Active Drivers

Bev White

Bev White was USDFD President from 2011 – 2013. She is a Para-Equestrian, driving her Welsh mare, Beaverwoods Balsa, in CDEs on the west coast. She is the organizer of the CDE at Inavale, a July event in Oregon. One of her goals for USDFD is to make available to all disabled drivers and their trainers an encyclopedic collection of information on adaptive equipment.

Diane Kastama

Diane Kastama, the Vice-President of USDFD, is an experienced horsewoman who has successfully competed in the world championships for disabled drivers since 2000, earning gold, silver, and bronze medals. She is the Chair of our Team Support committee, doing a fantastic job of organizing all aspects of that endeavor. In 1999 Diane was instrumental in bringing about changes in ADS rules which allowed disabled drivers to use wheeled vehicles to”walk” hazards, for which we are all grateful.

Meghan Benge

Allie and Bart at the Little Everglades CDE

Meghan is a photographer and graphic designer based near Aiken, SC. In 2009, She graduated of the Savannah College of Art & Design. In addition to photography & graphic design, she is very passionate about her equestrian pursuits. In 2008, Meghan felt honored to win the FEI Para-Equestrian World Championships for Disabled Drivers for Grade II Drivers. Currently, her and her Welsh Pony Pair compete in Combined Driving Events in the USA. In 2011, Meghan and her ponies were the winners at Little Everglades, Live Oak and Southern Pines CDEs.

Sara St. Peter

Sara St. Peter lives in Randolph Center, VT, where she serves as Chairman of the Board of Rhythm of the Rein, a local therapeutic riding program. She is attending both the Community College of Vermont and Marlboro College. Her love of horses began early on when her parents first put her on one at the age of two. Her primary interests were dressage and three day eventing. In October of 2000, Sara was injured at work and subsequently became a quadriplegic. Undeterred, Sara began teaching riding lessons to maintain her involvement with horses. Five years later lessons were no longer enough, so she decided to try therapeutic driving. In November of 2005, Sara traveled to Georgetown, Kentucky, to the USDFD Headquarters where she was set up with her first wheelchair accessible carriage. Seven years and three carriages later, she and her Dales pony RedPrairie Trotter have made it onto the Active Drivers list.

Pam Johnson

Pam Johnson and her husband Kelly are the owners of K Bar J Ranch in Pleasant Hill, MO, where they give horse-drawn hay rides at various events. Pam has been involved in an array of different disciplines over her life, competing in everything from Three Day Eventing to Team Roping. Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis put an end to those days, but that didn’t stop her. Pam put a cart and harness on her Christmas list and began driving. After volunteering at a local CDE she was sure with her vast eventing experience that Combined Driving was something she could do. Pam felt Combined Driving Events were just the ticket to keep her moving and motivated. Driving fulfilled her desire to still be involved with horses allowing her to continue to be competitive, and now fifteen years later she’s still kickin it! Pam competed as an individual with Team USA in the 2004 IPEC World Championships for Carriage Drivers with Disabilities held in Scotland and hopes to be selected to compete with the Team this year in Berda, The Netherlands.

Mary Gray

Mary Gray began driving as a young child in 4H. She also showed Pony Hunters as a junior and participated in over 100 competitive rides. Mary began driving in earnest in 1975 when she found it was no longer safe for her to ride and has been at it ever since. Mary has competed a wide variety of breeds over the years and has represented our country five times on Team USA at the Para-Equestrian Worlds Driving Championships in England, Scotland, The Netherlands, and Germany twice all with leased horses. After retiring as a public school Special Education Director, Mary now operates the Mary Gray Driving Center in Danville, NH, where she gives lessons and puts on driving events and clinics each month throughout the year. Mary’s two passions in life are teaching and driving, now she gets to do both everyday!

Paul Roberti

Paul Roberti, a native Rhode Islander and an avid sportsman was a tennis teaching professional and a New England Age Group triathlete for over 20 years. At the age of 40, he returned to college to receive his bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and athletic training. He continued his education and received a master’s degree in sports medicine. In 2002, he worked as the athletic trainer at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado and in 2003 he worked as the head athletic trainer for the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in St. Moritz, Switzerland and Winterberg, Germany. Paul went on to have a very successful career as both a teacher and administrator in education and sports medicine.
At the age of 52, on July 20, 2003 during a triathlon, Paul was struck by an automobile and rendered a T-7 complete paraplegic.

