Jamaica, a 17-year old Dutch Warmblood, nearly ended up on a dinner plate in Belgium. Instead, he flourished as one horse in Chester Weber’s four-in-hand combined driving team and has now received the ultimate honor. Selected from among all USEF breeds and disciplines, he was named the nation’s most exceptional horse for 2008.
Jamaica’s story is so amazing because he came so close to being slaughtered. Owned by a butcher, he was spared from his intended fate because he developed a skin infection. Afraid that Jamaica would infect other horses or contaminate his workplace, the butcher sold Jamaica as a carriage horse destined to give tourists city tours.
Jamaica proved unsuited to the leisurely pace required for carriage tours and too restless to stand while people climbed in and out of his carriage. Luckily for him, word filtered back to champion driver Chester Weber who was in Europe on a horse buying trip. Weber drove seven hours to Belgium and arranged to take the horse on trial to assess his suitability in a four-in-hand team. Jamaica had finally found his calling: just three weeks later Weber took him to his first competition.
Combined driving is exciting, one of the fastest growing contemporary equestrian sports, as well as it’s oldest. Similar to eventing, it has three phases: dressage, cross country and cones. It became an FEI discipline in 1970.
To give you a sense of the excitement, watch this video of Chester Weber competing at an indoor event in Toronto. Hold onto your hats!