Stafford Carriage Driving

News & Events

July 7, 2018


Suzy Stafford Announces Withdrawal From Consideration for 2018 World Championships


Every equestrian understands that life with horses is filled with plenty of joy and disappointment, and World Champion driver Suzy Stafford is no exception. For the last two years, Stafford and her charismatic Morgan mare PVF Peace of Mind have set their sights on returning to the World Championship stage. 


Their quest got off to a promising start with a second-place finish at the Katydid CDE 2* last fall and a strong victory at the Palm Tree CDE 2* earlier this year. But following an unfortunate withdrawal at Live Oak, Stafford has now announced she is pulling herself from consideration for the 2018 FEI World Single Horse Championships in The Netherlands.

 

"I gave 'Hunny' some time off after Live Oak and although she has been back in work and doing well, it would be a hard push to get her in peak shape to compete against the best in the world," said Stafford. "There will be another show, another year, another ribbon. It's just not our time."

 

Stafford was quick to thank Hunny's large fan base for their ever-present and enthusiastic support. "As always, Hunny and I are so thankful for how our cheering section has showed up year after year, and it does not go unappreciated," she noted. "Hunny is one of a kind, and 'Morgan strong' is the epitome of her whole being. There is no giving up in her vocabulary and as much as it disappoints us both, ultimately I am responsible for her welfare. So I had to make the tough decision to do what is best for her long-term wellbeing, and this meant withdrawing her from consideration for the World Championships.

 

"Now I will turn my immediate focus to developing our new farm here in New Jersey, planning my wedding and continuing to work with all the wonderful horses and their owners that make my life so special," Stafford concluded. "I also look forward to starting the process of looking for another talented youngster to bring up the ranks, just like Hunny. In the meantime, I also look forward to cheering on my fellow USA drivers who will represent us at the upcoming World Championships. Please show them your support, as it is needed and appreciated."


June 13, 2018


Stafford Carriage Driving Announces Purchase of New Training Base in New Jersey




Suzy Stafford is proud to announce the upcoming purchase and development of a picturesque new equestrian property in southern New Jersey, which will provide a long-awaited permanent base of operations for the popular trainer as she competes up and down the East Coast and spends winter months in Ocala, Fla. And this new farm announcement goes hand-in-hand with another reason to celebrate: Stafford is recently engaged to her long-time partner John Young, and the two will marry next spring.


"I have been leasing property for my training business for over ten years, and now it just makes sense to put the business property and our residence together," Stafford explained. "John and I wanted to find a place that we were both happy with, because he works in the city and I of course need to be in a more rural setting for the horses. So this farm has the best of both worlds: it's in an equestrian-friendly region and is a quiet location on a dead end road with good soil; but it's also convenient to Philadelphia, an easy commute for John, and close to restaurants, shopping and airports. So we're both looking forward to enjoying the new property and all the area has to offer."


While the 20-acre farm in Franklinville, N.J. currently has a house and outbuildings, Stafford will have the luxury of developing the remainder of the property. This will include construction on a custom 10-stall barn with wash stall, tack room and restroom, as well as building individual and group turnout paddocks; a round pen; grass arenas for dressage and cones; several marathon obstacles; a training hill; and wooded trails. A cabin will be available for clients for short or long-term stays, as well as a seminar room for educational presentations. With all of these amenities, Stafford will be able to continue all of her current services such as lessons, clinics, young horse training, show preparation, breed show driving, combined driving competition and keuring/IBOP prep, as well as expand in exciting new directions in the near future. 




"I am so excited to be able to design the facility based entirely on the horses' comfort and client needs," noted Stafford. "We are expecting construction to be completed late this summer, so for the time being I am up and running in a temporary facility on 100 acres just five miles from the new property. It is easily able to accommodate all of my current training needs while we manage the development of our own farm, and also allows me to be able to schedule some clinics and schooling events throughout the summer, which we will look forward to continuing at the new location.

 

"I never take it for granted that I am so lucky to be able to do what I love for a living with wonderful clients and my amazing fiancé, and this new farm and our marriage is just a continuation of building our dream together," Stafford concluded. "We are both looking forward to this new chapter in our lives and can't wait to get started."



March 17, 2018


Statement from Suzy Regarding Withdrawal from Competition at Live Oak International



Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind at Live Oak International. Photo by Pics of You


After topping the leaderboard on the first day of 2* Single Horse dressage competition at this week's Live Oak International combined driving event, Suzy Stafford made the difficult decision to withdraw her Morgan mare PVF Peace of Mind from the remainder of the show.

 

"In the best interest of the welfare and safety of Hunny, I have decided to withdraw her from the Live Oak International competition. After recently making the decision to try a new farrier, unfortunately it created some soreness in her feet," she explained. "I'd like to emphasize that the new footing in the Live Oak arena for dressage was perfect, consistent and predictable, and we had a lovely test. But I still felt like something just wasn't quite right. After consultation with my vet, I decided to be safe rather than sorry and did not feel it was in Hunny's best interest to run a marathon at this time. I will take her home and have her checked out and continue to plan for the National Championships in Southern Pines next month.

 

"The management of these elite equine athletes is critical," Stafford continued. "It is a huge undertaking that goes into campaigning a successful FEI horse from a good training plan, proper equipment, and a personalized management plan which includes everything from veterinarians, farriers, chiropractors, nutritional needs, grooming habits, turn-out and stabling, and of course keeping stock of all their favorite treats!

 

"I have owned Hunny since she was three years old, so I know her very well: I know when she is feeling good or in a bad mood, I know when something is not right, and I've also learned to trust my instincts," Stafford concluded. "Therefore, after careful consideration I decided to withdraw Hunny because I felt she is not 100% comfortable and I want to take the time needed to fully resolve any situation. It's unfortunate because Live Oak is one of my favorite competitions, but our ultimate goal for this year is to compete on the U.S. Team at the FEI World Single Horse Championships in The Netherlands in August, and I felt that this decision was in the best interest of Hunny's short-term welfare and long-term success."


February 1, 2018


Stafford & PVF Peace of Mind Claim Top Honors at FEI 2* Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades



Suzy Stafford drives PVF Peace of Mind to victory at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades.

Photo by Pics of You.


Nearly two years ago, Suzy Stafford's trip to the 2016 FEI World Single Horse Championships in Austria didn't have the fairy tale ending she'd hoped for. But now the former World Champion has her sights set on a chance at redemption.

 

She and her 11-year-old Morgan mare and 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year PVF Peace of Mind earned their first 2018 World Championship qualifying score at last fall's Katydid CDE 2*, where a single ball down on the final day's cones course resulted in a second-place finish. But at the inaugural USEF Selection Trial of the year, held January 25 - 28 at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades in Dade City, Fla., Stafford and "Hunny" turned the tables to top the hotly-contested field in the 2* Single Horse division and take one step closer to stamping their passports for a return trip to the World Championships in The Netherlands in September.

 

The pair got off to a solid start in the first day's dressage phase, where an unlucky break in the extended trot was all that left them just one point away from topping the leaderboard from the get-go. This left Stafford and Hunny with work to do on Saturday's challenging marathon course. "We've been focusing on our marathon performance after a disappointing show at the 2016 Worlds," Stafford explained. "The field in Europe is fast and I need to be able to keep up. This show helped to further my preparation and the homework needed to hopefully peak at this year's Championship in September. I also have a new navigator this season, Barbara Murphy, and we got right into a winning groove together. We both have a 'get it done' attitude."



Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind on the marathon course at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades.

Photo by Pics of You. 


And get it done they did. Recording the fastest time of all in four of the seven hazards and second-best in the remaining three, Stafford, Murphy and Hunny not only won the marathon phase and claimed the overall Marathon Championship for the FEI division, but also stormed into the lead going into the final phase: cones.

