Large USA Contingent Heading to European Competitions – Part 1 of 2
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
At least six top American competitors will be in Europe in the next several weeks seeking to improve their results ahead of the U.S. selection trials that will determine the home team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky beginning in four months.
Gunter Seidel, one of the most experienced and successful riders for the USA on U II, Tina Konyot on Calecto V, Katherine Bateson on the newly acquired Nartan, Susan Dutta on the rapidly developing Currency DC, Todd Flettrich on the experienced Otto, Chris Hickey and Douglas Hilltop, and the German-based Catherine Haddad on Cadillac will all be competing in Europe. Adrienne Lyle and Wizard returned home recently after competing in Germany for the first time.
Most have an eye on performing well in Europe, especially at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen in mid-July, just three weeks before the start of two weeks of trials in Gladstone, New Jersey, to determine the U.S. team for Kentucky.
Driving the focus on European competitions are the need for top competition and exposure to judging panels ahead of the WEG selection trials and a lack of international shows in the United States.
The goal of many of the Americans this year is to compete at Fritzens-Schindlhof CDI4* in Austria June 25-27 and at Aachen, Germany where there are both CDIO5* and CDI4* classes July 13-18.
While Steffen Peters, the leading American rider on Ravel, will not defend the CDIO sweep that he and the Akiko Yamazaki-owned 12-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding by Contango performed in 2009, he will be at Aachen to support his prospective team mates, a role requested by his fellow riders. He flew from his San Diego, California, base to Lexington last month for the Kentucky Cup test event to provide help.
Tina Konyot and Calecto V have been the combination to beat on the East Coast this year with scores around or better than 70 per cent that have given them victories at CDI3* competitions in Florida and Kentucky.
The 12-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion by Comeback II is owned by Tina of North Stonington, Connecticut.
Tina, 48, was short listed for she was short-listed for the U.S. team trials for the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
She comes from a family with a storied history spanning several generations of world renowned circus performers with horses and high wire performances.
Calecto, she said, is not working “at full tilt” because there is “so little to adjust.”
Her plans are to compete at Fritzens-Schindlhof and at Aachen.
Susan Dutta and Currency DC have begun to make a name for themselves in Europe, especially following their
recent results in Europe. Susan who is based in Wellington, Florida but based herself in Germany last year to work fulltime with Rudolf Zeillinger, has competed Currency DC on this winter’s Sunshine Tour and in a handful of German shows in the spring.
“We’re right on target,” said Susan, 41, and a mother, of the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by her husband’s Tim Dutta, Inc.
She is sticking to the schedule organized by Rudolf Zeillinger of competitions at Pompadour and Vierzon in France the first two weeks of July.
Depending on those results, she will decide whether to go to Gladstone or continue training with Rudolf with an eye to the London Olympics in 2012.
Unlike Europe with its regional championship at Grand Prix, the only major championship for the Americas between WEG and the Olympics is the Pan American Games which is at small tour so provides no opportunity to prepare for London. Susie won a team gold medal at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007. At the 2002 Coupe des Ameriques in Blainville, Canada in 2002 she won individual and team gold.
Todd Flettrich began riding Otto for Cherry Knoll Farm after the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding was an established Grand Prix horse in Europe. The pair have maintained their scores in the high 60 per cent range for several top three finishes in Florida and the Northeast over the past nine months after working with Hubertus Schmidt in Germany and the Wellington-based Israeli Oded Shimoni.
Todd, who is now based in Wellington, Florida, is a lifelong dressage rider and was a North American Young Rider individual gold and team silver medalist in 1991. He later tutored two other young riders to championship gold.
Todd, 40, was disappointed in his ride on Otto in the recent Kentucky Cup WEG test event, but at a clinic with Steffen Peters in Wellington a few weeks later the pair were in top form.
“I think it is going to be very exciting to see him at a few shows in Europe,” Steffen said, “and then I am looking forward to seeing him at the trials at Gladstone.”
Todd is weighing competitions at Fritzens-Schindlhof, Falsterbo International Horse Show that will host an Exquis World Dressage Masters for the first time July 8-11 and Aachen.
Gunter Seidel, of Cardiff, California is a three-time Olympic bronze medalist and the winner of team silver at the WEG in Jerez in 2002 and team bronze in Aachen in 2006.
U II, a nine-year-old Dutch gelding by Jazz owned by Jane and Richard Brown, was ridden by the German-born Guenter to be the 2008 USEF National Developing Dressage Horse Champion. The pair have scored in the high 60 per cent range at Grand Prix in California this year. The combination plan to work with former U.S. team coach Klaus Balkenhol and compete at Fritzens-Schindlhof CDI4* in Austria June 25-27 and some national shows.
Guenter said he and U II plan to go directly to Gladstone for the selection trials if they are ranked in the top 15 of American qualifiers. If they were to make the U.S. team, Guenter would have turned 50 years of age just two days before the start of the WEG in Kentucky on Sept. 25.