by Marcella Peyre-Ferry
Pennsylvania driver Donna Crookston of Saltsburg, may be a part of the American team representing the United States at the at the 2000 Single Horse World Championship, to be held in Jarantow, Poland, Aug 28-31.
Crookston, with her 12-year-old Morgan gelding RG Cowboys Black Cadillac, is one of six drivers who have been named to the USEF's Driving Preliminary Training Short List for the event.
Crookston is a life long rider, but fairly new to the world of combined driving, starting about six years ago. Prior to driving she participated in a variety of equestrian disciplines, including three-day eventing, and she is an avid fox hunter.
Crookston recalls going to watch the Three Day Event at the Fair Hill International and seeing the CDE that used the same venue. She was impressed by the action she saw, and knew that combined driving was something she wanted to try.
Now 59, she waited until retiring to take up driving seriously, so that she would have enough time to devote to it. "I'm a very competitive person," she said.
From the beginning, Crookston felt she would be able to go a long way in combined driving. "When I got into driving, I thought this was something I could really do at an advanced level," she said.
Already this year, Crookston has won at Black Prong, and was USEF National Champion and 2007 Morgan Horse Association Champion, but she is proudest of her title as FEI North American Single Horse Champion.
It did not take long for Crookston to move up in the sport. She started with a Gelderlander, but switched to her Morgan, even though she had no prior experience with the breed. "Cowboy's a very easy going guy," she says of her horse. "I think marathon is probably our strong point. We've had very good dressage scores this spring."
Crookston still has a selection trial to complete at Bromont, Canada, but she has to be prepared to be selected, since the USEF may give short notice between making their selection and the time when drivers must depart for Europe. Before the Championships, there will be a training session in Poland as well, to prepare team members for the competition. At this point, it is not known if the USEF will send just the three drivers on the team, or if there will be room in the scheduling for an alternate to attend as well.
"You have to do forward thinking," Crookston said. "My navigator for the championship, if I get to go, is not coming until the Thursday of the competition. She and her husband are planning a vacation in Europe around that time."
Competitors may take their spouse along to the championships, but Crookston is not sure if her husband will come with her for the training camp or just the championships. "The training camp is something that can be done by yourself," she said.
Neither Crookston nor her horse has ever competed abroad before, and she is looking forward to the opportunity. "I'm very happy with my horse. He's been very consistent the last two years."
Other competitors on the short list along with Crookston are Leslie Berndl of Newcastle, CA; Marjas Becker of Brooker, FL; Robin Groves of Brownsville, VT; William Peacock of Belleville, TX and David Schneider of Palm City, FL.