The Hermitage Classic celebrated it's 5th year with it's annual combined driving event in Goshen, Kentucky. As a major equine event located right in our back yard, we at US Chia had to get a piece of the action. Having never been exposed to combined driving, my eyes were opened to a whole new section of horse industry. With operations spanning back two centuries, Hermitage Farm supplies a long legacy of world class equestrian facilities. Current owner's Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown have infused their passion for combined driving into the line of equine disciplines supported by Hermitage. For the last five years, they have put on the Hermitage Classic, drawing competitors and spectators from all over the US and even globally to enjoy the sport of driving.
Steve Wilson and his team navigating the Blue Grass Motorsport Water Hazard
In case you are like me and also new to the world of combined driving, the structure of the competition lends itself to that of three day eventing only driving a cart behind the horse(s) as opposed to riding one. The first test being dressage, followed by the cross country equivalent -- marathon, with cones on the last day being comparable to stadium jumping. Each of these three phases can be competed in by ponies or horses -- in singles, pairs or the ultimate challenge -- four horses. Standing before the marathon course before the competition began, I found it unimaginable for even me to run through the course without bashing my head on an obstacle, let alone a group of four horses and a cart. After having witnessed this sport, I can say my respect for these animals and participants is immeasurable.
Harp's Bride marathon obstacle sponsored by Republic Bank
We've been lucking enough to develop a relationship with driving rising star and Hermitage Farm resident, Max Montoya. With his team of Friesian Saddlebred crosses, Montoya placed first in both the FEI #1* Pair Horse, and National Pair Horse events at this years classic. We met Max through Leslie Hernandez, who trains his horses and played a huge role in organizing. She has been incorporating US Chia into the feed plans of several Hermitage horses, including Fizzy -- one of Montoya's competition horses from the Classic.
Max Montoya and his team completing the Dressage phase
One of the coolest experiences for me was meeting Lee Smith's team of eight Clydesdales from Ontario, who gave a demonstration between events. My level of awe as I watched them turn a wagon 180 degrees in place was off the charts. After the demonstration I had the privilege of standing next to the Clydesdales, where I was better able to appreciate the power of 14,000 pounds of horse.
Zack with Clydesdales
For those looking for those who nothing about horses and equine enthusiasts alike, the Hermitage Classic is a must. A well run event, with great atmosphere, delicious food from Proof on Main, and a balanced level of competition and fun -- I was able to take away a new perspective on the horse world and have memorable experience. Here's to next year's Hermitage Classic.