September 21, 2007 -- Chester Weber captured yet another USEF National Four-in-Hand Championship September 9, his fifth in a row. Yet, Weber, of Ocala, FLla. had some top-notch competition to challenge him as two previous five-time winners sought to win their sixth title. Both Tucker Johnson of Hobe Sound, Fla., and James Fairclough of Newton, N.J., have accomplished what Weber has done, but neither has had the reign that Weber has maintained over the past five years.
This year's driving championship took place September 7-9 at the Laurels at Landhope CDE in West Grove, Pa. All of the drivers in the advanced division traveled the same course, and only one driver made it through designer Jamie O'Rourke's cones course clean (Jennifer Matheson of Aiken, S.C., with her pony Dannyloo, who won the Advanced Single Pony division). Driving the combination of Rolex W, Boy W, Senate, Jamaica and Parava, Weber ended cones with two balls down and six points in penalties to end with a final score of 122.59, which was still far ahead of the competition.
The second and third spots were much closer. Fairclough won the reserve championship with a score of 145.83. Johnson was not far behind in third with 146.22.
The three drivers are no stranger to top competition. All three competed on Team USA at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, Germany.
The recently-married Weber was thrilled with this year's win, and the fact that he has become the first driver to ever win the event five times in a row.
"It was a big goal of mine for the whole year to break that sort of record, and I was able to do it handily," he said. "I think I have a really spectacular group of horses."
Weber was happy to be able to return Senate back to the team since the horse sustained an injury during the 2006 WEG. Weber also attributed his success to his work with Koos De Ronde, whom he describes as one of the best marathon drivers in the world. Weber, who believes his team excels in dressage, has been working with De Ronde since November 2006 to improve his marathon, and it showed in this year's scores.
"The marathon team is starting to get really good," he said. His immediate plans for the team include the new Lexington Combined Driving Classic in Lexington, Ky., October 5-7.