 

"Cones day was challenging, with a very thoughtful course laid out by Barry Hunter," Stafford said. "Hunny certainly knows her job, sometimes better than me (in her opinion) and she gets a bit like a hot jumper going in for the jump-off. That's my girl, and I embrace her enthusiasm." With balls falling left and right as the rest of the class faced the intricate track, Stafford was last to go and was able to hang on to the win despite two unlucky balls and just a handful of time faults.




"This is going to an exciting show season since we have the strongest field of single horse drivers I have seen in a long time, including seasoned veterans along with a few new and talented horse and driver combinations. This will make for a strong team no matter what the outcome of the selection process is," Stafford noted. "Now, Hunny and I are looking forward to Live Oak as our next outing while taking advantage of several training sessions from now through March to prepare even further for a top performance. Meanwhile, my team of support is amazing as always - the gratitude I have for all of them is huge, and I take pride in representing the Morgan breed at the international level of competition."


January 4, 2018


Stafford Kicks the New Year Off Right as Recipient of FHANA President's Trophy



Suzy Stafford drives Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel to victory at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show.


As a lifelong horsewoman and renowned driving competitor, Suzy Stafford may be best known for her World Championship success on the international combined driving stage. But this outstanding tradition of excellence also carries over to the breed and carriage driving arenas, as evidenced by Stafford's incredible year of accomplishments with multiple equine partners in USEF and Friesian breed competitions.

 

In recognition of these successes, the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) has chosen to award the 2017 FHANA President's Trophy to Stafford, which will be presented during the 2018 FHANA Annual General Meeting on February 22 - 24 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. The FHANA President's Trophy is given for the promotion of the Friesian by an individual who may use multiple horses to achieve the highest score, and for a person who best demonstrates the versatility of the Friesian horse. The highest scoring rider/driver is added to the perpetual Presidential Trophy which remains on display at the FHANA offices in Lexington, KY. Stafford will also receive an additional FHANA Performance Award for Driving, an honor which is designed to reward FHANA members who are excelling in their discipline. 

 

Having driven five Friesian mares to approved IBOP scores of greater than 77 and as the only person to successfully achieve a driven sport predicate with a Friesian in the U.S. (an honor achieved with three different mares), Stafford put her extensive experience to good use in 2017 when she trained and drove two FHANA Friesian mares into the winner's circle: Gail Aumiller's 2010 mare Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel, Sport  (Sipke x Feitse) and Shelly (Michelle) Venus' 2013 mare Sarabella fan Leandra  (Doaitsen x Beart).




Suzy Stafford and Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel on the marathon course at the GMHA CDE in August. Photo by Shawn Tinkham Photography.


The stunning partnership of Stafford and Gail Aumiller's exceptional Friesian mare Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sport) have certainly come into their own this show season, with wins in the carriage driving arena, Friesian breed shows, and combined driving competition. In Stafford's expert hands, the stunning black mare was almost unbeatable at the IFSHA World Show in October, earned an incredible six World Championship titles in Timed Obstacles, Scurry, Single Horse Working, Reinsmanship as well in driven dressage at both the Training and Preliminary levels on their way to earning the Dreams Come True Perpetual Dressage Trophy for the highest dressage score of the show (75.7%). In addition, the pair was crowned as IFSHA Overall Year End Champions in Open Combined Driving Single and Open Pleasure Driving Single, as well as claiming the HOTY Grand Championship for Driven Dressage Preliminary Level and Driven Dressage Training Level (tie).

 

Showing their versatility, Stafford and Isobel also drove to victory in the Preliminary Single Horse division at the Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA) combined driving event (CDE) in South Woodstock, Vt. on August 25-27, earning an astonishing score of 35.50 in dressage which was the best dressage score of the entire show. Coupled with an impressive marathon and cones performance, the overall CDE victory was secured for the pair by an astounding margin of nearly 20 points. Back in the carriage driving arena, Stafford and Isobel recorded class victories at the CAA Carriage Festival in Kentucky, and then went on to multiple wins and overall Reserve Championship division honors at the renowned and historic Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition in August.




Stafford with Sarabella Fan Leandra.


Stafford's success in developing young talent also showed as she was driver and trainer for Shelly Venus' four-year-old Friesian mare Sarabella Fan Leandra. The promising pair earned a World Championship title in Sport Driving and two Reserve titles in Preliminary Level Driven Dressage and Sport Horse In Hand (Junior Mare 3-5 years), as well as the HOTY Grand Championship for Driven Dressage Training Level (tie with Isobel, above). Stafford also successfully guided the young mare to earn her approved IBOP score during October's FHANA keuring in Ohio.

 

"Gail Aumiller introduced me to my first Friesian in my training barn in 2011 as she was pursuing her interest in Carriage Pleasure driving," Stafford recalled. "I went on to enjoy many more Friesians in my barn, from IBOP prep to show training and driven sport predicate titles. They are a wonderful breed to work with, having such a regal way about them and a 'can do' attitude, making them such a nice type and talented athletes for a variety of disciplines.

 

"I am honored to be recognized by FHANA with these trophies, but I have to say that I am just one part of the equation when being acknowledged for these awards," continued Stafford. "It takes wonderful horses, good breeding and committed owners to reach such impressive goals, and I appreciate the passion, dedication and hard work that makes these goals a reality and can never take the credit alone. Now I look forward to even more success and working with a new group of wonderful Friesian horses in the New Year."


December 13, 2017


Stafford Presented with FEI Silver Badge of Honour




As a multiple medal-winning international driver, Suzy Stafford has already gathered an impressive array of awards in her career. But in early December, she received a letter of congratulations from the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for an honor with particularly special meaning.

 

The letter outlined that Stafford was being presented with the FEI Silver Badge of Honour - an award for those who have completed at least four World Championships, and a feat which only a few elite athletes have accomplished.

 

Stafford's FEI Silver Badge of Honour reflects the following World Pony Championship performances: 

  1. 2005, England - Individual Gold Medal with Cefnoakpark Bouncer, owned by Wayne & Sybil Humphrey

  2. 2007, Denmark - Team Bronze Medal with Cefnoakpark Bouncer, owned by Wayne & Sybil Humphrey

  3. 2009, Germany - Individual Bronze Medal with Courage to Lead, owned by Beverly Lesher

  4. 2011, Slovenia - Individual Silver Medal with Josephine, owned by Beth Steinke


"I was surprised and humbled by this honor," said Stafford. "I went to my first World Championships as part of Team USA in 2005 and have striven to be on the podium ever since. I take pride in having these opportunities to represent my country and the horse sport that I love." 

 

Stafford reflected on the effort required for drivers to compete internationally. "Whenever a U.S. Team member travels overseas, it is a huge undertaking financially and logistically," she explained. "I have been blessed with a phenomenal support system each and every time I have traveled - from our federation, coaches, sponsors, owners, grooms, family and friends, and I would not be where I am today without their support. I also have had the most amazing equine partners throughout this journey who have taught me patience, humility, and to always strive for something more. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have had, and look forward to even more in the near future."


Adding to the honor is the emotional backstory: according to Danielle Aamodt, USEF Director of Driving, earlier this year Ed Young took on the daunting project to collect competition data on all eligible U.S. athletes and submit it to the FEI before his passing - one last effort to recognize American drivers who he so enjoyed working with over the years and reward them for their accomplishments in driving sport.

 

"I was always grateful for Ed's passion, dedication and hard work on behalf of each and every driver, competitor and volunteer in our sport, and receiving this award is just another illustration of how special he was," said Stafford. "He was a wonderful man with incredible vision for our driving sport, and is dearly missed."


Suzy Stafford with Courage To Lead at the 2009 World Pony Championships photo by Jennifer Singleton/CAA

Ed Young photo by Marie de Ronde.



