California Riding Magazine • March, 2014

On Your Marks
Milestone events await horse and riders en route to this year's WEG and the 2016 Olympics.

by Robert Ridland, U.S. show jumping chef d'equipe

For those unable to attend the late January rider meeting at Thermal, the following is a brief recap of what was discussed.

First and foremost, it is always important to re-state our goals in the context of an overview of the past, including the recently completed year. As has been one of our oft- stated goals, the template that we are seeking to follow is the blueprint devised by George Morris prior to the Hong Kong Olympics in 2008. That year, George took 10 riders to Europe and gave them the experience and preparation that allowed for the positioning of two relatively unproven horses at the time (Laura Kraut's mount, Cedric and Will Simpson's Carlsson vom Dach) alongside Beezie Madden and McLain Ward's veteran mounts (Authentic and Sapphire).

It is, of course, not always possible to arrive at such a scenario, but the more "3/2" experience we can give our young riders and horses, the more likely such an outcome will occur.

That being said, last year was a very productive year, not only in the success at our markers (the Nations Cup in Wellington, the World Cup Final and the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona), but more importantly how we got there. In sending 20 different riders to the post in Nations Cups throughout the year, we were able to give our next generation of riders the invaluable experience of competing alongside the veterans....mileage that served us well when we made history by starting three riders under the age of 21 in the Nations Cup Final.

In 2014 our key event is the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, where Olympic qualification is on the line. After the Short List is finalized at the end of April, it is anticipated that preparation for WEG will be centered primarily on four major mid-summer CSIOs (Spruce Meadows, Rotterdam, Aachen and Hickstead). The plan is that each of the 10 Short Listed riders will participate in two of those CSIOs.

In addition to WEG, we have three others markers and our first test this year will be defending the title of the U.S. Nations Cup in Wellington. Success in the first team event of the year is, of course, a big part of qualifying for another important marker of the year, the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. In addition to CSIOs Wellington and Spruce Meadows 'Continental', this year's qualification process for Barcelona became a bit more complicated with the addition of the Nations Cup of Mexico at CSIO4* Coapexpan (May 7-11). Because it is vitally important that we send as strong a team as possible to Mexico, all interested riders should contact (USEF's director of show jumping high performance activities) Lizzy Chesson as soon as possible.

Other CSIO opportunities may also be available this year and any rider interested in participating in the Nations Cups of La Baule, Falsterbo, Gijon or the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' should get in touch with Lizzy as well. And, as always, one of the crucial events on the schedule is the World Cup Final in Lyon...After 25 years of futility, this year we have 11 riders positioned to attempt a "three-peat" on the heels of Rich Fellers and Beezie Madden's 2012 and 2013 victories in 's-Hertogenbosch and Gothenburg.

On a different note, we will be re-seating the Owners Committee in the very near future in the attempt to give the committee a more dynamic and proactive impact. One of our major objectives this year is the creation of a more "owner-friendly" environment within our sport; all riders are encouraged to put forward the names of individuals who might be willing to help create significant and fundamental changes in the way we interact with our existing and potential owners.

Finally, as we seek to position our top horses to be as well prepared as possible for our "marker" events this year, I emphasized in the rider meetings how critical it is that all contending riders make it a priority to be as physically fit as their horses are! We must always realize that the sport of show jumping is in fact a athletic endeavor with two athletes, each equally responsible for the outcome. We may not always have the availability of the best horses in the world, but there is no excuse whatsoever that we can't show up at championship competitions with the best prepared and most physically fit horses and riders at the event.