Debbie Banfield »

Professional Profile

Debbie, born in Richmond, IN, has had a love for horses
since she was old enough to read a horse book….

BACKGROUND: In the 1960’s, Debbie’s parents moved to Kewanee, Illinois to start the family business, A-Tek Corporation. Across the street from their new home she noticed horses grazing. With much excitement she would be over there every day just to be near the horses and help the elderly man care for them. It was during high school that her love for animals steered her towards the hopes of being a Veterinarian. The required classes inspired her to join the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Debbie was the first girl to participate in this organization at her school. During her freshman year in High school, on the budget of a waitress, she purchased her first horse, for just $25.00. At a stable on the other side of town for just $10.00 per month, Debbie would care for her horse daily before and after school. Stable visitors often commented that time that Rhumba, Debbie’s Arabian horse, had the shiniest coat and the cleanest stall. Debbie’s early equestrian accomplishments were having fun trail riding with the local club, showing in 4-H Western Pleasure and halter classes, and even doing some barrel racing! Ironically envisioned by her classmates, printed in her 1971 senior year book, was that Debbie would “probably live on a horse farm in Kentucky someday.” Debbie knew horses would always be a part of her life.

After graduation, Debbie worked as an assistant service manager for a Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership, now having three horses of her own. On a visit to Friendship Farms, in Moline, IL, she met with the manager just to tour the facility. He offered her a job! At first she turned it down, but the more she thought about it, the more interesting it sounded. Debbie then made a radical decision to earn less money, start commuting 100 miles a day and sell all of her horses and equipment. Debbie’s first experience with driving horses was in 1977 working in the driving division at Friendship Farms for Mrs. William Hewitt. Mrs. Hewitt was a long time breeder of the Arabian horses. Debbie apprenticed with Manfred VonDePole, from France, for two years. Throughout that experience, horses were broke, all types of hitches were put together and Achenbach style of driving was utilized.
Debbie Adams Banfield driving Mrs. Patricia Hewitt’s pair of Arabians at Gladstone.
Maintenance of 35 antique carriages, numerous sets of harness, was a daily routine. Debbie would travel an average of 50,000 miles a year participating in Combined Driving Events, Pleasure Driving Shows, Social Drives, Parades, and demonstrations. It was in the late 1970’s early 80’s that Debbie long listed for the World Pairs and attended several United States Equestrian Team clinics. Debbie’s driving education comes from different European trainers originating from Switzerland, Holland, Germany and England. She also spent several months training with Leslie Kozsely learning the Hungarian style of driving, harnessing, and hitching. In 1980 Debbie went to Windsor, England for three months. It was there she managed both entries of Hungarian four-in-hands competing in the first, World Championship for the USA. While she was in England, she met Prince Phillip and was given the opportunity to drive his four-in-hand of Cleveland Bays in Windsor Great Park. A year later, Debbie decided to get married and start a family at the age of 28.
Leslie Kozsely introduced Debbie to Gail Austin, the owner of the Gayla Driving Center, in 1988. Debbie became very active creating the center by teaching drivers, training horses, and sharing her knowledge of the sport. She also was very involved volunteering for various committees of the American Driving Society, nominating committee, pleasure driving committee, serving as Central Regional Representative, and becoming a Registered Judge in Dressage, Combined Driving, and Pleasure Driving. She also organized and participated in functions including, Equitana USA (Louisville, KY), The Equine Affaire (Dayton & Columbus, OH), and The Hoosier Horse Fair (Indianapolis, IN).


Debbie with President’s Trophy awarded by Natasha Griggs, ADS President.


Debbie, the able-bodied whip, assisting Scottie Stoddard, from Longboat Key, FL, driving Fredrick a Norwegian Fjord Pony pulling a Bennington RDA Challenger


Debbie Banfield enjoys working with the local schools and 4-H groups around the country educating the youth and adults about the sport of carriage driving. Another ambition of hers was to promote more driving events in Central Kentucky: In 1989 The Kentucky Gayla Combined Driving Event ran at the Kentucky Horse Park for eight years and bloomed into a full 3-day Advanced Premier Event. The Kentucky Gayla Carriage Classic began in 1998 at the Gayla Driving Center. This three day pleasure show featured 64 classes and 10 different divisions. Starting in 2003 The Gayla Bluegrass CDE was created and both Combined Driving and Pleasure Driving was represented at the Gayla Driving Center. By offering a variety of schooling events, clinics and lessons encouraged individuals to participate with their driving horses. It was important to Debbie that their experiences be in a congenial atmosphere with safety at the utmost importance.

