Günter Seidel Gets New Grand Prix Mount–Winci, Renamed Coral Reef Wylea
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Günter Seidel, a medalist for the United States at three Olympics, will start 2013 with a new Grand Prix ride, Coral Reef Wylea, changed from Winci, a mare turning 13 years old this week
She was owned and trained by Klaus Balkenhol, the German Olympic gold medalist and former U.S. team coach, and ridden by his daughter, Anabel, at national shows and at Grand Prix at two CDIs in Germany in 2012, Lingen in June and Aachen in July.
The Westfalen (Weinberg x St. Jolie x Saluut) was bought for the 52-year-old Guenter to compete by Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer and her Coral Reef Ranch of Rancho Santa Fe, the same Southern California community where the German-born rider has based his horses for many years. Coral Reef is also the owner of some jumpers ridden by double Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden, including Via Volo for the U.S. team at the Olympics in London this summer.
The horse arrived in Clifornia a month ago and the tentative plans are to compete at national shows in Thermal and Del Mar in California over the next few weeks.
If all goes well, he said, the first CDI for the partnership will be the Mid Winter Dressage Fair 3* at Burbank at the end of February.
The longer-term goal?
“It’s a bit premature,” he said, “but it would be nice to try for the World Equestrian Games in 2014 and maybe the Olympics after that.
“It certainly will be a goal if things work out well.”
Few would bet against Günter making things work out. He is one of the most respected and well liked riders on both sides of the Atlantic. Bronze medals on U.S. teams at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. More medals at a succession of world championships.
His last medal performance was at the WEG in Aachen, Germany in 2006.
Since then, his equestrian career has taken some unexpected detours.
Günter was bringing along U II, a horse he rode to the U.S. Developing Championship title in 2008, and Sundayboy, both at Grand Prix as potential U.S. team horses.
In preparation for the American selection trials for the WEG in Kentucky, both horses were shipped to Klaus Balkenhol’s German training center in June, 2010. Riding U II fresh off the plane, Günter was thrown from the horse and seriously fractured his pelvis. The accident ended hopes of making the U.S. WEG team.
He was back competing nine months later, then took both horses to Europe over the summer of 2011, notching victories aboard U II at Hamburg, Germany and Fritzens, Austria.
Within a few weeks of their return to California, the relationship with Dick and Jane Brown who owned the horses was over after almost a quarter-century. With no top mount, the possibility of a trip to London in 2012 was bleak.
He made the most of a last-minute lease of the 16-year-old California-owned Fandango, finishing right behind Heather Blitz and Paragon who went to London as the reserve combination.
Meantime, he had “been turning over rocks” throughout Europe and North America looking for a young horse–five to eight years old–to buy and develop to Grand Prix.
In what some might consider fate, riders at Klaus Balkenhol’s barn over the years had suggested the 6ft. 2 in. (188cm) Günter and the hot and powerful 17.2-hand (178cm) big-bodied Winci “with a lot of attitude” would be a good match. But Günter dismissed the idea as it was not a possibility.
Then, during the lease with Fandango the owners of Coral Reef Ranch who are friends asked about his horses.
The intersection of the two events produced the partnership of Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea.
“There’s a reason for everything, a purpose,” he said. “It’s great for me.
“This is my type of horse. They’re not all perfect so you have to work with what’s good for you.”
If the pair perform well in the California CDIs in spring. he wants to go to Europe to resume working with Klaus Balkenhol
Günter still is looking for a younger, up-and-coming horse.
And he is maintaining the workout schedule for himself, a routine he got into with the physical therapy that helped in recovering from his injury.