WINDSOR--The sport of combined driving gave Pixie Keating a new lease on life. The horseman was no stranger to being an active participant in equestrian activities, having evented, competed in dressage and galloped Thoroughbreds at the racetrack. The veteran performer is going this weekend in the preliminary single horse division at the Katydid CDE.
Keating made a successful transition into her current discipline, and has been driving for the past decade.
The pony Keating is competing this weekend is a second generation homebred named Sweet Redemption, and the 9-year-old is known endearingly around the barn as Legs. She’s still showing her FEI Pony, who is now 18-years-old.
“I think he likes me a lot because I saved his life when he was born,” said Keating. “He was stuck with his right foreleg between his ears. I had to push him back in, and pull him out. There’s a lot going on in my life, so he’s a baby that’s 9-years-old.”
Keating would love to be able to take him up the levels, and eventually go intermediate,
“He’s got the talent to do it,” said Keating. “If he and I stay healthy.”
The driver/horse combination were in the middle of the pack after their dressage test on Friday.
“He did what I asked of him,” said Keating. “He had a very steady rhythm. He was obedient. He didn’t get excited. He didn’t pull any antics. I was thrilled. It gave us a base to build up.”
The marathon phase was Saturday, and saw Keating and Legs having to contend with a variety of hazards, facing a number of situations and getting plenty of mileage from the experience. Legs loses a bit of his focus when there’s a crowd of spectators and there was a swell of people gathered by the water hazard, and more by the birthday cake obstacle.
“He had a couple of good hazards, and a couple of very hesitant hazards,” said Keating. “He’s not accustomed to seeing a lot of people, and these hazards were beautiful. He saw the two hazards (water and birthday cake) at the end of the marathon when he was tired. The fourth hazard, the shed, there wasn’t anybody there, and that went perfect. He went in, did his turns, came out, nice and soft, in the bridle, and behaved himself. When there was a lot of activity, you could just feel he was tense.”
Legs strongest phase at the moment seems to be the cones, and he should maintain his focus within the arena, despite some outside distractions.
The sport of eventing helped Keating make the transition to the sport of combined driving very easy.
“I had to learn how to drive,” said Keating. “So much of it is dressage. I knew about the scoring, the timing on the marathon and the conditioning. All the things are basically the same. These horses have to be a lot fitter than event horses. I think at the advanced level, our dressage tests are almost as long in time as the cross country.”
It’s a team effort, and Keating has to rely on her navigator and crew, knowing that one person can’t do it alone.
“You need help,” said Keating. “The navigator needs to learn about timing, and has to be able to remind you about things. You can’t do the vet box by yourself. You need somebody in the vet box to help you.”