October 17, 2017


16 Titles Awarded to Stafford Carriage Driving at IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show




Suzy Stafford drives Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel to victory at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show.


One of the crowning points of the season for Friesian enthusiasts is the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) World & Grand National Championship Horse Show, held this year on October 4-8 in Springfield, Ohio, and for Stafford Carriage Driving it became a celebration of outstanding achievement for three impressive equine athletes.

 

Gail Aumiller's exceptional Friesian mare Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sport) has certainly come into her own this show season, with wins in both the carriage driving arena and combined driving competition. But in her final event before retiring to Dreams Come True Farm to be bred in early 2018, "Isobel" was almost unbeatable at the IFSHA World Show. In the expert hands of World Champion driver Suzy Stafford, the stunning black mare earned four World Championship titles in Timed Obstacles, Scurry, Single Horse Working, and Reinsmanship as well as a Reserve Title in Turnout. In addition, the pair was crowned as World Champions in driven dressage at both the Training and Preliminary levels on their way to earning the Dreams Come True Perpetual Dressage Trophy for the highest dressage score of the show (75.7%).

 

"Isobel is a truly exceptional mare who has only gotten better and better as the season went on," said Stafford. "She is a tremendous example of the athleticism and heart of the Friesian horse, and for her to conclude her show season on such a memorable note with all of this success at the IFSHA World Show is a fitting tribute for both her and for Gail, and I hope is indicative of the future offspring she will now produce."




Stafford with Sarabella Fan Leandra.


Stafford also successfully presented two youngsters in their IFSHA World Show debuts. With Shelly Venus' four-year-old Friesian mare Sarabella Fan Leandra, Stafford claimed a World Championship title in Sport Driving and two Reserve titles in Preliminary level driven dressage and Sport Horse In Hand.


Returning to the ring with Dream Gait's Baefyre (four-year-old Friesian Sport Horse owned by Dream Gait Farm) in the part-bred Friesian division, Stafford piloted the young gelding to even more accolades including World Champion in Carriage Driving Working, Timed Obstacles, both Training and Preliminary Level Driven Dressage, plus a Reserve title in Country Pleasure Driving. "Bae" was also named World Champion Senior Geldings in Hand (presented by Terry Tatnam, resident trainer at Dream Gait Farm) and Reserve Champion Sport Horse in Hand (handled by Stafford).




Stafford with Dream Gait's Baefyre.


"What a nice way to end the season with these youngsters - they came to the World Show  stronger and more confident than their previous outings, and that was reflected in their results," Stafford noted. "I couldn't be prouder of both of them. They handled the competitive pressure and championship atmosphere like seasoned professionals, and showed the world what they can do. We've worked all season with the IFSHA World Show as our ultimate goal, and thanks to a tremendous team effort, all of our hard work paid off and we are already looking forward to next year."

 

Stafford also added that Dream Gait's Baefyre will now be offered for sale as he continues his training and adds to his already-impressive resume. "Bae will do some under saddle training and continue his driving education with me as he looks for his potential new owner," Stafford explained. "He has good manners and a solid training base, not to mention the sweetest of hearts. He is ready for his own person and would thrive with a partnership, whether it be for pleasure or show."


September 13, 2017


Another Winning Weekend for Stafford Carriage Driving at Brandywine Show & CT




It's already been a whirlwind summer of travel and competition for Suzy Stafford, and the latest stop for the Stafford Carriage Driving team was the Brandywine Carriage Driving Show & Combined Test held September 9-10, 2017 at the Glen Willow Horse Show grounds in Avondale Pa. Graciously hosted by the Brandywine Valley Driving Club, which includes members from across the Mid-Atlantic region including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, the lovely grounds and gorgeous weather combined for a picturesque and memorable weekend of competition.


On Saturday morning, Stafford jumped right into the thick of things by presenting four different horses and ponies in the Combined Test portion of the competition. First down centerline was Stafford with Shelly Venus' four-year-old Friesian mare Sarabella Fan Leandra, who kicked the show off on a winning note by posting an impressive dressage score of 40.7, a mark which would ultimately prove unbeatable in the Preliminary Single Horse division. Stafford also claimed Reserve honors with the eye-catching four-year-old Dream Gait's Baefyre (Friesian Sport Horse gelding owned by Dream Gait Farm) with a combined score of 48.9 for dressage and cones.


In the Preliminary Single Pony division, Stafford presented Catalyst Driving's Welsh/ Andalusian mare Alikely Story to earn her second win of the day with a combined dressage/cones score of 42.9. Not to be outdone, Gail Aumiller's exceptional Friesian mare Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sport) showed her winning form in her inaugural outing at the Intermediate level, impressing judge Debbie Banfield for an astounding score of 38.4 to emerge victorious in the Intermediate Single Horse division.




Stafford then switched gears to drive both "Isobel" and "Baefyre" in the carriage pleasure driving competition on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Competing in the Draft Type Division, the colorful pair of Stafford and Dream Gait's Baefyre clinched the overall division Championship with wins in the Reinsmanship and Timed Obstacles classes, as well as second place in both Working and Progressive Obstacle. In the Single Horse Division, Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sport) once again proved to be unbeatable as she claimed victory in every single class of the division to easily win not only the overall Championship but was also named winner of the Concours d'Elegance Trophy and Grand Champion of the show.


With a plethora of top awards in hand, Stafford was understandably pleased with her charges' performances. "All the youngsters were wonderful and everyone got a lot out of the experience over both days of showing," said Stafford. "I get a lot of joy and satisfaction in developing the young ones - they keep me humble, patient and on my toes. I love how each one of them brings new challenges and I learn so much from the horses each and every day."




Stafford was also delighted with the show itself, as well as the tremendous efforts of the organizers to provide competitors with an enjoyable competition experience. "I think this was a wonderful effort to revive the Brandywine Valley driving show, and I was happy to be able to support our local club," she noted. "Obviously it was a very busy weekend for us with four combined test entries plus two full pleasure show divisions with two different horses with five classes each. But the organizer and management were wonderful and very helpful with scheduling to allow me to compete with so many different horses and ponies. I know it wasn't an easy task for them to be so accommodating, but I appreciated it immensely as do my clients and owners."


September 1, 2017


Suzy Stafford & "Isobel" Top Field by Almost 20 Points at GMHA CDE




Former World Champion driver Suzy Stafford put her extensive experience to good use last weekend as she piloted Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sport) to victory in the Preliminary Single Horse division at the Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA) combined driving event (CDE) in South Woodstock, Vt. on August 25-27.

 

A perennial favorite on the driving calendar, this year's GMHA event did not disappoint as a huge turnout of competitors enjoyed beautiful summer weather among the stunning surroundings of GMHA's well-equipped 65-acre facility and 400-mile network of trails. Founded in 1926, GMHA is the nation's oldest continuously operating horse association and hosts a multitude of equestrian activities each year.


Stafford is known as the "Queen of Dressage" and she and Gail Aumiller's Friesian mare (Sipke x Ypkje D by Feitse) put those talents on display right out of the gate by earning an astonishing score of 35.50 in dressage, which was not only the best score of their division by more than 20 points, but was also easily the best dressage score of the entire show. The pair immediately proceeded to the cones course and proceeded to record the best round among the field of 10 competitors for the Preliminary Single Horse class, speeding to victory by an eight-second margin with no penalties for balls down.

 

"Dressage is Isobel's strong phase and once again she was fabulous," said Stafford. "The cones course was very challenging, with many twists and turns that made making the time a bit difficult. But Isobel is very catty for a large horse, and she handled the course better than I expected." 


