Nestled in the spreading canopy of live oaks, lush green grass and the gently rolling hills of Ocala, is a 4,500-acre farm named Live Oak Stud. The farm is home to the Weber family as well as fields of magnificent and successful Thoroughbred racehorses. Live Oak is also home to the most successful combined driver in the United States and a favorite son of Ocala, Chester Weber.
Chester, the nine-time United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Four-In-Hand Combined Driving Champion who is currently ranked 2nd in the Four-In-Hand World Cup Standings, thrives on life as a world-class driver. Combined driving is a high-speed, adrenaline pumping sport that isn’t for the faint of heart. Whether on American soil or competing in Europe, the name Chester Weber has become synonymous with combined driving.
Combined driving is an equestrian sport involving carriage driving. The driver can drive a single horse, a pair or a team of four horses, called a four-in-hand. With his zeal for life and determination to be the best, Chester drives a four-in-hand team made up of top European warmblood horses. The sport has three phases: dressage, cross-country marathon and the obstacle cone driving. A combined driving event is three days of non-stop action, with one phase completed each day.
As America’s leading combined driver, Chester is as driven as his horses. Known as a driver who sets goals and accomplishes them with vigor, Chester made history in 2008 when he became the first American to win an Individual Silver Medal in the Four-in-Hand FEI World Driving Championships in The Netherlands. Being a champion is Chester’s goal, and amidst the grandeur of his stable at Live Oak Stud, he maintains a rigorous competitive schedule as a world class combined driving competitor. In addition to winning his silver medal, Chester has also competed in the World Equestrian Games three times and the World Championships four times.
While Chester typifies the spirit of an all-around sportsman, he is also the consummate showman and always willing to promote and educate others about the sport of combined driving. Chester participates in exhibitions across the nation, demonstrating the combination of finesse, power and agility of a top four-in-hand team. His lively banter draws the audience in during his performances, providing enlightening educational experiences for everyone from seasoned professionals to first-time spectators. Chester is also active in the organization of three Combined Driving Events including the annual FEI Live Oak competition.
Under the guidance of Chester and the Weber family, the Live Oak Combined Driving Event in Ocala has become one of the most prestigious combined driving events in the United States. The cross-country marathon day attracts more than 5,000 spectators, all eager to enjoy the beauty of Live Oak and the thrill of the carriages on the cross-country course. “This year marks Live Oak’s 20th year of competition. While I am proud of the event that we have created, I am also proud that Live Oak provides a service to the community as the proceeds from the event benefit the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association,” Chester said.
Chester’s extensive resume continues to grow each year, and he and his award-winning team of horses kicked off 2012 by driving into the winner’s circle at the Sunshine State CDE, which took place at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala. He followed Sunshine State with a victory at the 2012 Little Everglades CDE, taking the FEI Four-in-Hand Division with a spectacular dressage test. Chester is known in equestrian circles as the “driver to beat,” and he has twice been named a USEF Equestrian of Honor and the recipient of the Becky Grand Hart Trophy. Last year he was named the Driving Horseman of the Year in The Chronicle of the Horse Magazine’s annual American Horses In Sport issue. In 2011, Chester proved his ability in Europe, with a summer tour that kept him in the winner’s circle, with wins at CAIO Veces, CAI Altenfelden and CAIO Riesenbeck. “It was truly a memorable summer,” he said.
Chester also had a memorable year in 2008, when his horse Jamaica earned the highest equine honor in the industry when he was named the USEF Farnam® Platform® Horse of the Year. Jamaica, who was part of Chester’s award-winning team for many years, captured the heart of the nation with his rags to riches story. Jamaica was rescued from a slaughterhouse before becoming part of Chester’s sliver medal World Championship team. On his road to winning the USEF Horse of the Year title, Jamaica’s story drew fans from far and wide, helping Chester to further promote the sport of combined driving. During Jamaica’s award winning 2008 year, Chester was also named a USEF Equestrian of Honor. Jamaica is now retired and living happily at Live Oak.
Chester’s success in combined driving started early, when at 18 years old he was the youngest driver to be named to a United States Equestrian Team and to qualify for the World Pairs Driving Championship. By 1999, Chester had won 12 consecutive Advanced combined driving events and transitioned into Four-in-Hand driving. He now has his sights set on the 2012 World Championships in Riesenbeck, Germany and, with any luck, Ocala’s favorite son will return to beautiful Live Oak with more medals and more victories to his name.
To learn more about Chester and his combined driving team, visit their website at www.chesterweber.com.