Gallery: Live Oak International brings world-class competition to Ocala
The unique event from March 16-19 will feature show jumping, combined driving and the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Imagine a misty Ocala morning, with light fog settling among the gentle green hills of the Live Oak Stud farm when you hear a distinct thump of horse hooves, the rattle of harnesses and out of the mist comes a horse-drawn carriage, its driver in tuxedo-style formal wear and wearing a top hat. That elegant ensemble is part of the dressage phase of the combined driving competition slated for the Live Oak International on March 16-19.
Live Oak International is unique in that it’s the only show jumping and combined driving tournament in the United States. This is the 32nd annual event. Under the direction of Co-President Chester Weber, who this year will be competing for his 20th USEF Combined Driving National Championship for Advanced Four-in-Hand Horses, Live Oak International has added the full set of combined driving tests. With the 2012 addition of his niece and Co-President Chloe D. Reid, a member of the U.S. Show Jumping Team, they added the show jumping element for broad appeal to sports fans and competitors.
According to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), combined driving is designed to test a driver’s ability and the horse’s obedience, speed and athleticism. There are three demanding phases with a carriage in tow: Driven Dressage, Marathon and Cones. These are similar to the mounted sport of three-day eventing with its dressage, cross-country and show jumping phases. Competitors can drive a turnout of a single horse, a pair of horses or a team of four horses.
Classes on Thursday, March 16, are for driving dressage, including single horse, pony pairs and four-horse teams. This aspect of the sport is similar to mounted dressage, in which horses and drivers perform specific movements, speeds and gaits.
Friday’s classes expand with both combined driving and show jumping competitions. Driving dressage concludes and the first driving marathon takes place.
Per the USEF, “Typically, the second phase is the fast-paced and demanding cross-country marathon. The marathon tests a horse’s fitness, stamina and agility, along with a driver’s accuracy and judgment as they navigate an intricate series of hazards which will include water, steep hills and sharp turns—all within the fastest time possible.”
The last phase of combined driving, the cones course, is a timed class in which horses and drivers have to accurately negotiate an intricate, winding course of narrowly set cones. The key element—no knocking over the cones with the carriage wheels.
Live Oak International has become a destination event for many equine competitors and Reid said Saturday is a jam-packed day, full of classes, presentations and a vendor village.
“It’s a really good day to capture everything,” she said.
Classes in combined driving, show jumping and two in-ring presentations from the Budweiser Clydesdales are on the schedule. The hitch team of the stunning Clydesdales will be onsite and doing photo ops the entire weekend. Reid said the world-renowned equines will be stabled at the show and “people can see them up close. They are amazing!”
So, whether you want to be dazzled by show jumpers clearing five-foot fences or enjoy the ambience of a fancy carriage driven by someone in a top hat and tails, Live Oak International offers an abundance of choices.
For $10 general admission, you can watch the varied competition classes, enjoy the grounds, visit with vendors and purchase from various food options onsite. A la carte tickets are available for daily admission, premium parking, a week-long pass and even a Saturday night disco party for $100. Various packages, including VIP experiences, tailgating options, food and special seating, are also available, starting at $250.
To find the full schedule, go to liveoakinternational.com/visit
IF YOU GO:
What: Live Oak International- combined driving and show jumping classes
When: March 16-19
Where: 2215 SW 110th Ave, Ocala. From State Road 40, head south on 110th Avenue. Premium access and tailgating spots will be on one side; general admission parking is across the street.
For more info: liveoakinternational.com/visit