While Stafford has years of experience tackling marathon courses, the GMHA event marked Isobel's first time facing the physical and mental challenges of an 11-kilometer course with six complex obstacles. But the young mare rose to the occasion, and with Stafford's expert guidance recorded a solid and consistent performance with hazard times fast enough for second place in the division, secured the CDE overall victory for the pair by an astounding margin of nearly 20 points.

 

"In general, some people believe that as a breed Friesians aren't particularly suited for combined driving due to the strenuous endurance aspect of the sport," Stafford explained. "My goal in taking Friesians to CDEs is to give them confidence, expose them to many different types of situations, build on their strengths and improve any weaknesses. Isobel is very special and I was ecstatic the way she handled the course. Even though this was her first marathon, she handled it like a pro, was very game and bold in the hazards, and crossed the finish line ready to do more. I'd also like to thank Brooke Tadlock who was willing and able to step in at the last minute to navigate for me - she is a fellow driver and very knowledgeable so the course ran very smoothly for us."

 

Next up for Stafford and Isobel will be a return to the pleasure ring for the Brandywine Valley Driving Club Show on September 9-10 in Avondale, Pa., followed by the FHANA Keuring and the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show later this fall. 


Photos by Shawn Tinkham Photography

 

August 28, 2017


Date Conflict Forces Suzy Stafford & PVF Peace of Mind to Miss 2017 National Championships - Cancellation of original venue will cost the pair a chance to compete for a third straight USEF national title - instead will now aim for Katydid 2* in November


It's one thing to fail to win a coveted championship when defeated fair and square by another outstanding competitor who proved to be better on that given day. But it's another thing entirely to not even have the opportunity to step into the arena, left only with "what ifs."

 

Unfortunately, this is the situation in which defending two-time National Champions Suzy Stafford and her Morgan mare PVF Peace of Mind (or "Hunny") find themselves. Originally scheduled to be held as part of the Hermitage Classic CAI2* in October in Goshen, Ky., the 2017 United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Single Horse Driving National Championship has been on the calendar as a goal for this top U.S. Team pair for over a year.

 

But recently USEF announced the abrupt cancellation of the Hermitage Classic, which in turn necessitated a venue change for the National Championships to the Kentucky Classic CAI2* in Lexington two weeks prior. For a busy professional with a year-round competition calendar full of combined driving events, pleasure driving competitions, and USEF Morgan and Friesian breed shows, this created a date conflict which would prove impossible for Stafford to resolve. During the new National Championship dates, Stafford is not only previously committed to participate in a regional FHANA Keuring but also compete and coach at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show in Ohio on October 4-8.

 

"I cannot tell you how disappointed I am for many reasons to hear that the Hermitage Classic CDE has been cancelled," said Stafford. "It's a wonderful show and an incredible facility, and it's tremendously disheartening for me that Hunny and I will now not have a chance to defend our title.

 

"Just like any busy professional, as a trainer and coach with many horses and students competing across a wide spectrum of events it's imperative that I book my schedule almost a year in advance just to be able to juggle everything and because my clients depend on me to be there for them," she continued. "I took on a group of owners and drivers this winter with the specific end goal for them to present their horses at the Keuring and also compete at the Friesian World Show. When we heard this news, even though it is disappointing for me personally, there was never a thought of my scratching from the breed events - I am a woman of my word and commitment is a very important part my business."



Stafford will find solace in knowing she will be helping her clients and their horses achieve their dreams of becoming National and World Champions themselves that weekend. As for Hunny, the talented mare will instead be prepared for the Katydid CAI2* in November in pursuit of an all-important qualifying score for next year's FEI World Single Horse Driving Championships.

 

"I am not a happy camper about these circumstances but I am grateful that I have such a wonderful client base which makes so many other possibilities and choices available to me with Hunny," Stafford concluded. "I hate to miss this opportunity to defend our title, but I do believe you make your own destiny. With the cancellation of Hermitage I think moving the championship to the Kentucky Classic was the best and most logical solution for the sport and its competitors - it's just unfortunate timing for me. So I will forge ahead mentally to my next goal with Hunny which will be the 2* at Katydid, and wish all my fellow drivers good luck and success as they contest the national championship in Lexington." 


Photo by Pics of You


August 18, 2017


Stafford Earns Championship Honors at Nation's Top Pleasure Driving Competition


At Stafford Carriage Driving, the pursuit of hard work and consistent, correct training results in championship performances in the competition arena, and this philosophy once again paid off with top honors at the renowned and historic Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition, held August 9-13 in Pittsford, N.Y.


Owner/trainer and World Champion driver Suzy Stafford first took the reins of Gail Aumiller's talented Friesian Isobel Ypkje van Het Kasteel (Sipke x Ypkje D by Feitse) two years ago, when the pair not only earned Isobel's KFPS/FHANA Driving Sport Predicate Title, but the black mare also became Ster at her keuring, recording the highest IBOP score in North America that season.

 

Now, after recording winning results at the CAA Carriage Festival in Kentucky last month, the team of Stafford and Dreams Come True Farm of Carlisle, Pa., traveled to the country's most prestigious pleasure show and once again proved victorious on the scenic grounds of Walnut Hill Farm.


"I knew we were ready, and I was excited to show off Isobel as she is unbelievably talented and such a powerful mover who just gets better and better as she gains more show experience," said Stafford. "Of course Walnut Hill is so special with the impeccable venue and a show that runs like a well-oiled machine, making it a joy to be part of the week-long competition. Gail and Thomas Aumiller are such a wonderful team together - they do right by their horses and give them every opportunity to succeed. Gail also did a terrific job presenting her other mare Sjaantje, and Thomas is the ultimate groom/ground support, always there when you need him."


Competing as part of a 12-horse field in the Single Horse Vehicle other than Runabout, Meadowbrook, or Road Cart Division, Stafford and Isobel started the week with two top-three finishes in hard-fought Progressive Obstacle and Reinsmanship classes. But then the proudest moment came in the Turnout class, where Stafford's elegant black and butter-yellow outfit paired perfectly with Aumiller's beautifully restored 1890's Studebaker ladies phaeton to put them right in the winner's circle.

 

"Winning that large turnout class was definitely a group effort," Stafford explained. "Isobel was absolutely flawless for me in the ring; Thomas had the carriage impeccable in every way; and Gail was there to give me a hand with brass polishing, over and over again. It was raining right before the class and all the exhibitors went back and forth in the warm up with rain gear. Ultimately I decided to ditch the raincoat but wear my white rain gloves, and I guess it was a good call and of course we were all super pleased with the outcome!"

 

The victory also boosted Stafford and Isobel into earning overall Reserve Championship division honors, just one point behind the champion.



But the icing on the cake was yet to come in the form of Sunday morning's Presentation Pleasure Drive. As turnouts wound their way through Mendon Ponds Park to the delight of spectators lining the route, Aumiller joined Stafford on the carriage for a final tour of the grounds and were not only awarded with the blue ribbon for the Pleasure Drive Presentation, but Stafford was also presented with the Best Lady's Turnout Championship Trophy sponsored by the Sadoff Family.


"My happiest moment of the entire week was when they announced that Isobel and I had won those two prestigious awards," Stafford noted. "This was the only time during the weekend that Gail was able to drive in the carriage with me and her wonderful mare, and it meant a lot to both of us."


Next up for Stafford and Isobel will be the GMHA combined driving event in Vermont, then the pair return to the pleasure ring for the Brandywine Valley Driving Club Show in September, followed by the FHANA keuring and the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show this fall.


Photo by Pics of You 


June 13, 2017


PVF Peace of Mind Released as a Breyer Model - Live Appearance at Breyerfest 2017


Stafford Carriage Driving is delighted to announce that Breyer Animal Creations® has chosen Suzy Stafford's National Championship and Hall of Fame partner PVF Peace of Mind to be a part of Breyer's mid-year 2017 release of new model horses, and has also been invited to perform for thousands of fans as a featured participant in the upcoming Breyerfest celebration in Lexington, Ky.

