The American four-in-hand driver Chester Weber has Riant as his European base this season. To get to know more of him as a person and his ambtions in the driving sport, Hippo Event recently interviewd him.
Two competitions – two victories….a good start into the competition season 2018. What are your big goals for this year?
‘We have had a successful start to our 2018 season with wins in the CAI 2* Palm Tree CDE Four-in-Hand division in Dade City, Florida; in the USEF Combined Driving Four-in-Hand National Championship at Live Oak International, and then in Tryon, N.C. at the WEG Test Event. One of our goals is always to excel in the national championship; we got that done in March! I always focus on competing well at Aachen, and we want to try to be on the top of our game at WEG. I also would like to qualify for the indoor FEI Driving World Cup again.’
You participated in the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Test Event @ Tryon International Equestrian Centre. You won the competition. What is your conclusion – What can we expect in September?
‘I think that Tryon International Equestrian Center is without a doubt a venue that has endless possibilities. We didn’t get to make use of the field for driving dressage and cones, but I got to see where it was being constructed, it looked good. There were a lot of questions from the organizing committee about the footing on the cross-country course—but we were driving on a former golf course fairway, and it was wonderful. I think that the obstacles need to get settled in over the summer, but if they stay busy with them, they should be fine by WEG. Concerning the US team for WEG, I think we have a medal podium chance for sure. I don’t know what the team will be, and it will take a little luck, but I think so. The last WEG, we were 4th. The Dutch are always a dominating force, as are the Germans, but we’ll see, and we’ll certainly try our best.’
What did you focus on in training for this season?
‘I’ve been trying to expand our string of horses to build the depth. We have a string of 8 or 9 really good horses right now. I competed what I call my “B team” at the WEG Test Event, and I was really pleased with how they performed. I also have a young horse program that mainly resides in Belgium. I’ll probably be bringing one young horse over after WEG to try and integrate them into our competition string.’
Now your active driving competition time starts in Europe. When did your horses come to Europe – how do you plan the next weeks and which CAI / CAIO do you intend to start?
‘Thursday May 3, eight horses left from Live Oak Combined Driving in Ocala, FL and were shipped to the Miami airport. We flew from Miami, Florida to Amsterdam. Our team will make a European base in Beekbergen, NL. Five horses were on the truck on the evening of Monday, May 6 and go to England to prepare for competition at Royal Windsor. They took take the ferry. And they arrived on Tuesday morning.’
General questions “On the carriage with…“
Can you describe a particular moment when you fell in love with horses?
‘I grew up with horses, but it was probably competing as a kid at either the Royal Windsor Fair or the Wisconsin State Fair.’
‘I had a sister who rode hunter/jumpers, and brother who played polo; my family had Clydesdales and driving is what you do with them. I followed the sport up through the ranks to the four-in-hand, what I feel is the Formula 1 level.’
What things are beautiful for you in Driving sport?
‘I think that when 4 horses are working together harmoniously, we witness something like moving poetry. As a driver, I feel like the conductor to a special orchestra.’
Can you walk us through a typical day in your life?
‘When I’m at home in Ocala, I start most days at 6 am in the gym. I typically meet my business partner, and we talk about our mutual funeral business. After that I’m in the barn around 8 am, and I start training horses until 12:15 or so. Then I spend time in the afternoon doing paperwork, office work, or going to meetings.’
Success is no Perpetua mobile. Drivingsport = Horses + Athletes + Drivingsport fans + FEI Sport officials + Sponsors + Media + X? Without energy input the sport will not develop – where do you see potential for improvement?
‘The [FEI] indoor World Cup has been a way to bring our sport to the people. Not unlike Global Champions Tour and Longines Masters have done for jumping; they brought jumping to the city. I think driving needs to do the same thing. We need to find a way to partner our sport, and bring it to bigger horse shows, in the heart of cities.’
What are the challenges that the Driving world is facing right now?
‘Back in the 80s when the likes of HRH Prince Philip was driving, there was so much affluence around the sport. But the pendulum swung other way. One of the challenges our sport if facing is that it has become a sport that is far too expensive for amateurs to do FEI level. Especially in four-in-hand.’
Chester Weber …personally…
Interests apart of job and Equestrianism?
‘Self-development, team building, cooking, skiing, running.’
Do you have a life motto?
‘Winners train, losers complain’
What do you eat on Marathon day for breakfast?
‘Every day for breakfast I eat wo medium boiled eggs and have a protein shake.’
What are you doing in the 5 minutes before you start?
‘Usually sitting there waiting for the starter; looking at my reins and the tack. But in the 5 minutes before I get on the carriage, I like to find a quiet spot to lay down, and close my eyes, and focus on what’s at hand. ‘
Horses… 3 words
‘majestic, spirit, excellence’
Besides horses, what’s one thing you can’t live without?
Equestrianism… What does it mean to you?
‘It’s my career, it’s my life, it’s my passion’
Horses and young people?
‘They teach people of all ages humility, discipline, life skills.’
‘It would be great if there was something like FEI Driving World Cup in cities and parks. We need to continue to find a way to bring our sport to the general public.’