When STRIDE member Sharon Young purchased her 2.5-year-old Welsh pony in 2014, little did she realize that she was literally hitching her carriage to a star.
Previously a dressage rider, Sharon’s interest shifted to driving. In 1994 while living in Connecticut, she had the opportunity to drive a Morgan mare, Annie, who belonged to her then dressage instructor, Chelle Anderson. A spark was ignited.
But as fate would have it, Sharon moved to South Florida in 1996 and took a hiatus from horses all together until moving to Ocala in 2004.
Although she continued with dressage after arriving in Ocala, Sharon felt a real connection to driving. Not only had she seemed to have a knack for it, but the speed was exhilarating! There was only one thing standing in her way…she needed a driving pony.
After an exhaustive search, she discovered Pat Kultgen and Windstar Welsh Ponies in Lorena, Texas.
Not known for breeding driving ponies, Windstar’s reputation ascended from their success as breeders of Welsh dressage and hunter-jumper ponies. But that did not dissuade Sharon. She was absolutely captivated by a filly who had successfully competed at the 2014 Welsh Nationals in hand, capturing 10th place. The filly had also nailed a fourth-place finish at the Texas regionals. Clearly, she rated high on the scale of conformational correctness, but how would she prove herself as a driving pony?
Sharon contacted Pat in Texas and told her of her interest in the pony, Neytiri, as a driving prospect. Pat and Sharon had an immediate connection. It wasn’t long until Pat had purchased a harness for Neytiri to see how the pony would react to harness. It was a non-event for Neytiri, and proof positive for Sharon that her hunch was right. Neytiri would be a good driving candidate. Sharon sealed the deal and Neytiri was shipped to Florida.
After arriving in Florida, Neytiri began working with Tracy Bregman. Tracy ground drove her religiously from November 2014 to April 2015. Then it was on to Gary Yeager of Yeager Equine Services. Within four days, she was pulling a training cart. By the time she was a three-year-old, she was leading other ponies and horses through the Goethe Forest. She had a penchant for water obstacles and was christened “The Duck” by Gary. Turns out Neytiri had a pond at her disposal on her farm in Texas and was no stranger to water. In fact, she loved it!
It was on to competitions for the plucky pony, and Neytiri did not disappoint. In her debute at Black Prong Horse Driving Trials, she and Sharon snagged a first-place finish in the Training Level Division! From there, they proceeded to the Nationals at Grand Oaks, where they placed fifth in the Preliminary Division!
Sharon has her compass dialed in on the Combined Driving Event in December at Grand Oaks, where she hopes to finish the Preliminary Division and move on to Intermediate. Says Sharon, “I call her the little engine that could.”
Moral of the story: When you hitch your carriage to a star, the sky’s the limit.
By Dale Wade