Tracey Morgan of Beallsville is no stranger to World Championships, having competed in four with her pair of Dartmoor ponies before competing in single ponies with Fuego 88. This past summer, Morgan and Fuego headed to Europe for their third World Championships together, making the competition the seventh for the now 61-year-old Morgan. “That is one of the things I like so much about combined driving,” Morgan said, “it doesn’t matter how old you are. You can still be competing internationally at my age!”
Morgan has been around horses most her life and was an avid three-day event rider in her youth. She also competed in classical dressage, earning her USDF Bronze and Silver Medals. “I got invited by a friend to take a ride on her carriage and that was it, I was hooked!” explained Morgan when asked how she got into combined driving. That was 25 years and several national and international medals ago.
Morgan looked at Fuego, a German Riding Pony gelding, for a client but decided he was too green for that person and bought him for herself instead. Since then, the have been the USEF National Single Pony champions three times. Now 16 years old, Fuego traveled to Germany for his third World Championship. “Being selected for a team is just like any other USEF sport. You have to earn qualifying scores and win a spot on the team,” Morgan explained. Morgan and Fuego won the CAI2*-P1 divisions at the Palm Tree Combined Driving Event CDE at Little Everglades and the Live Oak International earlier this year.
This year, however, the US only sent individual drivers to the World Championships, as they did not have any 4-In-Hand drivers qualify. Morgan was one of two single pony drivers that went to the Worlds along with one pony pairs driver. “There were 99 competitors from all around the world that competed this year,” Morgan stated adding, “and 420 ponies on the grounds!”
And if one thought packing for a trip abroad is difficult for a person, imagine traveling with one pony, two carriages, several harnesses and all the other gear needed for a three phase competition. “Combined driving is very much like eventing, which is one of the reasons I like it so much,” she said. “You have dressage first, then the marathon, like cross-country, and finally cones, which is similar to show jumping.” Morgan said that the same carriage is used for the dressage and cones phase and a second more sturdy carriage for the marathon.
Morgan traveled with Fuego and a pallet of gear from JFK Airport in New York to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. From there, they competed at an FEI Combined Driving competition in Beekbergen, Netherlands, as prep, where they finished second in dressage and second overall. Next up was the FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies in Minden-Kutenhausen, Germany. “The crowds there are incredible! It is like Rolex [Kentucky] for driving,” she remarked. “The whole competition was big and busy.”
At the World Championships, Morgan and Fuego placed seventh in dressage and sixth in cones. Overall, they finished 16th out of 41 competitors.
Racing Through Mongolia
Pierre Germain of Upperco, a twenty-one year old economics major at Colorado College, spent part of his summer vacation in Mongolia participating in the famed Mongol Derby, in which 43 people from around the world set off to see who could cover a distance of 1020 km through the Mongolian steppes that fastest. Germain is the second Marylander to participate in this race, the first being Barbara Smith in 2014.
Germain found out about the Derby through an article in the Wallstreet Journal and since he did not have an internship lined up for the summer, decided to apply to compete in the Derby instead. “I did it because I wanted to prove that I could do something hard like this,” Germain said. “Plus it was a great way to see a different country.”
Part of the Derby application process is to explain why applicants want to participate, as well as answer several detailed questions about their riding background. Both of Germain’s parents rode as children in France, which is where he learned to ride when he was three years old. Germain’s riding education was a varied one that included vaulting, hunters, jumpers and dressage. Currently, when home on breaks, Germain trains in horsemanship with Barry Dornon at AOPF Stables in Upperco, the farm his mother runs.
After sending in his application and being interviewed over the phone, Germain was informed this past January that he had been accepted to race. From that point on, Germain started his Derby training. “I really focused a lot on fitness training as you must stay below 90kg (about 200 lbs) to race,” he explained. “I also booked my flights, bought the various gear I would need, and started fundraising for the Derby’s charity Cool Earth.”
Once in Mongolia, by way of Korea, Germain and other racers underwent pre-race training, which included a lot of information about logistics and rules. They also had a short ride to get used to the Mongol ponies. “We had to provide our own personal gear and GPS equipment. The organization that runs the Derby provided everything needed for the horses as well as the support staff,” he said. This support staff included veterinarians, medics, herders and various other race crew. “They all did a really great job keeping us safe and moving forward,” Germain said.
