Going For The Gold

By Nick Steele

Chester Weber is a self-confessed perfectionist with the life motto, “Winners train, losers complain” When he is not traveling for competitions, he rises early every day and hits the gym at Golden Ocala by 6 a.m. and is training his horses by 8 a.m. He shifts to working on Live Oak International business by midday. His life is one of precision and discipline, which has led him to become a 15-time U.S. Equestrian Federation four-in-hand national champion, the most decorated driver in the United States and recognized as one of the world’s leading equestrian athletes. “I finished off last year, at number two in the world rankings,” he offers. “And, for the first time ever, we won the team gold medal for driving at the World Equestrian Games.”

It was the United States first team gold and represented a proud moment for Weber, who also won the individual silver medal for driving. It is the fourth silver medal awarded to him by the World Equestrian Games. “What makes four-in-hand combined driving truly special and unique from other equestrian disciplines, such as dressage or showjumping, is that while those disciplines may have a barn full of horses which they have to create bonds and work together with, [four-in-hand] drivers have to work with four horses at once, just to step inside the arena,” Weber asserted as he accepted his fourth Becky Grand Hart Trophy at the United States Equestrian Federation’s annual Pegasus Awards gala. “Sixteen legs, eight ears, eight sets of reins, and four hearts, which all require the absolute best care and attention to be the best athletes they can be.”

Born and bred in Ocala, Weber was raised on his family’s horse farm and has been involved in the sport of combined driving since he was 13-years old. One of his sisters rode hunter/jumpers and his brother played polo. “My family had Clydesdales and driving is what you do with them,” he offers. “I followed the sport up through the ranks to the four-in-hand. I think that when four horses are working together harmoniously, we witness something like moving poetry. As a driver, I feel like the conductor to a special orchestra.”

At 6’2” and 190 pounds, he cuts a striking figure, not unlike an conductor, atop the carriage. He represents Ocala with absolute pride at tournaments around the world. In 2015, he had a particularly regal encounter, receiving personal congratulations from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, following his second consecutive win at Royal Windsor. “It was very, very special. And well earned,” Weber commented on the honor. “Not just for me, but for the entire team behind these horses,”

He credits his understated demeanor to the spirited, majestic creatures that he spends so much time around. ‘Horses teach people of all ages humility, discipline, life skills,” he shares. “They have a wonderful way to keep you humble. Humility is also really a principle that I guide my life and the organization on. I try to have an expectation of excellence from everybody. But it is really important to me that, no matter how good we’re doing, everybody is humble.”

He also has a unique perspective about his success as a competitor, that only comes with age and years of firsthand experience. “One of the things that is so unique and nice about working with horse everyday is that with youth comes enthusiasm and speed — with age comes wisdom, knowledge and patience,” he says reflectively. “To stay at the top level, you need a mix of those things. Right now I am at the heart of my career, where I still have the speed and desire, but I also have a lot of experience and patience.”

To borrow one of his signature phrases, it is clear that it will be “onward and upward” from here for the this inspiring and trailblazing gentleman. “It’s my career, it’s my life, it’s my passion,” Weber has stated about his career as a competitor. When asked about his ambitions for the future, he answers without a moment’s hesitation. “Individually, I have won a series of silver medals, but I have never won an individual gold medal,” he explains. “So I would really like to be the individual world champion for once in my life. Those titles are only ever available every other year, so my next opportunity will be in Holland in September of 2020.”

Weber’s deep commitment and ambition, seems to signal that his quest for gold is an inevitable outcome for one of Ocala’s most celebrated native sons. Onward and upward Mr. Weber  — we will be rooting for you.

 

To learn more and follow his journey, visit ChesterWeber.com or follow his Instagram account @ChesterWeber

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