Olympic Dressage Shapes Up
By Staff Report June 16, 2012
With the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions Grand Prix tests concluding today in Gladstone, N.J., it appears the four combinations that will travel to London to compete for the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics are: Steffen Peters/Ravel, Tina Konyot/Calecto V, Jan Ebeling and Rafalca and Adrienne Lyle/Wizard.
Legolas 92, with whom Peters won the National Championship title June 16 in Gladstone, will ship as Peters’ back-up horse.
The team will officially be announced on July 6, but pending any extraordinary circumstance the procedure of team selection based on rankings at the the Festival dictates the team of three. Lyle, who placed fourth, will serve as the traveling reserve and will likely be able to compete for an individual medal (pending approval by the FEI). Since Peters has two competition horses, it’s likely that the U.S. will also send a fifth pair as an additional reserve team, Todd Flettrich and Otto, who placed fifth at Gladstone Saturday.
Peters got a bye with Ravel, so the duo didn’t have to compete at Gladstone, but the San Diego-based rider rose to the top with his second horse, Legolas 92, who like Ravel is owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm.
It’s the first National Championship for the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, who Peters has only been riding since December.”
Their score of 77.956 was enough to give them a four day average of 77.653 and left them less than one point clear of the runners-up Tina Konyot and Calecto V. They had the ride of their lives in Friday’s FEI Grand Prix but settled up second today and overall.
The win marks Peters’ sixth National Championship, tying the record previously set by Robert Dover.
“It was great competition,” USEF high performance director Jim Wolf said by phone, ringside at the event at the U.S. Equestrian Team headquarters. “The format was good, the selection process picked the right list. It’s all sorting itself out. Steffen riding so well on two horses certainly puts us in a strong position.”
There was no little excitement among the crowd at the thought of a “Presidential horse” representing the nation at the Olympics. Ebeling’s ride, the 15-year-old Oldenburg mare Rafalca, is co-owned by Ann Romney in conjunction with Beth Myers and Amy Ebeling.
Drawing some media attention last week from news humorist Stephen Colbert, who spotlighted “Mitt Romney’s dancing horse,” Rafalca remained unflappable, with Ebeling, who is based in Moorpark, CA, upping their game. The pair received a 74.889 Saturday to bring their third place total to 73.169 over the four classes.
“This is a dream come true,” Ebeling said. “I looked at the score board one time (during my ride) and it looked good so I didn’t look again.”
Ravel ships to Gladstone this week to continue his Olympic training. But although he is Peters back-up Olympic horse, Legolas is proving to be more than just an understudy.
Peter said that coming into Saturday’s end game he focused on the big picture. “Legolas had a three percent lead over Tina and I knew Tina had a 77, so a 74 today would have done it. I looked at the scoreboard during the extended walk; I was going straight at it and it was an 82, so I thought let’s just relax a little bit for the canter work. Unfortunately the mistake in the two tempis… The horse, at this stage, you can see how green he is―it’s mentally confusing… Out of all four days I think today he did the most exciting piaffe and passage and that’s an exciting feeling. He wants to do it and I really can’t believe how generous this horse really is.”
Small mistakes in the one-tempi changes showed up in earlier tests at these championships, but today those were clean on the centerline. Peters works patiently on the flying changes while the rest of the work continues to improve exponentially, especially the piaffe and passage.
“It’s not a physical issue, it’s clearly a mental issue,” said Peters of the flying changes. “Each day you have one or two tries to get the one tempis done. If you try the third time and it’s not happening then he gets really nervous. At the moment it’s just patience.”
While Legolas is shipping to London, Peter said he feels, “It would be a bit soon for the Olympic Games (for him). He could do it, but I’m getting good reports from (wife) Shannon on Ravel.”
Second place went to Tina Konyot and Calecto V, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion. A new found focus with the support of the USEF Technical Advisor, Anne Gribbons, has helped Konyot produce personal best scores throughout these Championships.
“My highlight is being here and being part of this,” Konyot said. “It was my dream always to be on an Olympic Team. I went to my first Olympics in 1976 as a little girl and I told my parents I’d like to do that. Yesterday was the highlight of the week, the ride I had and the score I got. There are no words for it.” Their final round score of 77.889 brought their four-day total to 76.873.
Lyle had to outdo herself to keep her Olympic dreams alive and she did with a score of 73.558, considerably her highest score of the competition. Their cumulative score of 74.588 cemented their fourth place finish.
Lyle is based in Ketchum, ID, but winters in Hidden Valley with the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding, training under the tutelage of two-time Olympian Debbie McDonald, a Southern California native. They excelled today in what Peters referred to as a “life-changing ride.”
“West Coast dressage has always been strong,” Wolf said. “Steffen, Jan, Guenter (Seidel), Adrian. When you look at it, the list is nationwide list, so that’s been great for dressage, too.”
Pending the approval of the USEF High Performance Working Group and the USEF Executive Commitee, the FEI Nominated Entries for the U.S. Dressage Team for the 2012 Olympic Games are as follows:
(Athletes and horse are listed in ranked order based on the results from the 2012 USEF Selection Trials & Grand Prix National Championship)
1/3. Steffen Peters and Four Winds Farm’s Legolas 92 and Ravel*
2. Tina Konyot and her own Calecto V
4. Jan Ebeling and Ann Romney, Beth Meyers, Amy Ebeling’s Rafalca
5. Adrienne Lyle and Peggy Thomas’ Wizard
6. Todd Flettrich and Cherry Knoll Farm’s Otto
7. Heather Blitz and her own Paragon
8. Guenter Seidel and Toyon Farm’s Fandango
9. Pierre St. Jacques and his own Lucky Tiger
10. Kathleen Raine and Jennifer Mason and David Wightman’s Breanna
11. Shawna Harding and her own Come On III
12. Susan Blinks and the Minnesota Group’s Robin Hood
13. Jim Koford on Shirley McQuillan’s Rhett
*In the 2012 Olympic format, three athlete/horse combinations comprise the team and each rider can only ride one horse. Ravel was granted permission to not contest the Trials and is therefore ranked in third.
(Pending final notification from the FEI, the U.S. will also have one Individual rider to compete at the Games.)
Joanie Morris contributed to this report.
See the performances from Gladstone at www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2012Dressage.