After his injury, Paul sought out new ventures to maintain his involvement in sports. He discovered that almost any sport available to the general population was also available to the disabled population with some adaptations. He discovered wheelchair fencing while doing his rehab for his injury at the Shepherd Center in Georgia. He competed in wheelchair fencing throughout the United States, Europe and Canada and was ranked nationally and internationally.

In April 2011, Paul wanted to try something different and started to research adaptive carriage driving and found that it was indeed possible. He started taking lessons last year at the New Horizons Center for Equine Assisted Therapy at Cornerstone Farm in Foster, Rhode Island under the coaching of Beth Stone. After Paul discovered combined carriage driving events, he enlisted the services of Kutzmann Carriage in Poland to construct a carriage with a seat adapted for Paul’s needs. This carriage gives Paul equal footing and allows him to compete in events with everyone. His long term goal is to compete in the national championships and world championships for the disabled.

Paul feels that just because someone is disabled, it shouldn’t limit their capabilities to do anything they want to do if you think outside the box. PAUL’S FOUR INGREDIENTS TO SUCCESS

1 Have passion for what you want to do
2 Be tenacious and practice every day
3 Be adaptive to unforeseen circumstances
4 Smile and enjoy yourself in your venture

Stefanie Putnam

A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities. -J.R.R.Tolkien

Stefanie Putnam is steadfast and passionate about her interests including design and advertising (she completed her Masters Degree in Fine Arts/Advertising in December 2014), public speaking, competitive horse driving, and of course her constant “Canine Companion,” Kaz. Following a devastating spinal cord injury in August of 2009 at the age of 24 which left her paralyzed from the chest down, Stefanie has embraced an amazing journey of self-discovery – rediscovering, reshaping, and rebuilding her dreams and her future. She has been blessed with the unbelievable support of many wonderful individuals who have embodied the magnificent power and triumph of the human spirit.

Stefanie has thrived through her involvement with carriage driving and United States Driving for the Disabled. For all of her life she has been involved with horses including a very successful show jumping career. She now competes regularly in Combined Driving Events. She hopes to broaden her scope as a motivational speaker/design consultant combining her successes as a competitive horse carriage driver with her insights into the world of individuals facing extreme challenges. She looks forward with great anticipation and excitement to this continuing, incredible journey and is truly an inspiration to everyone around her.

Karen Gorham

~written by Lindsay Yosey McCall for USPEA~
Karen Gorham grew up riding horses at her childhood home in Michigan. Both Karen and Bill enjoyed riding but when Bill was taught by Milo Measel to drive, it would be the start of a future career with the driving discipline. After a move in 1967 with her husband Bill the couple settled in Texas. After witnessing Bill Long, an elite driver, in the Four-in-Hand World Championships and numerous other fantastic drivers, Karen and her husband were hooked on the driving discipline. Karen and Bill spent most of the 80’s and 90’s driving horses, raising their children, and traveling to Combined Driving Events where Bill was a Technical Delegate.

In 2005, when Hurricane Rita came barreling towards Texas it would not only be recorded as one of the most intense hurricanes in weather history, but for Karen and Bill it would be a pinpoint for Karen’s future equestrian career as a Para-Equestrian Driver. After an incredible incident involving a truck and horse trailer Karen would live the rest of her life with a prosthetic left arm.

It would be just after the World Equestrian Games in 2010 when Karen would see her first video of a Para-Equestrian Dressage rider. As Bettina Eistel a Para-Equestrian Dressage athlete rode her horse Fabuleax 5 with only her toes, Karen was awestruck by this athletes determination. Karen noted, “I thought that if she could ride with her toes in Dressage, I can surely drive.” From that moment, Karen knew it was her turn to compete. She has traveled the country competing, training, and learning from the top drivers in the world. Throughout the week Karen is consistently training including daily drives with her six-year-old Welsh pony O’Charley, conditioning to keep her horse and herself in peak shape, and attending clinics and horse shows. As the World Para-Equestrian Driving Championships approaches, she is looking forward to representing the United States of America as a Para-Equestrian Driver. Karen commented, “I have so many people to thank all over the United States who have got me to this point. Everyone was so gracious in areas like Windsor, S.C. and Florida, I am in debt to everyone who assisted me as I prepared for my next endeavor. In particular, I wanted to thank Sue Hirzuk for allowing me to lease her pony Tucker. Part of my lease with Sue Hirzuck was that I showed in the Triple Crown of Driving and that her driving pony Tucker maintained his “For Sale” tag. This sweetheart of a pony was a wonderful drive and was sold to a driver in Tennessee just after I leased him. I can’t thank Sue enough for lending this wonderful pony to me. It is people like Sue who continue to make the Para-Equestrian Driving sport flourish.”

