Upper level combined driver Shelly Temple was among those competing this past weekend at the Viewpoint Dressage Holiday on Horse dressage show at Highfields Event Center.

Temple, whose Catalyst Driving Center that she owns with her husband Fran Doto, is located in Windsor, competed her 14-year-old Morgan gelding LR Ami B-Line or Cooper as he’s known around the barn. Temple and the 2006, 2010 and 2011 United States Equestrian Federation national single pony champion and 2007 USEF Horse of the Year combined driving single pony, did second level.

The rider and horse combination do have a defined objective as Temple has been working toward her USDF Bronze medal.

“I’ve ridden Cooper all year,” said Temple. “This is my second, second level score. Now, we’re going to concentrate on teaching him the flying changes.”

And as Cooper focuses on learning the classic dressage movements and going up the levels, Temple remains goal oriented and has her sights set on third level.

However, the horseman admits moving up the levels has not been without its challenges.

“It used to come a lot easier, but now that I’m a little older and a little creeky, the sitting trot especially, is something that I never thought about when I was younger,” said Temple. “He’s a bouncy pony, and there’s not a whole lot of him. It’s a challenge for me. I’m humbled, and it’s good I teach driving lessons because it comes back to you. You tell your body something, and it doesn’t do it. It’s very humbling, and very good.”

The Katydid CDE in November was a homecoming of sorts for the pony Temple has been driving in 2012, Irene Gillis’ German Riding Pony Hemmingway, who had been owned originally by Katydid Farm’s Jennifer Matheson. The driver horse/combination enjoyed success earlier in the year at preliminary level, and took the opportunity at Katydid to move up to intermediate.

“I think he’s come a long way in a short period of time as a single pony,” said Temple. “I was very pleased with his performance on the marathon especially at Katydid.”

The driver/horse combination have continued to evolve as Temple has asked Hemmingway for a little bit more at each show. Temple’s husband Fran Doto, who is her navigator on the marathon course, has also noticed Hemmingway’s continued progress and growth.

“He really stepped up,” said Temple. “I was thrilled with him. He stayed strong, even through the last hazard. He turned. He pushed. I was really pleased with him. My husband, who missed Pine Tree, was stunned. He saw how big of a jump he made in terms of handling and speed.”

Hemmingway seems to be stronger in the marathon and cones phases, but the German Riding Pony has a strong dressage background. He’s a nice mover, has a big trot and is really free in his shoulder, said Temple.

“We’re just working on the basics, standing still, really pushing, taking on a half halt well, really bending and letting me position him for the movement, which is really important,” said Temple. “We’ve been figuring each other out. His first show, we just popped around and got to know each other. At each show, I’ve asked for a little bit more. This show, we were much more in synch. He really tried for me. I was really pleased. He was really game about it.”

Speed and power are two of the attributes the German Riding Pony possesses in ample amounts, said Temple.

“You can power him around a turn and zoom out,” said Temple. “Cooper is a really solid and honest pony, but he doesn’t have much strength. Hemmingway is a pretty strong pony. It was exciting driving him, and I really appreciate Reenie letting me drive him.”

The U.S. combined driving team’s coach Michael Freund was also very impressed and enthusiastic about Hemmingway, said Temple.

“I took him to a training session right before the Kentucky Classic CDE, and Michael really likes him,” said Temple.

The world championships next November are Temple and Hemmingway’s objective. The driver describes Hemmingway as a super pony, with a great disposition and sense of humor, making him really fun.

“I do have more time than normal, and it’s going to take that time to form a partnership with him,” said Temple.