 

Breyer Animal Creations® began as the Breyer Molding Company, a Chicago-based plastics manufacturing company which released its first model horse in 1950. Over the last 67 years, Breyer's iconic handcrafted and hand-painted creations have been renowned for the realism, authenticity and detailed accuracy of its models, and inspired a worldwide hobby of collecting model horses by children and adults of all ages. With strong ties to the real horse world, Breyer regularly welcomes the latest and greatest equine stars into its product line, which now includes a Traditional-size version of Stafford's charismatic Morgan mare PVF Peace of Mind, better known to her fans as "Hunny".

 

Like so many horse-crazy kids, Stafford grew up collecting her own "herd" of Breyer horses, which fueled her passion for horses as both a lifestyle and a career. Now Stafford realizes a dream come true as her beloved competition partner Hunny has been immortalized in a collectible form to inspire future generations of horse lovers.


"When I first heard the news, I couldn't help it - I went right into giddy schoolgirl status, jumping up and down with excitement about my new 'toy!'" Stafford exclaimed. "I will never forget the impact that Breyer models had on me growing up, and it's such an honor to have Hunny join the Breyer roster as such a beautiful model to represent the Morgan breed and Driving Sport for everyone to enjoy."

 

Coinciding with Breyer's announcement is the news that Stafford and Hunny will join an all-star line-up at this year's Breyerfest celebration, being held July 14-16 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Now in its 28th year and host to more than 10,000 guests annually, BreyerFest is the world's largest festival for model horse collectors and everything equine, and is THE place to have fun with horses and model horses. With a multitude of activities for fans who converge upon Lexington from around the world, BreyerFest provides a great way for horse lovers to learn more about them from experts in both the "real" horse world and the model horse world, for an experience attendees will never forget.

 

As part of the Breyerfest activities, Stafford and Hunny, who was crowned as the 2016 U.S. Equestrian Federation's International Horse of the Year, will be available for meet-and-greet autograph sessions and photo opportunities with fans for all three days of the event, as well as performing a 15-minute driving demonstration each day to educate young and old about the sport. "Hunny is the 'people's horse', so I am extremely excited about bringing her to Breyerfest to share her with the world and her many fans," said Stafford.

 

"Hunny is larger than life, charismatic and talented, and it's taken a special group of people to bring her to her full potential from breeders, trainers, coaches and caregivers to admirers, fans and family members," Stafford continued. "I want everyone to feel that their support, no matter in what capacity, had everything to do with our success so far, and I continue to be humbled and honored to feel the love and support that we have received through our career together."


Order yours here >



April 2017


Stafford Carriage Driving Announces New Farm with Expanded Services in Chesapeake City, Md.


Over the last decade, Stafford has developed a nationally-renowned carriage driving training and coaching program based in eastern Pennsylvania as well as Ocala, Fla. during the winter months. Now, due to the continued growth of her Stafford Carriage Driving program, Stafford is excited to announce her move to a stunning new facility in Chesapeake City, Md.



 

"This has actually been more than a year in the making," said Stafford. "I've continued to welcome wonderful new clients, and finally reached a point where I simply needed more barn space in order to meet the demand. Chesapeake City is such a lovely area, and I grew up riding there in the local Pony Club. It's funny how things work out: after a riding accident took me away from the area, I find life has come full circle bringing me back to the place that originally led me on this career path."


The spr
awling grounds at Stafford's new facility provide plenty of room for Stafford's growing operation with a 30-stall barn, three wash stalls, office/harness room, lush individual and group turnout with board fencing, indoor and outdoor exercise tracks, a stonedust outdoor arena with lights, as well as multiple grass arenas for dressage, cones, and obstacle training. With all of these amenities, Stafford will be able to continue all of her current services such as lessons, clinics, young horse training, show preparation, breed show driving, combined driving competition and keuring/IBOP prep, as well as expand in exciting new directions in the near future.



 "I've always had a vision of something bigger: a facility which could accommodate more clients and horses as well as adding educational seminars, weekly training holidays, small schooling shows, and in-depth training sessions and programs for the competitive and recreational driver," Stafford explained. "But until now, I didn't have access to a facility which could handle all of these activities. Making this move will easily allow for us to offer many exciting new opportunities for the regional driving community."


Conveniently located close to I-95 at 52 Town Point Rd., Stafford Carriage Driving's new facility is part of a thriving equestrian community in Chesapeake City, Md., near famous Thoroughbred nursery Northview Stallion Station as well as the world-renowned international dressage training center Hassler Dressage at Riveredge, where Stafford looks forward to furthering dressage training. The area's beautiful waterfront community on the Delmarva Peninsula is filled with a plethora of local accommodations, charming restaurants and family-owned shops all waiting to welcome visitors.




March 2017


Stafford Prevails Through Highs and Lows of the 2017 Live Oak International CDE


The picturesque grounds of the Weber family's Live Oak Plantation provide a stunning backdrop for both the thrill of triumph and the bitter sting of disappointment as top drivers annually gather to contest the world-renowned Live Oak International CAI2*, held March 9-12, 2017 in Ocala, Fla. As competition got underway for this year's exciting edition, hopes ran high for former World Champion and U.S. Team Driver Stafford to earn a fourth straight Single Horse division title with her charismatic Morgan mare PVF Peace of Mind, better known to her fans as "Hunny".

 

The pair's quest certainly got off on the right foot with an exquisite dressage test, earning the unanimous favor of the judges for a score of 42.78 to rocket to the top of the leaderboard by more than 14 points. "My dressage test felt great, and Hunny was definitely 'on' that day," said Stafford. "She had the perfect amount of presence, drivability and power to put in one of her best tests. We had one mistake in the walk with a miscommunication between us but the rest felt amazing. The Live Oak arena is damn near perfect: green as green, the footing is just right, it's beautifully decorated, the atmosphere is electric, and of course everything is seamlessly run. What a pleasure to show there."


An impressive crowd gathered across Live Oak's sprawling grounds on a brilliantly sunny Saturday morning as Stafford and Hunny tackled the formidable marathon track. "I loved this year's marathon course," Stafford explained. "It has been a long time since I have seen a designer give so many competitive options in the obstacles, and course designer Gabor Fintha made winning the marathon about picking the best routes. I love that! At this level we all go at top speed but strategic course route planning was the difference between first and second at this show, and I was delighted to have a great go with Hunny." Stafford's strategies paid off as the pair earned the fastest or second-fastest time in six of the seven obstacles, easily maintaining their overall divisional lead going into the final day of competition.

 

Even with a commanding double-digit lead, Stafford was unfortunately about to experience first-hand the meaning behind the saying, "It ain't over till it's over." As the final driver in the Single Horse division to trot into the lavish Live Oak arena, Stafford had watched her competitors struggle with the deceptively-challenging cones course, giving her a comfortable margin of five balls in hand to stay in the lead and win a fourth-straight title. But near-disaster struck just meters away from victoriously crossing the finish line. "At some point during our round, the bit of the reins slipped off my wrist without my noticing and was dangling, so as we turned to approach the final set of cones the extra rein got caught around the left front hub of the carriage. As the wheel turned the rein wrapped tighter and tighter around the hub until finally breaking near the bit."

 

As the rein snapped, Stafford's experience and composure as well as Hunny's trust in her driver kicked into gear as Stafford calmly pulled her partner into a small circle with the remaining rein, and onlookers stepped in to help. "It was a freak accident that could have ended in a horrific wreck, and I was lucky, very lucky!" noted Stafford. "Was I heartbroken? No. Was I disappointed? Of course. But most of all I am thankful: thankful for my wonderful horse listening to me when it really counted, thankful for my groom acting quickly, thankful for the team coach Thorsten Zarembowicz and others for being observant and quick on their feet to come and help me. It certainly wasn't the way I wanted the show to end for me and Hunny, but ultimately I went home feeling good about our performance and thanking my lucky stars that we'll be back to drive another day." 


