LEXINGTON, Ky. — A lovely weekend at the Kentucky Classic CDE played host to the 2016 USEF Pony Driving National Championships. Held Oct. 6-9 at the Kentucky Horse Park, the championships crowned two National Champions, including Leslie Berndl of Newcastle.
Driving Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle, Berndl began their quest for a national title with a lovely dressage test to win the phase with a score of 53.69 from the Ground Jury of Anne-Marie Turbe (FRA), Elimar Thunert (GER), and Kail Palmer-Miller (USA). Berndl boldly drove Teressa Kandianis’ 2004 Norwegian Fjord mare in the marathon phase, having the fastest times in four of the seven obstacles designed by Richard Nicoll (USA). They won the phase and added 86.19 penalties to their score. Despite the fact that less than three points separated first and second place, Berndl and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle kept their cool in the cones phase to have a double-clear round and earn the USEF Single Pony Driving National Championship title with a final score of
“The whole championship was wonderful,” said Berndl. “We drove out from California — it’s 49 hours! She is an inexperienced pony with traveling, but she handled the trip really well.
“The dressage was super,” she added. “I was really, really happy with her in a hard test. The marathon was very challenging, especially for a smaller pony because she is only 13.2 hands. She handled the marathon like it was nothing. In the cones, it was a long course and I really wanted to make sure to keep the speed up. We went in with 2.58 points separating us from Tracey [Morgan], who is a National Champion already, so there was a lot of pressure and I just had to guide her around and let her do it; she stayed calm and cool. She gave 100 percent of everything she had in every phase.”
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