Coral Reef Wylea Injured, Günter Seidel Out of USA WEG Team Contention

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Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea performing the USA National Championship Freeste. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea performing in the USA National Championship Freestyle. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, California, Mar. 22, 2014–Coral Reef Wylea that Günter Seidel was aiming for the American team for this year’s World Equestrian Games has been injured and will be out of contention.

Günter and the 14-year-old Westfalen mare are ranked No. 2 on the United States WEG ranking list and were scheduled to compete at the Capistrano Dressage International World Cup event this weekend.

“He came up lame while we were working and it looks like it will be more than just a few weeks,” Günter, aged 53, of Cardiff, California told dressage-news.com.

“We’re still looking to see the extent of the problem but we won’t be at Gladstone.” Gladstone in New Jersey is where the Amerian selection trials will be held–with the top two horses and riders to be named to the squad and up to another six pairs sent to Europe to compete for the other two places.

“The horse is injured and will be fine but probably not in time, sadly, for the final selection trials,” Robert Dover, the U.S. Chef d’Equipe who flew to California for the CDI, told dressage-news.com.

“Günter is here training his clients and, professional that he is, he is showing the typical grace of the great Olympian he is. I hope that this setback will be countered by even greater things to come for Günter in the near future.”

The loss of the combination as one of the top prospects for the team for the WEG in Normandy, France at the end of August is a serious blow to the United States. Wylea was ranked only behind fellow Californians and also former German riders Steffen Peters and Legolas with Jan Ebeling and his Olympic mount, Rafalca in third place.

Günter and Wylea were reserve United States champions behind Steffen and Legolas in 2013.

Günter is highly respected in both the United States and Europe as a top rider. Plus, he is personally immensely popular.

He got the ride on Wylea at the end of 2012.

The horse, originally named Winci, was owned and trained by Klaus Balkenhol, the German Olympic gold medalist and former U.S. team coach, and ridden by his daughter, Anabel, at national shows and at Grand Prix at two CDIs in Germany in 2012, Lingen in June and Aachen in July.

The Westfalen (Weinberg x St. Jolie x Saluut) was bought for Günter to compete by Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer and her Coral Reef Ranch of Rancho Santa Fe, the same Southern California community where the German-born rider has based his horses for many years. Coral Reef is also the owner of some jumpers ridden by double Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden, including Via Volo for the U.S. team at the Olympics in London in 2012.

In competitions in Europe last summer, Günter and Wylea logged top placings in both Germany and Great Britain, including a United States team silver medal performance in the Nations Cup at Hickstead, England.

Günter is a medalist for the United States at three Olympics–Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

His last world championship medal came in 2006 at the WEG in Aachen, Germany.

After that, he was bringing along U II, a horse he rode to the U.S. Developing Championship title in 2008, and Sundayboy, both at Grand Prix as potential U.S. team horses.

In preparation for the American selection trials for the WEG in Kentucky in 2010, both horses were shipped to Klaus Balkenhol’s German training center. Riding U II fresh off the plane, Günter was thrown from the horse and seriously fractured his pelvis. The accident ended hopes of making the U.S. WEG team in 2010.

He was back competing nine months later, then took both horses to Europe over the summer of 2011, notching victories aboard U II at Hamburg, Germany and Fritzens, Austria.

Within a few weeks of their return to California, the relationship with Dick and Jane Brown who owned the horses was over after almost a quarter-century. With no top mount, the possibility of a trip to London in 2012 was bleak.

He made the most of a last-minute lease of the then 16-year-old California-owned Fandango, finishing right behind Heather Blitz and Paragon who went to London as the team reserve.