USA Squad of Eight Riders & Horses Compete at Fritzens in First World Games Trials
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
FRITZENS, Austria, July 3, 2014–The squad of eight horses and riders seeking to be on the American team for the World Equestrian Games in less than two months begin competing at this spectacular Alpine show grounds Friday in the first of two selection trials.
All eight Grand Prix horses as well as two small tour horses were given the nod of approval at the veterinary inspection Thursday for the two divisions to test the combinations along with a group of five Australian riders going through the same selection ritual as well as riders from at least 13 other nations.
The Grand Prix for the Special with 31 riders is led off Friday by Australia’s Briana Burgess on La Scala.
For the Americans it amounts to an East Coast/West Coast split between the Grand Prix division.
Caroline Roffman of Wellington, Florida and Her Highness O, Lisa Wilcox also of Wellington and Denzello, Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida and Verdades and Shelly Francis of Loxahatchee, Florida and Doktor are competing in Friday’s Grand Prix.
Steffen Peters of San Diego, California and Legolas, Jan Ebeling of Moorpark, California and Rafalca, Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho and Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida and Calecto V will ride in the Grand Prix for the Freestyle Saturday.
Laura Graves, the 26-year-old rookie who has never ridden on an American team and never been to Europe before, said she is really making the most of the experience by being with the veterans.
“It’s a really, really lovely first experience,” she said of the team spirit and the atmosphere of friendliness and professionalism at this show organized by the Swarovski family famous for their worldwide designer jewelry business.
Steffen Peters, who will be competing Rosamunde in the small tour and has competed at three Olympics and two WEGs for the United States, said he feels a bit sorry for the rest of the American competitors as he has already qualified for the team as the first place finisher at the national championships last month.
“I feel for all of my friends who have to battle it out for a team place as less than one percentage point separates the combinations,” he said.
This and the World Equestrian Festival at Aachen, Germany in two weeks to determine the makeup of the team of four horses and riders, he said, “is the real deal.”
Robert Dover, the leader of the U.S. team, said the riders “have been great together” and the more laid back atmosphere of this competition along with the spectacular beauty makes it an “awesome” experience.
At least 17 American combinations are competing in Europe, including the eight on the official WEG squad.