Günter Seidel’s Lucky Opportunity with Fandango
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
A meeting that was ending in disappointment for Günter Seidel in his search for a new ride in this Olympic year turned into a rare opportunity for one of America’s biggest dressage stars.
Ed Penhoet overheard the conversation at his Toyon Farm in the Napa Valley and said to Günter, “If it doesn’t go through we’ll do it.”
With those words, Günter of Cardiff, California, was given the chance to lease from fellow California trainer Marie Meyers the gelding, Fandango, and the possibility of going to the U.S. Olympic selection trials in June.
He has been riding the 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding (the passport gives his age incorrectly, sad Günter who jokes that his own age of 51 years is also wrong) for about a month and already has competed in two CDIs.
Late last year, a relationship with Jane and Dick Brown who owned the horses he rode over almost a quarter-century ended. He lost the rides on two Grand Prix horses that he had competed in Europe last summer, U II, the U.S. Developing Horse Champion in 2008, and Sundayboy. The horses were put out to pasture.
In 2010, he was seriously injured in a horse accident in Germany. He says he is back to full health, but continues some therapy to help develop flexibility and athleticism.
Early this year he was at Toyon Farm, a stable and winery, where he had begun giving riding clinics. He had been discussed with another person about leasing a horse but it fell through.
That’s when Ed Penhoet made his offer that led to leasing Fandango from fellow California trainer, Marie Meyers pf Moorpark. He had ridden the horse in a Phantom of the Opera costume pas de demux exhibition at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in 2009.
“It’s an all around unique situation,” said the German-born Günter who has been one of the most successful riders for the United States winning medals at Olympics and World Equestrian Gamesden.
“To get the horse at the last second before the Olympic trials, to find something with quality is such a unique situation. It’s not like Legolas (bought for Steffen Peters as a successor to Ravel) that was a big purchase. This was a very different scenario, very unusual.”
Arrangements were made easily and quickly between Ed and Camille Penhoet, Günter and Marie who cares deeply about the horse she has owned for many years. With Marie, Fandango was the 2008 Intermediaire II U.S. Dressage Federation Horse of the Year, and was fourth in the 2006 U.S. National Championships at Small Tour. The horse was already registered to the U.S. owner, Marie, as required by Olympic rules.
“Everyone gets along, it all clicked,” he said.
“Marie shares all her knowledge.
“Ed and Camille are very realistic about what is achievable. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. They didn’t come to the shows because they didn’t want to put pressure on me.
“They are incredible. I’m really thankful to them. I’m very fortunate, super happy.”
Günter, too, is realistic.
He has been riding the horse a little over a month and describes it as “still a work in progress. It takes years to get to know a horse.”
His goal is to be among the top 15 combinations to go to Gladstone, New Jersey, for the U.S. selection trials.
Making the transition has not not been easy for the horse, either. At 6 ft. 2 ins. (1.88m) Günter is much taller than Marie so, for example, the leg aids are different.