Page 62 - The Hunt - Summer 2018
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Europe,” Stafford says. “It’s even shown on television.”
Now, Stafford instructs the woman giving Hunny a haircut from head to hoof not to clip deep inside her ears. Stafford has also done winter training in Florida for the past five years. At any time, she may have 12 to 20 horses and/ or students to train. Training a horse for top competition takes years. “For horses, about seven to 12 years old are the peak years,” she says.
Without a trace of a limp, Stafford strides toward the carriage barn with her two dogs—Astro, a Lurcher, and Nova, a Dalmatian—at her heels. Hunny, she says, is now working to win a spot in the 2018 world championship. Carriaging is expensive, and there’s minimal prize money. So many of the competitors are also well-to-do recreational drivers. “The average driver is 50 years or older, so I’m still one of the younger drivers,” says Stafford with her trademark bright smile. “In competition, you may have people in their 20s going up against those in their 60s or 70s.”
As she walks among her half-dozen vehicles, Stafford explains that there are basically two kinds of carriages used in competition. One is the marathon car- riage for cross-country driving, with a navigator seated at the back for balance and to keep the driver on the course. The other is the presentation carriage—some- what more elegant and with a shorter turning radius—used for dressage. A beginner’s wood cart can be purchased for around $2,000; a metal one runs $5,000. New carriages for major compe- titions start at around $15,000.
A few days after our fall interview, Stafford would shift operations to Florida, which means transporting 12 to 15 horses south. “Some owners will ship their own,” she says.
Occasionally, Stafford will hire a shipper. But mainly she gets behind the wheel of a truck herself with four horses in a van behind her. With competitions to attend about every other week, there really is no down time for Stafford, either as a competitor or a trainer.
The competitor in Stafford likes it that way.o
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