Long, Costly Journey for USA Pan American Games Hopefuls

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Steffen Peters and Weltino's Magic celebrating their sweep of the small tour at Aachen. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The selection trials for the U.S, team to compete at the Pan American Games begin at Gladstone, New Jersey, next week, a journey that will be long, costly and stressful for those who are successful.

Most of the riders from across the nation who succeed in winning one of the four places on the team to compete at small tour at the the Pan Ams either have to relocate for several weeks or, to maintain their businesses and training of other horses, engage in a gruelling jetset schedule to save stress on their horses.

The Pan American Games are held once every four years at small tour as the final team qualifier in the Americas for next year’s Olympics. The U.S. is already qualified for London so this year’s Pan Ams are for national pride and funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Dressage competition is cheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct. 16-19,

This year, the Intermediaire I National Dressage Championsip as part of the Festival of Champions will serve as the selection trials, beginning next Thursday and the team will be announced Sunday, Sept. 11.

The selection rules this year did not allow any byes from participating in the selection trials–Steffen received a bye with Ravel from the World Equestrian Games trials last year–so the top two qualifying combinations, Steffen and Weltino’s Magic and Heather Blitz and Paragon, have to participate in the selection trials.

Both Heather and Steffen, as well as other competitors who are prospects for the U.S. team, said they organized their schedules over the next two months around their horses to spare them as much stress as possible.

Steffen of San Diego, California, who is the highest ranked combination on Weltino’s Magic that also swept this year’s small tour at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, is also scheduled to compete Ravel in the National Grand Prix Championships at Gladstone.

Steffen and his horses as well as other California combinations will fly from the West Coast early next week to be at Gladstone, less than hour from New York City, in advance of the selection trials.

If Steffen qualifies the nine-year-old gelding owned by Jen Hlavacek he will leave the horse in Gladstone to be ridden by one of his assistants, Dawn White O’Conner, while he returns to California with Ravel.

He will make the 12-hour round trip flight to Gladstone each of the next two weekends to work Magic then base himself at Gladstone with the rest of the team beginning Oct. 2 before heading to Guadalajara Oct. 12 ahead of the dressage competition that starts Oct. 16 with the Nations Cup and ends with the individual final Oct. 19.

Heather Blitz and Paragon. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

For Heather Blitz and her homebred Paragon, an eight-year-old gelding by Blue Hors Don Schufro, the 1,200 miles (1,930km) drive from her home in Wellington, Florida, to Gladstone took two days.

If she qualifies with Paragon, she will stay in New Jersey to conduct some clinics but fly home on occasion to take care of her barn.

“I don’t think people realize that this amounts to two months away from home and your business,” Heather said. “There is no compensation until we go into training camp at the beginning of October, so this will cost several thousand dollars in out of pocket costs and lost income.”

Confirmed entries for the Intermediaire 1 National Championship:

Steffen Peters/Weltino’s Magic
Heather Blitz/Paragon
Cesar Parra/Grandioso
Shawna Harding/Rigo
Marisa Festerling/Big Tyme
Jan Ebeling/Rosenzauber 8
Tami Batts/Ranko
Lisa Wilcox/Pikko Del Cerro HU
David Blake/Lord Albert
Heather Mason/Warsteiner
Tom Noone/Fred Astair
Jan Ebeling/Sandrina
Endel Ots/Toscano
Claire Darnell/Calimar
Chris Hickey/Witness Hilltop
Carolyn Adams/Winterprinz
Confirmed entries for the Grand Prix National Championship:
Steffen Peters/Ravel

Tina Konyot/Calecto V
Shawna Harding/ Come On III
Lauren Sammis/Sagacious HF
Elisabeth Austin/Olivier
Shannon Peters/Odyssey
James Koford/Rhett
Arlene (Tuny) Page/Alina
Susie Dutta/Currency DC
James Koford/Pharaoh
Arlene (Tuny) Page/ Wild One
Melissa Taylor/Schumacker Solyst
David Wightman/Partous
Catherine Morelli/Be Se
Kathleen Raine/Breanna
Susie Dutta and Manette DC