Anders Dahl Rides Selten HW to Final Small Tour on Winning Note, Looks to 2016 Olympics
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
HICKSTEAD, England, Aug. 4, 2014–Selten HW, the American-bred horse that created history to claim all three United States young horse championships, has ended his small tour career with nine straight victories this year.
Owner-rider Anders Dahl will carefully steer the Sandro Hit gelding now 10 years old toward what he hopes will be a spot on Denmark’s team at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Success this year is near to miraculous after a virus struck Selten, and Anders and his now-wife Fiona Bigwood feared might lead to the horse having to be put down.
It’s almost two years since Selten was bought at auction from Elizabeth Ball of Encinitas, California for what, in retrospect, seems a bargain at €500,000 (US$647,000 at the time).
“I knew immediately he was special, after I sat on him for just 20 seconds,” Anders said after Selten, a Hanoverian gelding (Sandro Hit x Hohenstein) was honored as the small tour champion at the Dressage at Hickstead CDI in England.
“I said to Fiona, we need this horse. He clicked immediately. It was an auction but you wished you could just buy the horse and disappear.
“He was definitely a bargain,” smiled the 38-year-old rider who with Fiona is based about 20 minutes from the show grounds.
Selten was bred by Irene Hoeflich-Wiederhold of Cape Coral, Florida, a feat that Anders said he finds “amazing” because of the difficulty of breeding top international performance horses, and the United States is not known for doing so.
“There are not many horses like him,” he said.
Selten was United States champion at four, five and six years of age, an historic triple crown.
Fiona Bigwood, who rode Wie Atlantico on Great Britain’s silver medal team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, initially bought Selten for herself.
Anders, who obviously means it when he says “I really, really love” Selten, said he horse was fresh and he offered to buy it from Fiona after a year if she wanted to not continue the ride.
“I really connected with Selten.”
The grooms find him quite a handful, as Anders describes it, “he likes to play by jumping around pretending to be scared of everything. Not once in competition has he spooked, but out of the arena he can play up a lot like in the prize giving. Hacking can be quite a handful.”
First, though, came the “complete disaster,” the virus and the fear that Selten might not survive it. He did, but lost a lot of fitness that took time to get back. At this show a year ago, for example, Anders felt the horse was fit enough only for the Prix St. Georges and not the Intermediate 1.
This year was different.
At Barcelona, Spain in spring and Hartpury and Hickstead in England in summer, Anders and Selten competed in nine Prix. St. Georges and Intermediate events for nine victories, all with scores above 78 per cent and none below 74 per cent.
“He’ll now get two weeks off with no dressage, to relax but some hacking so he does not lose fitness,” Anders said.
“We’ll slowly start doing more of the Grand Prix movements. We will make sure he stays happy. We have no schedule for him to start competing Grand Prix. We’ll do some fairly low key Inter A and B events first.
“Our main goal is Rio (the 2016 Olympics) and get him set up for that. Hopefully, we will do some Grand Prix later this year.
“Because of the success he has had, we don’t want to go out and get 62 per cent. We want to do a decent job.
“If I feel he’s ready then we’ll see how it goes.
“He’s the best horse I’ve ever sat on, with so much power and capacity. He can do everything. The passage is amazing… the one-tempis are there.
“He is such a big mover we have to allow him to stay a big mover, for the horse to be what he is and what makes him so good.
“I’m not going to get quicker to our goal by doing the Grand Prix now.”