Photos by Pics of You


January 2017


PVF Peace of Mind Earns Third Straight USEF Single Combined Driving Horse of the Year Title


Driving phenom PVF Peace of Mind was once again honored by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) as the 2016 USEF Single Combined Driving Horse of the Year, marking the third straight year the charismatic U.S.-bred Morgan mare has claimed this prestigious title. Stafford traveled to Lexington, Ky., for the USEF Horse of the Year Awards Gala on January 14th to accept the honors. 


"What a year's its been," said Stafford. "And yet there's still so much to look forward to. Hunny is just coming ten this year and keeps getting better and better."


2016 was definitely a memorable year for the popular pair. As the reigning USEF International Horse of the Year, Hunny and Stafford dominated the competition at last spring's Live Oak International 2* followed by claiming their second consecutive USEF National Single Horse Combined Driving Championship title in Southern Pines, N.C., in April. Then last summer, thanks to the support of their many sponsors and fans, the pair traveled to Europe to fulfill a dream by competing at the FEI World Driving Championships in Austria as part of Team USA.


Now Stafford looks forward to getting Hunny back in the show ring for what looks to be another incredible year in 2017. "Her talent, tenacity and toughness make me smile every day," said Stafford. "She is my little Morgan powerhouse."



October 2016


Suzy Stafford and Friesian Mare Sjaantje Sport drive away with four World Championships at the IFSHA World and Grand National Championship Horse Show.



 

Stafford finished her 2016 season winning four World Championship titles with Sjaantje Sport (Tsjerk xRitse), the eleven year old Friesian mare owned by Gail Aumiller of Dream’s Come True Farm.


The Champions Center hosts an array of open and all breed shows throughout the year. This weekend was the finale for the Friesian and Friesian cross bred horse to showcase all their hard work and dedication throughout the season. Many World Champions were crowned in their respected divisions over the five days of competition. The show atmosphere was competitive yet friendly. with all being brought together by one common love, the Friesian horse. This was evident as all were brought together during the evening competitor’s party’s donated by a variety of gracious sponsors and breeders.


Stafford showed Sjaantje to win the World Champion Carriage Pleasure Driving open working class “This mare is an outstanding example of athletic ability, powerful gaits and superb conformation,” says Stafford. “A true testament to the ultimate ideal in breed type. I am delighted to have the opportunity to train such a talented equine.”


The pair then went on to dominate the Carriage Pleasure Driving division throughout the weekend with the elegant and stylish mare. A true picture of grace, elegance and obedience was evident as the pair trotted home with another WC Championship in Concours d’Elegance. “I have been training SJ and her owner Gail for quite some time, what makes me smile the most is watching Gail drive her! They are the perfect pair, absolutely made for each other,” says Stafford.


Gail Aumiller started the weekend winning all of her driven dressage classes, ultimately putting in the highest score to bring home the High Point Driven Dressage Trophy. “Gail loves her horse and is passionate about dressage, therefore she trains hard to be the best she can be, explains Stafford. “I appreciate her dedication, attentiveness to Sjaantje and her efforts to building the interest in driven dressage. We need more owners and breeders with Gail’s ‘action speaks louder than words’ attitude.”


A first at the IFSHA World Show was the addition of the FHANA Central Mare Show. This is an annual event in Holland, now brought to the states where the best Friesian mare’s compete against each other for the ultimate title of The Champion mare in North America. The crowd enjoyed cheering on their favorite mares under the lights after Friday and Saturday’s evening sessions. The night was topped off by celebrations and congratulation to all the Champions of the weekend.

Sunday tested human and equine stamina as Stafford and Sjaantje competed in the obstacle driving classes.


There were two classes offered for the Carriage Drivers. First was timed Obstacles and the second was the Scurry. This is where drivers pick their own route through a set of 10 cones. Speed and precision is the name of the game. Stafford drove both courses clean and faster than all the other competition crowning them World Champions in both obstacle classes.


“SJ is completely obedient and does exactly what you ask of her, a true gem,” says Stafford. “I was sure to have her fit enough prior to coming to the venue as I knew she would have a long week ahead of her. Gail and I both showed her in the classes. Gail drove the amateur division and I drove the open. She was sharp and game on Sunday for the obstacles. I am proud of Gail for dominating the Scurry class and taking home another World Championship title. Sjaantje came home with NINE World Championship titles with Gail and myself combined, that is a huge testament to the nature of this mare. There are many exceptional horses and many talented drivers but when you find the perfect match, that is what makes Dreams Come True!” 

 

August 2016


Home Sweet Home & Sincere Thanks


Hunny and I are now home from Germany and Austria back to life as usual. I want to send you all my sincere thank you for all your support overseas and stateside as I pursued my dream of winning a gold medal with Hunny!


Owning Hunny myself makes it very difficult financially to travel overseas to compete. All of you that have graciously helped me along this path is in part what makes me successful. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the continued support  you show Hunny and I.


We will be back in 2 years!!!


August 2016


Suzy Stafford Shares Perspective Regarding Disappointing Conclusion to FEI World Driving Championships Experience



 After a sparkling start for Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind at the FEI World Driving Championships for Single Horses in Austria. With an overall second place finish in the dressage phase, fans of Team USA were shocked to watch as the promising pair were eliminated in Saturday's marathon after failing to complete a compulsory gate. But no one was more disappointed than Stafford to conclude this World Championship experience on such an unfortunate note.


"After one of the best dressage performances Hunny and I had ever done together, I felt very prepared and confident for the marathon," Stafford explained. "The course was as grueling and complex as you would expect at a World Championship, and I walked the course over a dozen times with my navigator of eight years, Larry Hart. We started the course confident with my plan and with Hunny going great.”


"But in the third hazard, I turned one post too early which caused us to not pass through the 'E' gate. Immediately after the turn, Larry warned me that he thought we had missed the gate, so I circled back, looked at where I had been, and swore that I had gone the correct way so I kept driving to F. But in fact I hadn't gone through where I thought," Stafford explained. "This was my mistake and mine alone. I own it and accept it, but of course it disappoints me for many reasons. I did not trust my team mate, and I let my horse down as she was game and strong right through the last obstacle despite the challenges of the course. Of course I also let my U.S. Team down as well as all of Hunny's supporters that had helped us make this incredible journey, and for that I am sorry.”


"But I also know that one bad show does not make a bad driver, and that mistakes happen to everyone," Stafford concluded. "It is very humbling to have something like this happen (especially at a World Championship), but I have learned the most from the mistakes I have made. This one will go directly in the top of the pile, but such is the nature of horse sport that there will be highs and lows. We have to find a way to go on, and I have learned to grow and develop my strategy with each success as well as each failure."


Despite being eliminated on the marathon, Stafford was allowed to participate in the final day's cones competition. "For personal reasons I still wanted to drive the cones course even though I was officially out of the show. I knew it would be a challenging course and I was looking forward to tackling it," she noted. But fate had other plans as late Saturday night Hunny was found to be in distress."


“At night check we found her with a very high temperature and shivering, and our U.S. Team Veterinarian Dr. Rüdiger Brems was immediately on top of the situation," said Stafford. "In the best interest of Hunny's health and welfare we decided to be aggressive with treatment using certain medications which are prohibited under FEI drug rules, so we of course then discontinued our participation in the competition. It was the right thing to do for Hunny."


