony Championship





Sara Schmitt and High Country Doc


By Laurels at Landhope

(Reprinted with permission from USEF)

In a brilliant display of skill and finesse, Sara Schmitt, of Glen Gardner, NJ, drove her Morgan stallion, High Country Doc, to one of only a few clean and clear rounds in the cones phase at The Laurels at Landhope and her first national championship. The last in the order of go on Sunday, September 11, Schmitt had some wiggle room. Ahead by only four points under the new rules where a ball down is now a three-point penalty instead of five. This gave her a small margin of error, one that could easily have evaporated.

It was Schmitt’s first national championship and while she was thrilled, it was a bittersweet victory. “It was really exciting because it was mine and Doc’s last competition together,” said Schmitt, who recently sold him to a buyer in Ocala, FL. “I wanted to sell him at the top,” said Schmitt. “He’s done two World Championships with me. What else can I ask him to do? Now he can go teach someone else how to drive.”

Schmitt finished the dressage phase with 49.40, nine points behind Shelly Temple. Schmitt is a dressage rider and trainer and has regularly trumped all her competition in that phase, but not any more. “Lately, his strongest phases seem to be marathon and cones,” she said.

Shelly Temple of Powhaton, VA, who was first after dressage, lost ground to Schmitt on the marathon but was very happy with her Morgan, LR Ami B-Line, called Cooper. “This was a demanding competition for him, and he did really well.” She placed second and Susan Rogers of Proctorsville, VT, was third.

Tracey Morgan of Beallsville. MD, has been a national champion before but it hasn’t lost its luster. Only three drivers tried for the pairs title, but that didn’t bother her in the least. “I won it against the best drivers in the country,” said Morgan. “That means a lot.”

One of those was Miranda Cadwell of Southern Pines, NC, with her new pair of Section B Welsh cobs. “It’s only their second show with me,” said Cadwell. Finishing in third place was Paul Martin of Lancaster, PA, and his pair of German sport ponies.

Two drivers vied to win the four-in-hand class, Boots Wright of Southern Pines and Lisa Stroud of West Grove, PA. Wright led wire to wire to win her second national championship, the first in 2000. With only two in the class, it would not, until very recently, have qualified as a championship. That rule changed and, according to Wright, that’s a very good thing. “When you think of everything it takes to get to a competition, all the work and expense, it’s only fair that you have a chance to drive for a National Championship,” she said.

 

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