Up to Six USA Horse/Rider Combos to Head to England After Olympic Selection

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Steffen Peters and Anne Gribbons at last year's Pan American Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Timing of the United States’ dressage selection trials rule out Continental Europe competitions before the Olympics, but team coach Anne Gribbons hopes as many as six horsss and riders will be in the squad traveling to England to prepare for the Games.

Plans for the U.S. team were outlined by Anne as the year-long qualifying for the selection trials nears an end–the last date is May 27–based on results at events at CDI3* and above anywhere in the world. Only three qualifying CDIs remain in the United States but are unlikely to have a significant impact on the standings based on the average of results at Grand Prix and Olympic/Grand Prix Specials.

Steffen Peters of San Diego, California, leads the rankings with Ravel, his 14-year-old KWPN gelding 2009 World Cup championship and 2010 individual medal mount, and is second with Legolas, the 10-year-old Westfalen gelding he has competed successfully at three CDIs in California this year.

Adrienne Lyle of Ketchim, Idaho, and Wizard are in third place; Heather Blitz of Wellington, Florida, and Paragon, fourth; Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida, and Calecto V, fifth; Todd Flettrich also of Wellington and Otto, sixth, and Günter Seidel of Cardiff, California, and Fandango, seventh. Rounding out the top 10 are Shawna Harding of Aiken, South Carolina, and Come On III; Susan Blinks of Encinita, California, and Robin Hood and Jan Ebeling of Moorpark, California, and Rafalca.

Most of the top combinations have competed in Europe in the past two years.

Ahead of the selection trials. Anne Gribbons and Steffen Peters held several high performance clinics of up to three days each in California and Florida.

About 12 to 15 combinations will be invited to the selection trials at Gladstone, New Jersey, about an hour outside New York City, for head-to-head competition of two Grand Prix and two Olympic Grand Prix Specials over the weekends of June 8-10 and June 15-17.

The trials are actually the U.S. Grand Prix National Championship and are organized with a majority of American judges. The format is similar to procedures followed for many years, though different than some nations such as Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark that take into account results of their national championships coupled with performances at Nations Cups in Rotterdam and Aachen.

Nominated entries have to be submitted to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) by June 17. According to the FEI rankings, the U.S. is third in line behind Poland and Ireland for individual places that may open up. So far, Great Britain, Germany and The Netherlands are the only nations to have qualified both teams and individuals combinations.

The Olympic team competition of three riders and horses will be decided by the Grand Prix over Thursday and Friday Aug. 2-3 and the specially created Olympic Grand Prix Special on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The Freestyle to decide the individual medals is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9.

“Whether we are given an individual rider or not, we have planned on UP TO six horses to travel to England,” Anne Gribbons told dressage-news.com. “I am counting on at least five.”

She said, “I am not happy that we have not had more of a presence in Europe this year. However, because of the timing of the trials, we did not expect to be able to show as a team in Europe in 2012, which is why went over last year and competed at Aachen.

“”The plan is to travel directly to England after Gladstone. The time frame does not allow for competition on the continent after our trials and before the start of team training without putting undue stress on our horses.”

Although Anne did not mention it, most of the judges on the ground jury for London have judged performances by all of the likely contenders at the 14 CDIs in Florida and California over the winter and previous championships and major events on both sides of the Atlantic in the past two years.

The panel for the Olympics is Stephen Clarke of Great Britain as president of the ground jury; Maribel Alonso of Mexico; Evi Eisenhardt of Germany; Wim Ernes of Netherlands; Gary Rockwell of USA; Jean-Michel Roudier of France and Leif Törnblad of Denmark.

The U.S. squad has also been invited to a “non-competitiion” being staged at Hickstead near London about July 20-21 to provide combinations a last-minute opportunity for a tune-up ride before top judges.