Sunday morning found Hunny in better spirits, and Stafford walked the cones course and was on hand to cheer on her U.S. team mates Sterling Graburn, Donna Crookston, and Leslie Berndl. "I'd like to congratulate Sterling, Donna, and Leslie for their successful performances, as well as all the team and individual World Champions. The quality of drivers and horses in the competition was astounding, and it was an honor to make this journey and proudly represent the USA. While at the end of the day it was not a good performance for me and therefore our team suffered, Hunny was wonderful in dressage and game during the marathon, so I could not have asked for more from her and I'm so thankful she has made a full recovery. I am lucky to have such a strong support crew that have my back no matter what the outcome, and ultimately I am thankful for this entire experience and the opportunity to be around such great people and magnificent horses."


Photo credit: Jennifer Keeler


May 3, 2016


U.S. Team Driver Suzy Stafford Announces Exclusive Fan Blog to Share World Championship Journey


With a charismatic personality and unbeatable talent, combined driving's dynamic duo of Suzy Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind are riding an unprecedented wave of success that they hope will lead right to the top of the medal podium at this summer's 2016 FEI World Single Horse Championships in Piber, Austria. And now, driving sport enthusiasts from around the world can follow along with their journey to take on the world via a newly-launched blog.


Stafford and her nine-year-old Morgan mare, who is better known as "Hunny" to her legions of fans, were recently crowned as United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Single Horse Driving National Champions for the second year in a row. This followed victories at Live Oak International 2* in February (their third straight title at this event) as well as at the Kentucky Classic 2* and Hermitage International 2* last fall. In recognition of the pair's tremendous success, Hunny was voted as the 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year (becoming only the second combined driving athlete and the very first Morgan horse in history to win this prestigious title), and was inducted into the EQUUS Foundation/USEF Horse Stars Hall of Fame.

 

But now Stafford and Hunny have their sights set on a much bigger goal: to compete as part of the U.S. Team and bring home a coveted medal at the World Championships in August, and Stafford hopes all of their fans, family, and friends will follow their globetrotting journey via an exclusive online blog which will feature behind-the-scenes information and fun facts about their European adventure.


"Hunny has made quite a name for herself, and her character and personality come through in everything she does. It's a huge part of what makes her so special as well as successful," Stafford explained. "I believe people see that big personality and connect with her, so I wanted to give her fans a more personal look at what it takes to be a champion and how Hunny is preparing for the biggest competition of her life."

 

Described as "The in's, out's, and about's of the road to the 2016 FEI World Driving Single Horse Championships through the eyes of 'Hunny' and Suzy Stafford," the Tumblr blog will include training updates, educational tips, photos, and video clips about the hard work and dedication on the part of both human and equine that goes into competing in combined driving at the international High Performance level, as well as a healthy dose of humor which has become an endearing trademark of Stafford's relationship with Hunny.


"I am always extremely humbled and grateful for all the support I receive year after year from everyone, and I never feel I can give back as much as I receive. I can only hope that a bit of an insider look at the effort, training and competition tidbits will serve as a bit of a thank you for all my supporters, because I would not be where I am without all of their help," said Stafford. "I also hope this motivates people to support the non-Olympic equestrian sports like driving, as well as to encourage them to follow their personal dreams in life, where ever that may take them!"

 

Follow along on Stafford's and Hunny's journey to the World Championships via their exclusive fan blog, as well as by "liking" their Facebook page and support their efforts with a tax-deductible donation!


Donations can be made online through PayPal or mailed to Team Stafford, 1107 Hillside Ave, Wilmington, DE 19809. When sending a check or donating online please write "Team Stafford" in memo or dedication box. The American Horse Trials Foundation has been granted tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  All contributions are deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law. 



April 25, 2016


Stafford Claims Second Straight USEF National Single Horse Combined Driving Championship



With dreams of national titles and the possibility of punching a ticket to Europe to represent the USA on the world stage, the country's best and brightest drivers and horses gathered in North Carolina for the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event CAN 2*, held April 15-17 on the picturesque grounds of the Carolina Horse Park. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this prestigious event drew competitors from as far away as California and Canada as host of the 2016 United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Single Horse Driving National Championship, as well as serving as one of the final selection trials for this summer's 2016 FEI World Single Horse Championships in Piber, Austria.

 

Among the field of international drivers was defending USEF National Champion Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Del. with her nine-year-old Morgan mare and USEF International Horse of the Year, PVF Peace of Mind (Statesman Signature x JPR Have Mercy by Saddleback Sky Pilot). As a former World Champion and a favorite to return as part of the U.S. Team for Piber, Stafford was no stranger to the pressure she faced coming into this critical competition. But coming off a big win at Live Oak International CAI 2* in February combined with a full winter season of careful preparation with "Hunny" in Florida, she was confident. "Even with a National Championship on the line, I refused to put any more pressure on myself than I normally do for a show. I wanted to keep looking ahead to Worlds, and simply prepare for the performance that I hope to have there in August," Stafford explained. "But at the same time, to be honest, I really wanted to win this for Hunny!"



The talented pair got off to a strong start in the first day's dressage competition as they earned a whopping score of 37.60 to earn the unanimous win from all three judges and remain undefeated in this phase. "After having some tension in our test at Live Oak, I was delighted with the improvement in our dressage test here at Southern Pines which was so solid with no mistakes," said Stafford. "Hunny is such an elegant mare with the attitude of a champion, and it really shines the minute she trots into the arena. It is a pleasure and a privilege to train such an incredible horse."   


 

Richard Nicoll's demanding marathon track at Southern Pines presented a tough test for all of the National Championship contenders, and while Stafford was pleased with her position atop the leaderboard after dressage, her four-point advantage didn't leave much room for error. "During my course walks I was mentally cautious about the hills on the marathon course as we have been showing and training in Florida all winter, where it's very flat," she noted. "But I shouldn't have been concerned! To say she was fit enough is an understatement. I knew on section A when we came across a field of goats that my mare had 'go' on the brain." With a well-executed plan of attack, plenty of horsepower in hand, and experienced navigator Larry Hart on the carriage's back step, Stafford tightened her grip on the overall lead by winning the marathon phase with a score of 87.32 including having the fastest time in three of the seven hazards. "Hunny just ate up the course and was still going strong even in the last obstacle. I had chosen slightly more open routes in the hazards than many of the other drivers which was a bit of a risk, but it paid off in the end because it really accentuated how fast and powerful Hunny can be."


Now with a more than seven-point lead going into the final day's cones phase, Stafford and Hunny seemed poised to easily claim the win. But the sprawling course presented some unusual challenges for the overnight leaders as Hunny rebounded from the previous day's marathon effort with unexpected fresh energy. "I didn't realize it until I got in the carriage but suddenly I knew I had my hands full with her," laughed Stafford. "Hunny was extremely excitable and strong and it caught me a bit off guard, so it made for a challenging round as she tested my driving skills for sure. Thank goodness I was lucky enough to have a decent lead coming into the cones phase because on that day I was outdriven!" Despite two balls down and 3.25 time penalties, the pair were able to hang on to the overall lead with a total score of 134.17 and lead the victory lap for their second straight National Championship title.

 

"I'm thrilled with how this weekend turned out and it is such an honor to win a National Championship. Hunny is a spectacular mare and she deserves to be on top, and I do my best to show off her talents without getting in her way!" said Stafford. "But all of this is also a valuable learning experience for us to better prepare for our ultimate goal of competing at the FEI World Single Driving Championships in August in Austria. I am excited about the possibility of the U.S. earning a Team medal there this year as we have a group of very strong drivers with international experience, great horses, and an exceptional coach. So now we're ready to start on the next phase of our journey!"


Photos by Pics of You



March 12, 2016


Immediate Opening: Full-time Head Groom/Apprentice


Our team is looking for a motivated, self-starting individual with attention to detail to assist in caring for a string of training and show horses. Applicant must have equine experience and be willing to travel and work overtime on occasion.


