OCALA, (JRPR) – “I strive for personal best each and every time I enter the arena,” says driving competitor Suzy Stafford. At the Live Oak International CDE competition on March 19-23 2014, Stafford showed that her personal best is winning first place. She and her mare PVF Peace Of Mind (who Stafford calls “Hunny”) won the FEI Single Horse division despite tough competition.
Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Delaware is no stranger to success in driving competitions. She won at last year’s Live Oak International CDE, and placed second by less than a full point this February in the Advanced Single Horse division of the Kingdom of the Sun CDE. Stafford and Hunny won the title of USEF Morgan National Carriage Champion in 2013, and Stafford was recently named to her tenth USEF Long List since 2000.
Stafford was not always solely devoted to driving; she was very involved with dressage and combined training until a leg injury prevented her from being able to ride again. Not to be deterred, Stafford transferred her love of competing with horses to the sport of driving. As she showed at Live Oak this month, driving proved to be a perfect match for her.
The Live Oak International CDE took off to a good start for Stafford— winning the driving dressage portion of the competition. Stafford commented “Hunny is strongest in the dressage phase. She is such a wonderful mover and loves the center stage. I have owned her since she was three, and have brought her along carefully to ensure good training would showcase her natural ability.”
The driving dressage put Stafford in first place in her division (the FEI Single Horse division) by three points, and the marathon class added another three points to her lead although the pair placed second in the class. “Marathon is still a work in progress for us. I was not as clean and smooth as I was hoping for. This mare has such a huge stride sometimes it is hard to manage in the tight obstacles. This will be our homework for the next few months.” Stafford determined.
The final round was cones, where with a ball down and a few time penalties Stafford came close to placing second overall. With a .67 point lead though, she claimed the title of champion in the FEI Single Horse division. Stafford joked “How boring would it have been if I won by 6 points. I wanted to add intrigue and nail biting suspense for the spectators…” On a more serious note, she added “I was not impressed with my cones round. Luckily it was enough to keep the others at bay.”
Overall, Stafford was happy with the performance she and Hunny gave. “This mare is truly one of a kind. It was like she was built specifically for this sport. Athletic, powerful, beautiful mover, and a super working attitude.” She complemented her seven-year-old Morgan. What’s next for Stafford? “My plan is to make the World Singles Team held in Hungary at the end of September. Next up is Southern Pines, the Single Horse National Championship.”