California Riding Magazine • June, 2012

The Gallop: Olympic Fever
Local candidates in the hunt for
London berths.

by Kim F. Miller

Summer officially begins on the 20th, and that means the Summer Olympics are right around the corner. But West Coasters aren't waiting for the start of equestrian competition, July 28 with eventing, to catch Olympic fever. It was in full force in Del Mar when Rich Fellers and Flexible nailed the National's two Grand Prix jumping victories, both "observation events" in the team selection process.

The World Cup Finals champions are seventh on the USEF's Long List of show jumping pairs being considered for the Olympic squad. They got that ranking after finishing the late-March Selection Trials in a three-way tie for third and before winning the World Cup Final and the Del Mar duo. There's not a lot more Rich and Flexible can do but keep fit and wait for the Selectors Committee's decision.

June 17 is the deadline for the USEF to submit its "nominated entries" to the US Olympic Committee. This is a list of five to potentially 12 horse/rider pairs from which the actual squad of four, plus a traveling reserve, will be named no later than July 6.

Rich Fellers and Flexible on their way to double wins in Del mar.
Photo: Cheval Photos

In early May, fans launched an online petition asking the USET to excuse Flexible from the final observation event, slated for Spruce Meadows in mid-June. But Rich said he planned to campaign his World Cup champion at the famous Calgary, Canada show either way. "He loves Spruce Meadows and he needs to maintain a certain level of fitness," he explained.

Rich is the only West Coaster with a realistic shot of making the team. Excellent California young riders Saer Coulter and Lucy Davis did our region proud by earning #14 and #15 rankings, respectively, but their Olympic shots will likely come later. Youth, however, has a great chance to get on the team in the form of 17 year old Reed Kessler of New York, who tops the long list after winning the Selection Trials. Veteran Margie Goldstein Engle is next, followed by fellow Olympians Laura Kraut and Beezie Madden. Mario Deslauriers sits at six on the ranking, and McLain Ward can never be counted out. McLain announced the retirement of his two-time Olympic gold partner Sapphire in mid-May, but he's ranked eighth with Antares F.

Dressage

On the dressage front, the West Coast has the undisputed hottest Olympic prospects in Steffen Peters and Ravel. Team Peters was playing the waiting game for the USEF's word on whether the amazing pair could skip the 2,400-mile trip to Gladstone, NJ, for the Selection Trials. Steffen is famously careful about Ravel's routine: he often jokes about wrapping the wonderful horse in bubble wrap between competitions. Given the off-the-chart nature and consistency of their success together, requesting a bye from the two weeks of trials (June 8-10 & 15-17) seems a more than reasonable move that would best benefit the U.S. team's chances of good medals in London. Steffen requested the bye in late March. The first step is a vet check that was reportedly slated for late May 21, then the USEF was expected to make its decision.

Steffen Peters holds the top two spots in the Olympic Selection Trials.
Photo: Alicia Anthony

The Olympic dressage team will consist of three horse/rider pairs and one traveling reserve. The USET's June 17 and July 6 deadlines for nominating, then naming the squad are the same for dressage and eventing.

Steffen and Ravel top the USEF dressage rankings, and Ravel's stablemate Legolas is second. Idaho-based Debbie McDonald protégés, Adrienne Lyle and Wizard are third. Heather Blitz, Tina Konyot and Todd Flettrich occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth slots, while Californians Guenter Seidel and Fandango sit seventh, Jan Ebeling and Rafalca and Kathleen Raine and Breanna are 10th and 11th.

The first and second finishers in the Selection Trials will get corresponding spots on the Long List for the team and the third slot will go either to the Trials' third-placing pair or to another team of the Selector Committee's choosing.

Eventing

A ranking or a single-event selection trial is not part of eventing's Olympic selection process until the selectors name a "Short List" of four to 15 pairs by June 17. From there, hopefuls' performance at a "mandatory outing" sometime between late May and July 6 will be taken into account. The Selectors Committee will recommend its final squad by evaluating the many variables that go into predicting an eventing pair's chances in London. The list of applicants for the London Games includes several West Coasters. Tiana Coudray, Barbara Crabo, Debbie Rosen and Jolie Wentworth are among those. Jolie and Tiana were named to the USEF's High Performance Training List last fall, an indicator that selectors have an eye on them.

Susie Hutchison examines the Del Mar Nationals Grand Prix course. Although she did not compete in it this year, she had her work cut out for her as a member of the USET's Selectors Committee for the Olympic show jumping team. Photo: Cheval Photos

Paralympics

Meanwhile in the Para Equestrian world, local contender Barbara Adside, who we last wrote about in our Nov., 2011 issue, has been invited to participate in the Para-Equestrian Olympic Trials in Gladstone, NJ June 10 -14. Barbara's friend and supporter Sue Hardman reports that Barbara's mentors had been grooming her for the 2016 Games. "But her skill was noticed at Dressage Affaire in Del Mar last March and she has been invited to train with the PARA Team. Barbara was unable to try out a possible mount for the Olympic Trials until the first week in May, when she, for the first time, rode Pegasus vom Niehaus, a Knabstrupper stallion owned by Diane and Patrick Truxillo, owners of Baroque 'n Dreams Farm in Anza.

"They hit it off very well," Sue continues. "In fact, she smoked 'em at the CalNet competition in Los Angeles May 12-13. They received first place in all three events in which she competed with scores between 65 and 70. It was the first time she rode Pegasus in competition. Barbara only just received the invitation to go to New Jersey in April. 

As a consequence, her budget has a shortfall of almost $20,0000 and donations are greatly appreciated." There are more details about Barbara's inspiring story and an easy way to donate to her Paralympic journey on her new website: www.BarbaraAdside.us.