Job location: Ocala, Florida, from January through April, and Coatesville, Pennsylvania, from May through December. Some European travel on occasion.


Job responsibilities include:

  1. Caring for 6-10 horses

  2. Feeding/turnout, bathing, hair care, grooming

  3. Assistance in training young horses

  4. Warming up and cooling down show horses

  5. Harness/leather care

  6. Traveling to shows

  7. Braiding

  8. Minimal bookkeeping

  9. Occasional stall cleaning

  10. Riding (if applicable)

  11. Private housing available for qualified applicant

 

E-mail or mail this completed job application to: ponydriverss@aol.com or Suzy Stafford, 1107 Hillside Ave, Wilmington DE 19809



March 1, 2016


Stafford Sweeps 2* Single Horse Division at Live Oak International CDE - Earns Third Straight Live Oak Title with PVF Peace of Mind

With sights set on this summer's upcoming 2016 FEI World Single Horse Championships in Piber, Austria, the eyes of the combined driving world were on Live Oak International this weekend to see, both in person and via live streaming video, how the top American contenders would fare at the country's most prestigious and charismatic driving competition. But U.S. Team favorite and former World Champion Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Del. left no doubt as to who would dominate the rankings as she led the 2* Single Horse division from start to finish with longtime partner PVF Peace of Mind.
 

Celebrating its 25th anniversary on February 25-28 on the picturesque grounds of the Weber family's Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, Fla., Live Oak International combines top international combined driving and show jumping competition with a festive atmosphere, incredible amenities, and record attendance. "This show is very different from most of the shows in the States because of the tremendous number of spectators, which is really good for the horses to be able to get used to that when you're preparing to go to Europe," Stafford said. But the lavish decorations and large crowds can also be a challenge for the first day's dressage competition, a test which Stafford and her eight-year-old Morgan mare (Statesman Signature x JPR Have Mercy by Saddleback Sky Pilot) passed with flying colors as they earned the best dressage score of the entire show with 43.58 to easily cruise into the lead.

 

"Live Oak always does an incredible job dressing up the arena with beautiful flags and flowers. Although it was delightful to look at, dressage day was extremely windy and it was not so helpful for the drivers as the wind created a bit of electric energy in the ring," laughed Stafford. "But Hunny is the consummate show horse through and through, so even though she was slightly more tense than normal due to the conditions, she held her cool and I was very pleased."


Saturday's marathon course loomed large as seven incredibly impressive and technical obstacles designed by Gabor Fintha (HUN) awaited competitors, all to be tackled in front of overwhelming crowds of spectators and tailgaters at every turn. Once again, Stafford's experience and partnership with her horse prevailed as she and Hunny earned the fastest time in four hazards to cruise to victory by almost three points. "Marathon was a blast! I used a new carriage this time and I was extremely pleased with how it drove," Stafford explained. "My navigator extraordinaire Larry Hart, who's been part of my team since 2009, was once again on the job as he helped me stay away from the many knock downs on course. But I was most pleased with Hunny's 'go get 'em' attitude through the demanding course, and she finished very strong."


Even though Stafford now had a commanding double-digit lead going into the final day's cones competition, she knew not to take anything for granted. "The course at Live Oak is always a bit more challenging with the show jumps spread throughout the course, and the track was quite technical with several blind turns around the fences," noted Stafford. "Once again I was overwhelmed by the amount of spectators that graced the bleachers - it's exciting to see so many people supporting this wonderful venue and our sport. Despite all these distractions,
Hunny was extremely focused on her job, and even after the strenuous marathon the day before she felt strong and supple throughout the course, and we went clean with just .85 time penalties. I could not be more pleased with her performance this weekend."

 

Stafford and PVF Peace of Mind's final overall score of 138.65 gave them not only a 23-point victory, but also earned the pair their third straight FEI Single Horse division title at Live Oak International, all in addition to their recent crowning as 2015 National Champions and USEF International Horse of the Year. While appreciative of the success, Stafford is already looking ahead to a much bigger stage. "Although we had a great show, we have our sights set on our ultimate goal - to compete at the World Championships," she explained. "I love this journey, and I am so grateful for the support of my family and friends as well as Hunny's 'groupies' who were out in force at the event. Thank you!"


Photos courtesy of: Pics of You

 


January 26, 2016


PVF Peace of Mind Crowned 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year and Inducted into Horse Stars Hall of Fame


The
excitement was palpable in the lavishly-decorated ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington, Ky., as one by one a multitude of stunning trophies and championship ribbons were presented during the annual United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Horse of the Year Gala. But everyone was waiting for the biggest presentation of all: the International Horse of the Year trophy, which has been presented in years past to legends of American equestrian sport. Among this year's nominees was Suzy Stafford's very own eight-year-old Morgan mare, PVF Peace of Mind, but also contending for top honors was Verdades, the leading contender for the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team, as well as showjumping superstar Rothchild, individual gold medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games.

   

In 2015, PVF Peace of Mind (Statesman Signature x JPR Have Mercy/Saddleback Sky Pilot) was a force to be reckoned with as "Hunny" reached unbelievable heights in the sport of combined driving with owner and World Champion driver Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, Del. The talented pair won all three of their FEI combined driving events last season, including the CAI2* Hermitage Classic in Goshen, Ky., the prestigious CAI2* Kentucky Classic in Lexington, Ky., and a second consecutive victory at the CAI2* Live Oak International in Ocala, Fla. Most importantly, Hunny's dominating performance in all three phases of competition at Hermitage earned her and Stafford the 2015 USEF Single Horse Driving National Championship by an incredible 14-point margin over their closest rival.


The room fell silent as USEF President Chrystine Tauber opened the envelope containing the name of the 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year. "I'll never forget that moment when Hunny's name was announced," recalled Stafford. Thunderous applause erupted as Stafford took the stage to accept congratulations and the HOTY award from Tauber - only the second time in history that an equine athlete competing in combined driving has been presented with this honor. In her acceptance speech Stafford expressed appreciation not only for her charismatic partner, but for her legions of fans who showed their support by voting for Hunny in online USEF balloting.

 

"This girl is very special and sassy - she's one of a kind! She has a lot of personality and character which is what makes her such a competitor, and we just 'get' each other," said Stafford. "Hunny and I have a huge support group that makes our success possible. I appreciate each and every one of our fans and I am grateful for the adventures that we've been on, with so many more yet to come!" 


In addition to her new USEF International Horse of the Year title, additional honors were waiting for Hunny. "On behalf of the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), we wish to congratulate PVF Peace of Mind being selected as a USEF International Horse of Honor and to welcome her into our Horse Stars Hall of Fame as a 2016 inductee," said Lynn Coakley, President of the EQUUS Foundation.


"The Horse Stars Hall of Fame was established by the EQUUS Foundation and the USEF in 2013 to celebrate the extraordinary talent of horses and their magical and powerful bond with people. The purpose of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame is to honor the contributions of amazing horses; share the stories of their athletic and humanitarian feats; and build a more informed and compassionate America that values the bond between horses and people. The inductees include stellar, accomplished athletes selected by the USEF and 'humanitarians' - horses that have had or are having a life changing or inspirational impact on the public - selected by the EQUUS Foundation."


The announcement and recognition of the 2016 inductees will take place at the EQUUS Foundation's fête cheval étoile on Friday evening, February 26, 2016, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla.  The inductees will be featured in a video and photo gallery accompanied by stories of their achievements. That evening, the inductees will be revealed on the Horse Stars Hall of Fame website here >


Photo credits: Top: Stafford accepts congratulations from USEF President Chrystine Tauber. Photo courtesy of USEF c/o Adam Brennan; Middle: Stafford celebrates Hunny's USEF titles. Photo by Gail Aumiller.




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