UPDATE – Lyndal Oatley & Sandro Boy Secure Australian Olympic Selection – GP & Special Success

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Lyndal Oatley and Sandro Boy. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Lyndal Oatley and Sandro Boy on Saturday secured a start in Olympic dressage competition beginning in exactly two months as the top Australian combination in the selection trials for her country’s team at the Games in London. The pair followed up Sunday with another personal best and the top Australian in the Olympic Grand Prix Special.

Lyndal and Sandro Boy automatically clinched a place on the team by becoming the top Australian in the Grand Prix at Compiègne, France, on Saturday. She was also the top Australian  on Sunday in the Olympic Grand Prix Special and third overall for the third out of four best finishes in the two Australian selection trials that were held in Europe.

They beat out the combinations that had come from Australia and Europe in the hope of competing on the world’s largest sports stage.

This will be the first Olympics for Lyndal, who will be 32 years old later this month. She represented Australia on Potifar at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010. Lyndal is married and lives in Germany with Patrik Kittel, ranked eighth in the world with Watermill Scandic H.B.C. and already nominated by Sweden for their Olympic team.

Lyndal and the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Sandro Hit x Utopia x Argentinus) scored a personal best of 70.894 per cent to place fourth overall in the CDI3*, surpassing the 70.468 per cent the pair received at Hagen, Germany, in April. This competition at Compiègne was only the fourth CDI Grand Prix event for the partnership, all of them this year.

On Sunday, the pair was again the top Australians in the Special with a score of 71.556 per cent, another personal best, and third overall.

They also led the Australians in the the Grand Prix in the first selection trial at Mannheim, Germany, a month ago.

Australian Olympic veteran Mary Hanna on Sancette was the second placed Australian horse and rider with 68.638 per cent in seventh place overall with Lyndal’s cousin, Kristy Oatley and Clive, also based in Germany, the third highest pair with 68.234 per cent in eighth place. Clive did not compete in the first trial at Mannheim.

Rozzie Ryan and GV Bullwinkle were next on 67.851 per cent, then Kristy and Ronan II on 67.490 per cent, followed by Brett Parbery on Lord of Loxley with 67.106 per cent and the German-based Hayley Beresford and Bellissimo NRW on 67.085 per cent. Other Australians were Mary Hanna and Umbro on 65.787 per cent and Chantal Wigan and Ferero on 64.915 per cent.

Saturday’s ride was in perfect sunny weather in contrast to Mannheim when a deluge as Lyndal and Sandro Boy entered the arena forced the pair to seek shelter. Despite the rain, they were the highest placed Australians and prompted Lyndal to jokingly refer to her horse as “Storm Boy.”

She and Sandro Boy was the only Australian combination to score above 70 per cent in either the two Grand Prix and the Olympic Grand Prix Special in the so-called nomination events.

And the rules provide for the top finishing combination–in this case. Lyndal and Sandro Boy–to be automatically nominated to the team from Down Under.

“I am very happy with Sandro Boy,” said Lyndal who rode on her first Australian championship team with Potifar at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010.

“Today was a great effort for the entire Aussie team and things now will be very interesting.”

Carol and Andrew Oatley, Lyndal’s parents and owners of Sandro Boy, returned to watch this weekend’s competition, as they did at Mannheim. Her sister, Nicky, and her husband were also there.

“So I felt the love well and truly.”

Patrik Kittel, her husband and one of the world’s elite riders who has already been nominated by Sweden for their Olympic team, flew in and out of Compiègne.

“Everyone really put in a huge effort to be there for me and I’m so glad I was able to do a good job,” she said.

The Australian selection procedures are a long list of variables–everything from arena footing, to weather to team spirit and numerous other factors, plus the caveat: “…Nomination Events do not automatically position one horse and Athlete combination above another in terms of nomination.”

What that means is that every combination with a hope of getting a ticket to London–except Lyndal and Sandro Boy who can book their trip without worrying about asking for a refund–will be on tenterhooks for the next few days.

All horses in contention for nomination to the Australian Olympic Committee will undergo a final veterinary examination on Monday, June 4.

Equestrian Australia, the Australian equestrian federation, will advise the Australian Olympic Committee of the dressage team for the Olympics, on Wednesday, June 6. The deadline for nominations is June 22.