She continued, “I also want to thank the amazing Gerard Paagman, and Hardy Zantke for their encouragement since October 2010. I wouldn’t be here without so many wonderful drivers and trainers, my family, and of course the horses Lastly, I would like to thank Georgie and John Green who gave us the push to pursue this discipline and to everyone who founded and currently run the United States Driving for the Disabled, Thank you!”

Boo Fitch

boo-kiko2My name Boo Fitch i am 45 years old and I live in Central Va. I grew up Foxhunting and showing hunters. I attended Lynchburg College and rode on intercollegiate Riding Team as well as the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Team. After graduating, I rode jumpers for a prominent family in Quebec Can. It was during this time that I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. It came on suddenly and strongly. Within two years I required a hip replacement at the age of 26. I settled back in Central Va and started teaching riding and training horses outsideLynchburg Va.

By 2000, I was having considerable problems with my feet and ankles. It just so happened that I owned a school horse that drove and had a good friend that competed in Combined Driving back in the 80s. Between the safe horse and my friend I started driving and loved it. After 5 surgeries and 3 joint replacements over the course of 10 years from 2000 to 2010, teaching children just became too difficult and I was finding myself competing in Combined driving more often. I can still ride and I do foxhunt with a private pack. Most of our hunt members have serious health issues and we laughingly call ourselves the handicapped hunt.

At present I have a wonderful pony named Kiko and we have moved up the levels through intermediate and will be aiming for advanced in the future. As you may know RA is a progressive disease, and I realize that I need to take advantage of even my limited ability to move and participate in these wonderful horse sports while I still can. Because of my disease “the time is now” is all the more important.

Ginny Leal

IMG_8686Stricken by polio at the age of seven didn’t stop Ginny from being competitive. Although never able to compete in everyday sports, she found that her love of horses and horseback riding gave her the challenge she was looking for. After several years of trail riding with back country trail riding and competitive horse shows, post-polio syndrome began to take its toll and she would have to go back into a leg brace.

During a conversation with a neighbor, about the pain she was experiencing while riding horseback the neighbor, who trained horses but also drove carriages suggested she try driving. The rest is history. She finally found a competitive sport that was the challenge she was looking for. She has been competing up and down the west coast for over six years, behind the loves of her life the Haflingers, Mr. Maurice and Dancer.

Dani Bennis

image1_2.Dani Bennis is a new member of the USDFD. Her fellow carriage drivers and instructor gave her a membership to show their support for her hard work and “job well done”.

Dani recalls, “I got on a horse when I was five years old. Diablo was white and brown, walk only. My goal was to improve my balance and range of motion. Diablo followed my commands. I felt so good – some part of the universe did what I wanted them to do. Shyness and nervousness disappeared after one lesson.

In May 2014, I found The Carriage Barn Equine Assisted Therapy Programs. For my first carriage driving lesson we used people instead of horses, again, I was very nervous about going too fast. I am still nervous before a lesson, but have more confidence every time I am on my carriage. I trot now and truly love carriage driving! The horse’s strength calms me down, I feel like a new person just being around these beautiful Haflingers.

Driving is terrifying, fun, and motivating all at the same time. KC, my driving horse, helps me let go of stress and frustration. Driving helps me focus and be present in the moment. Perfection and Olympic competition may be in my future, fear of failing will not stop me. Patience with myself makes me know I will be better next time. I hope to continue my lessons and learn new skills. One day maybe I will compete in carriage driving events.

Kevin Ennis

drivepicMy name is Kevin Ennis. I am currently a Senior Spanish major at the University of New Hampshire. I am a caring, compassionate, and loving individual who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Although my physical appearance may be different, I do not allow my physical weaknesses to stop me from being a fully active and contributing member of society. I speak five languages, participate in many adaptive sports and have a wide circle of friends. Other than family and friends, my greatest passion has four legs: Horses. I have been in the saddle since the age of 4 and behind the reins since I was 11. I have experience riding and driving a wide range of breeds at a verity of different facilities ranging from small barns with 6 horses to large equestrian centers with as many as 30-45 horses.

Warm hoof beats to you all,