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When it involves a pony, a dedicated driver, and a World Championship.

Although Pony Power has been strong in the U.S. for many years, when it came to the 2015 World Combined Pony Championships, it was up to one pony to represent the stars and stripes. That pony was Fuego 88, a 14-year-old German Riding Pony owned and driven by Tracey Morgan.

Tracey Morgan, of Beallsville, Md., had a plan for 2015 – to win both FEI shows in Florida with very competitive scores in order to secure selection to Pony Team USA for the sixth time. “Fuego was outstanding at both shows winning the USEF National Championship at Live Oak,” said Tracey. “Enthusiasm among pony drivers was high despite news that USEF budget cuts would reduce possible travel grants substantially from previous years.”

Things changed. Emergency back surgery for Laurie Astegiano, a U.S. citizen living in France, who has competed for the U.S. several times with her team of ponies, put her on the sidelines. Without a four-in-hand to complete the team, other drivers put their European plans on hold.

Tracey instituted Plan B: “to push ahead as an individual and compete at the best shows in Europe.” Kenny Cox, Tracey and Fuego left on July 1, bound for the Netherlands where they set up base camp at Stal deRonde in Zwartewaal. “Koos and Marie deRonde have provided support for me and many other American drivers in the past decade. Transportation, stabling, training, housing and friendship! USEF approved a travel grant which helped pay for some of the expensive air transportation. Friends and family joined in to support our endeavor - it takes a village.”

Their first competition was in Minden, Germany. Tracey and Fuego worked with coach Thorsten Zarembowisc. Minden is a ‘pony only’ competition, and the competition was fierce, with 45 FEI single ponies. They finished in 13th place, with a fifth place finish in cones.

With only five days rest they traveled back to Holland to compete at Beekbergen. “I was determined to improve on the marathon and we finished second and thoroughly enjoyed the European prize giving ceremony.” After Beekbergen, Kenny flew home for a month returning in time for the World Championship in Breda.

Tracey used the time to compete at two national shows close to ‘home’ at Stal deRonde. “I am fortunate to have a pony that is so sound and tough and to have Dutch friends that were willing to help me compete. Each CDE has more than 120 competitors with the pair and four-in-hand divisions being as full as the single division. We won our division at Maasdijk and I was thrilled to hear we had had the fastest time of all competitors in one hazard.”

Then it was on to the World Combined Pony Championships – in Brede. They met up again with Thorsten Zarembowisc who would be both coach and chef d’equipe. “I have trained with Thorsten whenever possible since I first purchased Fuego from Ned and Anne Bliss four years ago. Ned has been our greatest fan and Thorsten our best critic, with good humor,” says Tracey. She knows that Thorsten’s own success means he understands what it takes to make it through the World Championship experience and win.

Rain began falling on the beautifully prepared show ground that also hosted Show Jumping and Eventing Dressage along with the combined driving event that weekend. Being the only driver from U.S., Tracey still participated in Opening Ceremonies. “It is such a special thrill to be an athlete representing the USA and marching in opening ceremonies - it is the celebration of achieving the right to compete with the best of your sport.”

Dressage
“Rain and mud everywhere. Our dressage test was not quite as brilliant as usual and we finished the day in 8th place. More rain and more mud, truly a sea of mud in order to even leave the barn area. Amazingly all the people trudged on with good spirits. Trucks cannot move without huge tractors pulling them through the mud which leaves even deeper mud. Prize Giving is moved inside - I’m happy to be in the ribbons and wish there was an American team in contention as well.”

Marathon
“Eight World Championship caliber hazards that are long and difficult were made most challenging when the ground was so muddy. While we galloped in and out at full speed I found that my pony had difficulty maintaining speed through the tight turns of the technical routes.”

Cones
“I was disappointed in our marathon score but the complex cones course is a new opportunity. Single ponies have the fastest time allowed of all divisions at 260 mpm and distances are measured on the tightest possible radius on every turn. I was thrilled with the quickness and obedience Fuego delivered for a clear round just a fraction over time.” Their score earned them 8th place in cones.

Tracey and Fuego finished in 19th place out of 30 single ponies. Fabian Ganshirt of Germany won the single pony gold medal, Anna Graston of Great Britain won the pony pair class, and Bram Chardon won the gold medal with his team of gray ponies, the third time in a row.

For Bram Chardon, this was his third gold medal. The added pressure of competing in his home country did not faze this young driver who has been working with his team of ponies for about nine years. He started training them when he was just in his early teens. He likes ponies because “they do everything for you if you treat them right. They give you 200%. It is different than with horses. They [ponies] keep going until the end.”

The 2017 World Combined Pony Championships will be held September 20-24 in Lipica, Slovakia. Perhaps Tracey and Fuego will be joined by other members to compete as a team once again.

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