Lyndal Oatley and Potifar. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The Long Road to the Olympics

 Lyndal Oatley is the first to admit she is fortunate to have been brought up in a family with both the financial means and willingness to support her in fulfilling her dream of representing Australia at the Olympics, the pinnacle of sports. Tthe landscape of international horse sports is littered with broken dreams by riders who used their wallet in search of Olympic glory.

Lyndal has worked hard to develop her skills to make a difference, and it has paid off.

The Olympics in her home country inspired Lyndal to make dressage her focus and lead her to Europe. She worked with Ulla Salzgeber, the coach of the Australian team leading up to the 2006 world championships in Aachen. Germany. After a few months back home to compete her Weltspiel in the national championships, she went back to Europe in 2007 to work with Jürgen Koschel, one of only a handful of Germans to attain the top rating of trainers in both dressage and jumping.

Shortly after, she bought Feramo, a nine-year old stallion, and was reintroduced to the horse’s previous rider, Patrik Kittel. She needed help training Feramo.

Patrik became her trainer and, as the heart would have it, her husband.

The mix of cultures work. They help each other at competitions. Lyndal is into the Australian style of camping in their horse truck at shows and entertaining riders and friends with barbeques; being with the horses around the clock, easier living and competing.

Lyndal is popular among international riders–European and Americans–but is fiercely loyal to her Australian team mates and friends.

She was there for Hayley Beresford’s heart-breaking elimination because of Relampago’s lameness from last year’s WEG, then the devastation of the accidental death of Reli.

She is welcoming to Australians visiting Europe. And is often standing arenaside as a groom to Patrik.

Lyndal Oatley ready with a helping hand for husband Patrik Kittel as he leaves a competition arena. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

She began competing Potifar, now a 14-year-old KWPN gelding (Jazz x Mirthe x Pion) owned by her parents more than 2 1/2 years ago.

She rode Potifar on her first Australian team with Brett Parbery and Victory Salute, Rachael Sanna and Jaybee Alabaster and Hayley Beresford and Relampago at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010.

Aside from WEG, the pair have competed twice at the world’s most prestigious show, the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen. Germany.

A year after Potifar came Toy Story, now an 11-year-old Swedish warmblood gelding (Come Back II x Cessna x Concorde) that simply grew too big for Lyndal and has been ridden by Patrik since early in 2010 with considerable success. Included are top five finishes in Europe and at Rio de Janeiro this fall.

She clicked with Sandro Boy that her parents bought in the summer of 2011 and she describes as a “nice mix of the elegance of a Sandro Hit and the strength and power of an Argentinus.”

While she and Sandro Boy were developing their partnership, Lyndal rode Potifar, her first Grand Prix horse, in the competition that clinched Australia’s berth at the Olympics.

“I don’t want to be the fourth rider,” she said of her ambitions. “Kentucky was a realization that I want to move forward. I have the desire and the drive to want to do the best I can.

“This is my life now.”

Scores for Australian combinations from Mannheim, Germany and Compiègne, France competitions

Rider/Horse                                   Mannheim GP/OGPS   Compiègne GP/OGPS   Average (Classes)

Lyndal Oatley/Sandro Boy                   69.723%/66.889%            70.894%/71.556%          69.765% (4)

Hayley Beresford/Bellissimo NRW   68.872%/69.333%            67.085%/68.222%         68.378% (4)

Mary Hanna/Sancette                           66.362%/N.A.                    68.638%/67.933%          67.644% (3)

Kristy Oatley/Ronan II                         68.553%/66.156%             67.490%/N.A                   67.399% (3)

Rozzie Ryan/GV Bullwinkle                65.553%/N.A.                    67.851%/68.400%         67.268% (3)

Kristy Oatley/Clive                                        N.A./N.A.                     68.234%/66.991%          67.125% (2)

Chantal Wigan/Ferero                        66.702%/N.A.                     64.915%/N.A.                   65.808% (2)

Brett Parbery/Lord of Loxley               60.128%/N.A.                    67.106%/68.045%          65.093% (3)

Mary Hanna/Umbro                             N.A./N.A.                            65.787%/N.A.