It was because of Debbie’s enthusiasm and encouragement helping people and dedication to the Sport of Carriage Driving that she was awarded the Presidential Trophy in 2001 by the President of the American Driving Society. In 2014 Debbie was also awarded the prestigious ADS 40 x 40 award. This award was honoring 40 individuals in the last 40 years who have made a difference for the Society, and who have also worked diligently with related associations, breeds, disciplines, education and outreach.

Debbie served on the USEF Carriage Pleasure Driving Committee for close to 10 years. She also has served on various ADS Committees as well as two terms as Regional Representative during the last 35 years. She has a passion for helping drivers with disabilities and volunteered and served as President of the United States Driving for the Disabled for 8 years and continued on as a board of director for a few more years.  Debbie is now a retired ADS/USEF/FEI Judge in Combined Driving and a “R” ADS/USEF Pleasure Driving Judge. Together with her husband Dana they have managed the Gayla Driving Center, LLC in Georgetown, KY for over 30 years.

TRAINER: Debbie’s experience working with horses is exceptional. She has the experience with practically all breeds of horses and ponies. Her methods are solid and long lasting. The animals are quiet and happy in their work. The animals look forward to being worked and are handled with soft hands and a kind voice. The training is done with positive reinforcement to gain the animal’s trust and respect. Debbie’s philosophy is that the bonding between driver and animal is essential to the safety of the sport. She also believes that the animals should have proper muscle development, and be prepared mentally, for each stage of training. It is essential that the owner and the animal are right for each other and happy with the results. The animals have the best of care and are treated like a professional athlete.

INSTRUCTOR / CLINICIAN: Debbie has been teaching since 1980. Her teaching methods of the Achenbach & Hungarian style of driving are easy to understand and specialized for each person. Debbie was the driving clinician teaching at The Equine Affaire in both Dayton, and Columbus, OH, Equitana USA in Louisville, KY, and the Hoosier Horse Fair in Indianapolis, IN. She has also done clinics and seminars for groups around the country. Debbie’s students exemplify care and training of the animal, good sportsmanship, and overall safety and respect for the sport. Many of her students have been Champions in both Combined Driving and Pleasure Driving and have even won World Titles. She welcomes everyone from the beginner, to the recreational driver, to an ambitious competitor at the National Level! The knowledge of the basics are very important as well as understanding how everything fits and functions together. Debbie’s instruction includes all methods of hitching and driving with much attention to reinsmanship, turnout and detail. The use of horse psychology skills includes the ability to read an animal and listen to them is very important. Debbie put emphasis on making you feel welcome and comfortable, as you become a part of the Gayla family.

JUDGE: Debbie is a Registered Licensed Official with the American Driving Society, United States Equestrian Federation and the Federation Equestre Internationale. She is a Registered Judge in the categories of Combined Driving, and Pleasure Driving, and has been an official since 1992. Debbie’s popularity as an official is due to extensive experience, compassion for people, and the ability to organize both Combined Driving Events and Pleasure Driving Shows.

Debbie Banfield driving Deja Vu Region, owned by Gail Austin Ellman at the
1999 Gladstone Selection Trial for Singles.
COMPETITOR: Debbie’s competitive background has been limited mostly because her time has been devoted to help others, raise a family, and promoting the enjoyment of her employer. It was through the generosity of her employers and clients that she was able to get a taste of that wonderful competitive spirit that clutches us all. In the late 1970’s Debbie short listed for the World Pairs driving the Arabians owned by the late Mrs. Patricia Hewitt. During that quest she competed in single, pair and four-in-hand successfully at Combined Events and Pleasure Driving Shows around the country. Debbie was always in the Championship spotlight as well as the North American Championship competing with the Friesian owned by Dr. Donald Jacobs in the prestigious world of Pleasure Driving. Debbie also competed with the Oldenburg pair, owned by Gail Austin, successfully and often unbeatable in Dressage. De Ja Vu Region, the Oldenburg gelding, and Debbie won the Championship at the Intermediate level and campaigned him for the World Single Championship in 1999.

In the fall of 2018 Debbie has now retired from all the equine activities here at the farm as well as her judging career. Together with her husband Dana they will continue to care for Gail Austin’s beautiful farm until it sells and goes to a new owner.