On the first race day, two riders fell right at the starting line and the horse Germain was set to ride took three people just to tack up and get him on. “The good thing was he was super fit and very fast!” But then, about 30km into his first leg, the pony went lame. “He just seemed to take a bad step like he rolled an ankle on a stone so I got off and walked him for a while. He looked fine again but as I started to get on, he just went wild.” Germain ended up being dragged for a short distance while trying to keep the pony with him by hanging onto the end of the lead rope before he got the pony to stop. On his second attempt to get on, the pony wheeled around and kicked him in the chin. “I let go and he ran off so I hit my ‘help’ button and medic and crew came and found me,” he said. Back at base camp, he got stitched up, got back on another horse and continued on his way.
“Day two saw hail, snow and rain all in one day,” he remembered. “It took me five hours to get to station three before I continued on after a short break.” The next few days were a blur until day six… “My first horse was a great fit horse that was super fast so there was no rating him for the first few miles.” Germain explained that at each check, vets took the horses’ vitals and would assign penalties if a horse came in too hot or too out of breath. “My second horse was very unfit and I had to get off several times and just lead him. It was like three hours of walking through the top of the Gobi Desert.”
His third horse of the day we better but very spooky and Germain could see a storm across the distant horizon. “I thought maybe I could beat the storm to the next station but turned around and had to head back,” he said. At some point, the horse spooked badly and bucked him off. “I hit my head pretty hard and even threw up, which clearly meant I had a concussion.” Rules state that riders cannot continue with any sort of head injury so Germain was pulled out of the race. “I was about 660 km into the race. It was disappointing but the medics said I wasn’t that bad off so I was able to join the ‘blood wagon’ with the others who were not continuing and go straight to the finish.” He went on to say it was really great experience to cheer on each person as they finished.
Although the Mongol Derby did not end the way Germain wanted, he was inspired to try again and hopes to participate in a future race.
Marylander Takes on Badminton
Savannah Fulton, of Full Moon Farm, headed over to England in September to compete in the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials aboard her Advanced horse Captain Jack. The pair completed their first four-star event in April at the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event here in the states. After an amazing cross-country run that moved the pair up to 36th place, Fulton withdrew Jack due to a cut he sustained on cross-country. In her own words after cross-country…
“A day I will remember forever. Jack is my little legend and to say I’m proud of him is the biggest understatement ever. At some point out there he acquired quite the cut on a hind leg, and at the recommendation of the great team of vets here, we are en route to a hospital to get him treated properly. We won’t be completing the event, but he took great care of me out there and now it’s time to take care of him.
“Of course, thanks doesn’t even begin to cover my gratitude for the immense support we felt in getting us here. Donations large and small from friends, family, sponsors, long time supporters and friendly strangers are what made it happen. Without every single one of these donation, none of this would’ve been possible.
“Completing cross-country today was easily the greatest accomplishment of my career thus far, and it was dependent on those who have been supporting me. Biggest of thanks to Karen and Steveo, the ridiculously amazing Grace, and to the best coach ever, Buck Davidson.”
As of September 13, Jack was still at the hospital in England. According to Karen Fulton, “he had a similar wound to six other horses at the competition. It was just a little too deep and ended up nicking the joint. They cleaned out the joint and put a standing cast to let the fetlock heel.” Jack was scheduled to have the cast removed on September 18, and the Fultons are hoping he can return to the States shortly after that.
Following Hounds in Ireland
Kate Doherty of Elkridge-Harford Hunt Pony Club in Monkton was selected by the U.S. Pony Club to be part of a four-person team from USPC as part of the Pony Club International Foxhunting Exchange. This year’s host country was Ireland. Doherty, a 24-year-old C3 spend two weeks in February touring and hunting on the eastern coast of Ireland along with pony clubbers from Ireland and England.
“This was my most proud achievement of my almost 20 year pony club career, most especially as it happened in my last year as an official pony clubber before I age out,” Doherty said. “Pony club taught me not just how to ride from the time I was five, but how to be a horseman first. It introduced me to foxhunting and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Ireland and ride!”
Doherty was able to hunt with Carlow Farmer’s Hunt in Borris, County Carlow, Louth Hunt Club from the Barmeath Castle and Island Hunt in Ballaghkeen, County Wexford. The group also had a private tour of the famed Coolmore Stud and attended a day of races at Punchestown Racecourse. “I hope that by sharing this story and a few photos of my incredible experience, that it may open the door for other young pony clubbers and horsemen curious about USPC,” Doherty added.