Top U.S. Eventing Athletes Ride Their Final Test
Allentown, NJ, USA
On a day when most people would do anything to remain indoors in the air conditioning, 11 of the United States' top eventing horse-and-rider combinations were at the Horse Park of New Jersey in 100+ degree weather performing all three phases of the mandatory short list outing for their spot on the team that will head to Aachen, Germany, for the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games. Amy Tryon and Poggio II were the only horse-and-rider team not present. Tryon rode at mandatory final outing at Barbury Castle in England last week.
Riders were asked to perform dressage and stadium in its entirety and then schooled a short cross country course with the option to retake any jumps as needed. Horses and riders will now head to the United States Equestrian Federation®'s Olympic training facility in Gladstone, NJ to be evaluated by team veterinarians who will then advise the selectors regarding the soundness of the horses. Selectors will then confirm the nominated entries and name the squad and the alternates.
The team that goes to Aachen to compete in August will include six riders plus alternates. Four riders will ride as part of the team competition and two riders will ride as individuals. On Friday, June 21, USEF will announce the squad and alternates who will travel to England to train with Coach and Chef d'Equipe Captain Mark Phillips. From there, the six horse-and-rider combinations will be chosen that will travel on to Aachen. The riders who don't go on to Aachen will then have the option to compete at Burghley or Blenheim in England.
In the last few weeks, riders participated in two training sessions to prepare for the final mandatory outing. Monday night, all 11 horses were jogged for the veterinarians. The outing began an hour earlier than scheduled, at 7 a.m., to accommodate the heat, with the athletes riding their dressage test for FEI "O" judge Anne Gribbons. After the riders completed their test, Gribbons consulted with them about their test and gave them advice on how to improve their scores in the future. The top three riders based on their dressage scores were Karen O'Connor and Upstage with a score of 43.3%, Jan Byyny and Task Force with a score of 45%, and Becky Holder and Courageous Comet with a score of 46.1%.
When asked about her dressage test, O'Connor responded that she was really excited about her dressage test as her teammates nearby applauded her for her high dressage score including Byyny who also had an impressive dressage score.
"I think we have a great group of people here, and a really strong group of horses," said Byyny. "We're all really supportive of one another, and I think we all came away with things we need to work on. I think overall we all learned a lot about what we need to do and where we are."
After a quick trip around the show jumping ring, the top three horse-and-rider combinations became Kim Severson and Winsome Adante with only one time fault for a total score of 48.8 putting them in first place; Bonnie Mosser and Jenga with one rail down and no time faults putting them in second place overall; and Jan Byyny and Task Force with nine time faults and a clean jumping round. The only clean jumping rounds went to Severson, Byyny and John Williams, with no one posting a double clear. Mosser was the only one to ride within the time allowed. Fence number 10 proved to be a tricky oxer with three riders in a row having a rail down there. The show jumping course was designed by USEF Managing Director of Show Jumping, Sally Ike.
"My dressage is getting a little better," said Severson. "I've been having a rough patch with him. I had a lesson with Mark the other day and that helped put him right. It's just a matter of getting back to where we were. Show jumping I was extraordinarily pleased with and as far as going cross-country, I thought he was good. Again, like Karen and Jan and I talked about, I was lucky to get that first corner in the woods there. It is really hard for them to read, and I did take it for granted so I was happy that that actually got done."
The cross-country schooling session will no doubt contribute to the selectors' decision. Several riders had trouble finding their way around the course including O'Connor, Stephen Bradley, Nathalie Pollard and Sara Mittleider.
When asked how he thought today went, Coach and Chef d'Equipe Captain Mark Phillips said "some people went well and some didn't go as well as expected." When asked how much of a factor the extreme heat had on the athletes his response was "we know how to handle heat and hard ground."
"I was keeping my horse cooled off as much as I could because I know he's a very hot horse, he pants a lot and the best thing for me to do is to get his temperature down," said Mosser. "I just know my horse, and it probably helped me keep him fresh for the rest of the day."
Williams commented that his horse was fine but he learned today that he needed to get more electrolytes on days like today which he concluded after his ride when he could not get rid of the muscle cramps he had.
As a reminder, the current short-list includes:
The 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games are being held in Aachen, Germany, August 20 – September 3. The eventing competitions will take place August 23-27.
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