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Morgan horse and "Mama" race for world championships - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Morgan horse and "Mama" race for world championships

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STOCKBRIDGE, Vt. -

"Rowley right here is the best marathon horse in the United States of America at this time!" says Cheryl Rivers.

This counts as a slow stroll up the road in Stockbridge Common, but it is Rowley's speed and agility that has made this Morgan horse a star in the sport of combined driving.

"I had once told one of my friends that it was unlikely that I would ever win an advanced level marathon because after all that was for the young people, but what I didn't realize was that if I drove him well he could do it! So my friends have now started calling me Marathon Mama!" Rivers says.

Rowley's mama is former state senator Cheryl Rivers.

"Combined driving is one of the sports where you can be an AARP member and be on the United States team," she says.

Rivers is 62 and in the running to compete for the U.S. Team in the World Championships in Hungary in September.

"We're down to the top five in the country. We've been told that we're tied for third in the coach's rankings," she says.

The advanced combined driving competition was created by royalty.

"It's a sport that was started by Prince Phillip actually in Europe," she explains.

The competition includes three parts: Driven dressage on day one when horses prance. Day two is the ten mile marathon with eight obstacles and day three is the cone course.

The goal is to drive quickly through the cones and not knock down any balls. Jack Merritt owns Rowley and also rides shotgun to provide balance during training. A second person is always on board at the advanced level.

There is a strong connection to the past for this dynamic duo. Cheryl grew up at the UVM Morgan horse farm in Weybridge where her dad was a trainer. She says, if this sport had existed back then, her dad would have made it to the world championships.

"Yeah, it's the thrill of a lifetime absolutely, yes," says Rivers. "To be able to go with Rowley who goes back to a horse that I knew growing up is just too much. It's a great thrill."

Rowley isn't the only four legged star around here! Cheryl's other four legged love Luci goes everywhere with her, training in South Carolina in the winter and Europe next week!

"Luci goes with me and my husband and son stay in Vermont," says Rivers.

This team will train with a coach in Germany before starting competitions.

"A couple of weeks after we've been there were going all the way to Hungary for a competition. And then, another couple weeks later we're going to Austria for a competition which is at the Piber Farm which is where they took the Lipizzan horses to save the breed during World War II to get them away from the Nazis," says Rivers.

There's also some historical significance to a Morgan horse from Stockbridge taking on some of Europe's most famous warm bloods.

"Let's go beat warm bloods. That's what we say. They can't go as fast in the hazards and they're not as tough as a good Morgan horse," says Rivers.

She finds out next month if they've made the U.S. team.


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