Driving & Riding

Driving & Riding Lessons at Grand Oaks Resort

If you are interested in taking Driving or Riding Lessons here

at Grand Oaks Resort please contact

Marilyn Hennessy at 352.750.5500 Ext. 237

contact us

Experience the Tradition

The contemporary equestrian sport of driving evolved as motor vehicles began to replace horse-drawn carriages for everyday transportation and business uses. Grand Oaks Resort is a mecca for driving enthusiasts, offering 320+ acres of rolling hills, miles of carriage driving trails and one of the world’s largest private collections of antique carriages.

The Grand Oaks provides instruction and hosts competition for both Pleasure and Combined Driving disciplines. Learn more on our driving/riding disciplines and lessons pages, and be sure to check our online calendar regularly for upcoming events.

Winter Trainers in Residence

Elizabeth Keathly

Elizabeth Keathley has been involved with horses since the early 1980’s but quickly found driving as her passion with a little Morgan mare in the late 80’s. She showed a pair of Dutch Warmbloods in the 90’s and started in the advanced division in 1996. In 2000 she moved into a welsh pony four in hand and competed for 10 years. She currently competes a pair of welsh ponies in the advanced pair division. She is the owner of the Cannon Carriage Driving Center located in Woodbury, TN May through October and trains out of Grand Oaks located in Weirsdale, FL November through April. Elizabeth is a certified CAA level I, II, and III driver and level I and II instructor. She has trained with many of the worlds best trainers , in Europe and America, to help with her own competing and in helping others in our sport of driving. Elizabeth can help you with all things driving like combined driving, pleasure or recreational. Whatever your driving needs she is always ready to help.

Kacy Tipton Fashik

1996-1999 I was employed by Stewart Title Company working directly for Mr. Stewart Morris Sr. along with Mr. Morris Jr. at the Morris Ranch in Wharton TX. My duties were all encompassing however I routinely drove pairs and groomed for their team and Unicorn turnouts.

1999 -2011 I was introduced to Gloria Austin by Mr. Mark Schofield and joined the Florida Carriage Museum and Resort in 1999. I assisted and received invaluable training from Melissa Warner as a Senior Equine Specialist. My duties started out as grooming for both Gloria and Melissa. I was asked to start driving the Kladruber team within a year of working here. My experience with turn out and the intricacies of pleasure driving were further developed when I was invited to travel to all shows and drives as Gloria participated in the United States, Canada and Europe. I have worked behind the scenes, polishing brass, bathing horses and anything involved in producing the best turnout possible. In 2008, Melissa Warner accepted a position with Tucker Johnson, and I was then promoted to Equine Manager.

In later 2008 the focus for the Carriage Museum turned to training, events and promotions designed to promote the Carriage Museum and Mrs. Austin’s significant expertise in the history of the horse and carriage. My duties included managing all staff, carriages and events.

2011 – In March of 2011 the Museum and properties previously known as the Florida Carriage Museum were purchased by the Grand Oaks LLC. I was invited to remain in the position of Equine Manager with enhanced responsibilities for training horses, drivers and turf management, together with both long, and short term marketing strategies for the new resort. This has given me the opportunity to show my driving skills in public events, outings and shows. I give single, pair and 4-in-hand lessons on a regular basis. I have completed my Level 3 CAA Proficiency Evaluation and I am a Level 1 Evaluator. I have organized all shows that have taken place at the Resort since 2008. I am proficient in what a proper turnout should look like and more, I can assist in the training of others to do the same.

I have been encouraged by others for years to take this step and now my current employer believes it will serve me as a professional and The Grand Oaks as another level of proficiency.

2014 – The American Driving Society accepted me as a Recorded Judge in Pleasure Driving.

Thorsten Zarembowicz

Thorsten was born and raised in Haan, Germany. His father was always involved in horses and brought Thorsten into the sport at age 7. At the age of 8 he drove his first Combined Driving Event with a single pony. From that moment he was hooked on the driving sport and moved quickly up the levels with a single horse. At the age of 16 Thorsten started training with World Champion driver Michael Freund. At the time he was still in school and it wouldn’t be until after he finished his schooling that he would begin working for Mr. Freund full time. At the age of 21 he made a life changing decision to leave his learned profession to become the Stable Manager and Assistant Trainer for Mr. Freund. Thorsten and Michael worked together for almost ten years, until 2010 when Thorsten decided to start his own training business in Viernheim, Germany. Thorsten and Michael are still very close, getting together often to share training ideas.

Thorsten’s passion is driving horses. Nothing would stop him from pursuing his driving career, even if that sometimes meant having to drive whatever horse was available. But with persistence, and of course the training from Michael Freund, he quickly learned the skills necessary to bring horses to the international level. After conquering the single horse competition by becoming World Champion in 2010, he decided it was time to train and compete a pair of horses and was again very successful. Thorsten then decided to sell this experienced driving pair in 2014 so he could fully commit to his next endeavor of being the United States Equestrian Federation Combined Driving Coach. The position as head coach involves coaching the developing and high performance US drivers, teaching private clients and clinics throughout the country, and of course coaching at international shows and preparing a team to compete at World Championships. Thorsten is based at the premier American driving location of Grand Oaks Resort in Weirsdale, Florida for the winter show driving season.

Accomplishments:

2004: 5th place German National Pair Horse Championship

2005: Reserve German National Single Horse Championship

2006: Bronze Team Medal Single Horse World Championship

2008: German National Single Horse Champion

2008: 8th place Single Horse World Championship

2010: Team and Individual Gold at Single Horse World Championship

2011: Reserve German National Single Horse Champion

2012: 1st place at the International driving competition in Lahden

2012: Reserve German National Pair Horse Championship

2013: 4th place German National Championship

2013: 1st place CAIO Riesenbeck

2013: Silver Team and 8th Individual World Championships Pair Horses

2014: Beginning of season sold experienced horses, new start.

2015: Developing Driver Coach Team USA

2016: United States Equestrian Federation Combined Driving Coach