The Trials are done, the horses are in Hong Kong, the riders are ready.
Olympic equestrian competition begins at 6:30 a.m. Sat., Aug. 9 with the dressage phase for eventing. It closes Thurs. Aug. 21 with the final rounds and victory ceremony for individual show jumping. In between, there is action every day except the final Wednesday as athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze in eventing, dressage and show jumping.
NBC-TV is the official Olympic network, and, as usual, few Stateside fans are optimistic about seeing much of our sport in the wee hours, let alone prime time. As you follow the action on the schedule here, keep in mind that Hong Kong is 15 hours ahead of us. You’ll need to work backward from that when looking for the latest results online or on TV. If it is noon on Wednesday here, it’s 3 a.m. Thursday there.
As with other non-prime time sports, if our riders do well or, god forbid, have terrible accidents, we’ll see more equestrian action on the silver screen here at home. Happily, there is a good chance the first scenario will put our riders on TV. Although the European teams are expected to put on their usual dazzling and medal dominating displays in show jumping and dressage, our teams have every chance of medaling in all three disciplines.
Californians have a spot on all three teams. Will Simpson made the show jumping squad after a terrific mid-summer tour in Europe with El Campeon Farms’ Carlsson vom Dach. The longtime leader of the West Coast Active Riders and a super popular guy on both coasts, the Chicago native has been a fixture out west since he moved here about 20 years ago.
West Coasters have been a regular presence on American Olympic dressage and, to a lesser extent, eventing teams over the last few decades, but show jumping squads have been dominated by East Coast-based riders. Richard Spooner established the West Coast Active Riders in the mid-90s to help our area’s elite show jumpers get a better shot at international berths and it is exciting to see one of our best getting this chance on the ultimate international stage.
Will is in very good company: Beezie Madden and Authentic, McLain Ward and Sapphire, and Laura Kraut and Cedric. Native Californian Anne Kursinski and Champ 163 are the traveling alternate pair. Among these, Will is the only Olympic rookie.
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh of Central California’s Creston will represent California on the Olympic eventing team, and Amy Tryon of Washington returns to the Games with Poggio II. Their teammates are Phillip Dutton and Connaught, Becky Holder and Courageous Comet and Heidi White and Northern Spy.
The dressage squad is loaded with Californians: Steffen Peters and Ravel, and Debbie McDonald and Brentina. OK, these girls live in Idaho but spend so much time in the Golden State we consider them ours. East Coast-based Courtney King rounds out the top trio, and California’s Leslie Morse and Kingston will travel to Hong Kong as the traveling reserves.
The official Olympic Equestrian site is www.equestrian2008.org. You can also follow Olympic action on www.fei.org/olympics and www.equisearch.com.