Derbyshire, England, July 21, 2005 -- When Suzy Stafford set out to compete in the 2005 FEI World Combined Pony Driving Championships, she didn't realize she was about to make history--as the first American driver ever to win an individual gold medal at the World Championships.
But the Bear, Del., native did just that, and was named the Individual Single Pony Gold Medalist at the Championships, which took place at Catton Park in Great Britain's Midlands from July 14-17. Stafford had only been driving the pony--Wayne and Sybil Humphries' nine-year-old Welsh Cob, Cefnoakpark Bouncer--for a few weeks.
"I'm still sort of shell-shocked," said Stafford. "I can't believe that it happened. I went into it just as another competition, and I drove the way that I usually drive. I gave 100 percent and this time it worked out!"
Stafford was originally selected to the U.S. team with Beverley Lescher's Morgan pony, Courage to Lead. But just days before the mare was due to be shipped, she pulled a muscle, rendering her unfit for competition. Bouncer was already in England and without a driver for the competition, so Stafford wrote to the Humphries and applied to the USEF for a substitution, in accordance with selection procedures. After all the arrangements were complete, Stafford made the trip to England, where she had little more than two weeks to bond with the pony before the World Championships.
The duo finished third in dressage. They followed this with a fifth in the marathon. These combined scores put them in first place overall before the final phase--the cones. Here, she had just more than a four penalty point lead over her closest rival. Running it close with three driving and 0.44 time penalties, Stafford and Bouncer claimed the victory.
Pony pairs driver Tracey Morgan of Beallsville, Md., was the highest-placed U.S. Pony Pairs competitor. Morgan finished eighth out of 24, with Gaylen Romeo, Lizwell Gambling Queen and Single Tree Tabitha Twitchit. Morgan was fifth in the dressage and 12th in the marathon on her way to her final placing.
Four-in-hand driver Esther "Boots" Wright of Southern Pines, N.C., was the highest-placed U.S. Pony Four-in-Hand competitor finishing 15th with her team of Welsh Cob ponies, Blunder, Charlie, Danny, Jack and Oak Prys.
Overall, the U.S. drivers placed fifth in the team competition, behind Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Austria. Their final score was 478.90.