Misdee took up the exciting sport of combined driving in 2007. In preparation for the World Equestrian Games in 2010 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Governor Beshear asked Misdee to be on his advisory committee for driving. In getting involved with preparing for the event, she recalled that some of the talented Dutch Harness Horses that she uses for coaching used to compete in combined driving earlier in their careers. So she decided to give the sport a try! Beginning with a pair at the lower levels, she fell in love with the adrenaline rush of the sport.
With the help of then trainer Michael Freund, she was named to the United States team for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. She was one of the first women to be named to a U.S. team for driving, along with her teammate Lisa Stroud. Overall, the team placed fourth, just 3.2 points shy of the bronze medal.
In 2016, Misdee transitioned to training with Boyd Exell, the current & 6 time World Champion Four-in-Hand Driving and 9 time FEI World Cup Champion. She was named to the United States team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, where the team won gold for the United States for the first time in history, making her the first female to win a gold medal in the sport of combined driving. “To represent your nation at an international competition is an amazing honor. I heard a statistic that less than one percent of the population has ever gotten to represent the United States, and to be able to do that was simply amazing.”
James also started competing in combined driving in 2016, after following Misdee around the world and watching her compete in the thrilling sport. He has competed both nationally and internationally, and most recently represented the United States at the 2021 Pairs World Championships in Kronenburg, Netherlands. He also represented the United States at the 2019 Pairs World Championships in Drebkau, Germany, where he placed a respectable 32nd of 82 competitors.
In addition to competing in combined driving, James and Misdee were also instrumental in bringing combined driving back to the Kentucky Horse Park, helping to organize the Kentucky Classic Combined Driving Event in 2011. In 2019, after years of preparation, the Kentucky Classic Combined Driving Event moved to Hillcroft Farm. The event now runs every other year, and was held again at Hillcroft Farm in May of 2021. We look forward to hosting the event again in 2023!
Hillcroft Farm was also named a USEF Elite Training Center for Carriage Driving, and is host to numerous USEF Developing Athlete Programs for Combined Driving each year. The program, originally started by Misdee and James, works to actively identify both drivers and horses around the country that have the talent and ability to compete in the sport of combined driving, with the hopes of helping these individuals progress to the highest level of the sport, the Advanced / FEI level. For more information regarding the USEF Developing Athlete Program for Combined Driving, visit the USEF website.