Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Aiken International

Horsemen who train in Aiken are doing quite a bit of traveling these days, and will be doing more in the near future. This spring, Shawna Harding, whose base of operations is Aiken, was selected as one of three riders to represent the U.S. at the World Cup Dressage finals in Leipzig, Germany at the end of April. After that competition, she stayed on in Europe to continue competing, giving her two mounts, Come On III and Rigo, valuable experience and exposure on the international circuit.  Come On III is a stunning 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood that Shawna has owned and campaigned since he was a youngster, while Rigo is a10-year old Hanoverian gelding owned by Tonya Rowe.

Earlier this year, Shawna won the $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize which helped fund her trip overseas. Other fundraisers included an auction of 30 bags of feed donated by Charlie Herrick, owner of Banks Mill Feeds. Shawna will be showing in Germany, Austria and Italy before returning to the states.

This summer, a number of Aiken-based combined driving competitors will also descend on Europe. In August, Jennifer Matheson, Suzy Stafford, Wendy O'Brien and Shelly Temple will be transporting their ponies and vehicles to Germany to train with the U.S. driving coach Michael Freund before traveling to Lipica, Slovenia to represent the United States in the FÇdÇration Equestre Internationale World Pony Driving Championships. There, they will be joined by another Aiken based driver, Janelle Marshall, who will represent Australia, her native country. The World Pony Championships take place from September 21-25.

The FEI World Pair Driving Championships (for horses) will be held in Conty, France from August 24-28. Aiken will also have a representative in that event: Joe Yoder, a recent Aiken transplant, will be driving a pair of Gelderlander geldings owned by Jack Wetzel and trained by Vance Coulthard, both well-established Aiken horsemen. Jack's Gelderlanders started out as a four-in-hand of carriage driving horses, and were a familiar sight leading Aiken's many carriage parades. Just about two years ago, they entered their first combined driving event with Bill Long, a veteran competitor, acting as whip, and last fall, competed in the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. This winter, Joe Yoder took the reins, driving them to the top of the standings in numerous pair competitions on the national circuit. In March, Joe and Wetzel's pair won the United States Equestrian Federation's National Pairs Championship.

Wetzel's team will fly to Germany to train with Michael Freund in early July. They will probably enter some warm-up competitions before taking on the world in France. 

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