Two USA Squads to Compete in Europe, including Inaugural Nations Cup Circuit

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Steffen Peters and Legolas, U.S. Grand Prix Champions for 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The United States plans to send two squads of riders to compete in Europe this summer with a focus on the inaugural Nations Cup circuit of three top events as part of an ambitious program seeking to return America to the team medals podiums at Olympics and World Equestrian Games.

Steffen Peters and Lisa Wilcox, both stars in Europe at the top levels of the sport, are among America’s top riders that will compete in some of the six competitions that are on the calendar of the two squads.

Each squad is tentatively scheduled for three shows, though that will be modified as necessary–quarantine requirements for stallions returning to the U.S., such as Pikko del Cerro HU that Lisa Wilcox has trained and competed to become the top developing Grand Prix combinations in the country.

Steffen and Legolas, the successor to Ravel, retired after two Olympics, and other championship successes, is changing plans and now will compete at the Horses & Dreams in Hagen, Germany and the Global Dressage Festival’s CDI5* in Wellington, Florida in April and then return home before heading back to Europe for the Nations Cup at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany. Wiesbaden, Germany has been dropped from his schedule.

The two tours for the United States are:

A Tour — Munich, Germany CDI3*  May 9-12; de Steeg, Netherlands CDI4* May 29-June 2, and Aachen CDIO5* Nations Cup June 25-30.

B Tour — Mannheim, Germany CDI3* May 3-5; Vidabaun, France CDIO Nations Cup/CDI3* May 17-20, and Rotterdam, Netherlands CDIO5* Nations Cup June 19-23.

To qualify for the A Tour, rider/horse combinations must have achieved a minimum of 70 per cent at Grand Prix at two different CDIs within 12 months of applying. For the B Tour, the minimum is 68 per cent at two Grand Prix at two different CDIs.

Combinations that have achieved results for at least one of the tours include Steffen Peters of San Diego, California and Legolas; Heather Blitz of Wellington, Florida and Paragon; Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida and Calecto V; Jan Ebeling of Moorpark, California and Rafalca; Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho and Wizard; Lisa Wilcox of Wellington and Pikko del Cerro HU; Pierre St. Jacques of Slatington, Pennsylvania and Lucky Tiger, and Dennis Callin who is based in England and D’Accord.

Several more CDIs are scheduled for both California and Florida ahead of the tours that could open up opportunities for other combinations such as Günter Seidel of Cardiff, California who already has one CDI score above 70 per cent on his new mount, Coral Reef Wylea.

The intensive schedule of European competitions grew from complaints that part of the reason for the failure of the United States to finish in the top half dozen nations in the past two Olympics, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, was lack of performances against the best in the world, in Europe.

Jan Ebeling said that a decision has not yet been made on whether he would seek to compete on one of the tours with Rafalca, who was a member of the United States team at last summer’s Olympics in London and became the center of the media attention because the horse is owned by Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012.

But he expressed a view shared by some other top riders: “I think the tours are a great idea and we need to have a presence in Europe as long as the horses and riders are good enough to represent the country. There is no value in simply sending horses for the sake of it.”

Lisa Wilcox and Pikko Del Cerro HU. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Lisa Wilcox, who based herself in Europe for several years and was ranked second in the world with Relevant on whom she won team bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and team silver at the 2002 world championships in Spain, has been awarded $25,000 by The Dressage Foundation for further training on Pikko del Cerro HU.

The 10-year-old stallion (Pik L x Rohweena x Rohdiamant) was bred and is owned by Horses Unlimted of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pair was U.S. developing Grand Prix champion in 2012.

The combination will compete at de Steeg and Aachen and the Manfred Swarovski Tournament CDI4* in Fritzens, Austria July 12-14.

“I support the tours and thoroughly believe that our persence in Europe is a must for the success of the future of U.S. dressage team,” she told dressage-news.com, “starting now all the way through to the 2014 WEG in Normandy.”