Tina Konyot & Calecto V Looking for Peak Performance In Rare USA Two-Time World Games, Olympic Appearances
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Aug. 18, 2014
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Tina Konyot rides Calecto V into the World Equestrian Games competition arena next week, the pair will become only the fourth American combination to join the exclusive “three-plus” club of two world championships and an Olympics to which only three other United States horses and riders belong.
Although Tina is thinking the Alltech FEI World Games in Normandy where the dressage starts on Monday will be the last championship for the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Come Back II x Rastell) she feels the horse is at the same level as he was at the national championships in Gladstone, New Jersey in 2012. There, they were the only pair to score 80 per cent in the Grand Prix or the Special and was reserve national champion, only 0.780 per cent behind Steffen Peters and Ravel.
Jan Bemelmans, her trainer, also has been “harder on me than ever” psychologically to get her to become more disciplined and improve her focus, a lesson she welcomes as a way not to miss out on gaining maximum points for her Nations Cup team.
After resisting breeding Calecto during his competition career, Tina is open to the idea–and figures a good match could be the black stallion and Her Highness O, the mare owned by Caroline Roffman of Wellington, Florida who was on the squad vying for a place on the WEG team.
Tina, at 52 years of age, of Palm City, Florida, is the veteran of the team that includes Steffen Peters, 49, of San Diego, California on Legolas, Adrienne Lyle, 29, of Ketchum, Idaho on her Olympic mount, Wizard, and Laura Graves, 27, of Geneva, Florida, on Verdades.
Tina does not talk about the path to the WEG, but the journey has been gruelling, with considerable stress on some of the older horses that led to Jan Ebeling pulling Rafalca, only a year older than Calecto, out of the contest among six combinations for two places on the team. Steffen on Legolas and Laura on Verdades were assigned the two of the four team spots based on their performances at Gladstone.
Tina is proud of the achievement with Calecto V that she rode for America at the 2010 world championships in Kentucky and the 2012 Olympics in London will rank with Carol Lavell on Gifted, Sue Blinks on Flim Flam and Debbie McDonald on Brentina as the only U.S. combinations to compete at two World Games and an Olympics–or the “three-plus club.” (Debbie McDonald on Brentina completed the even rarer feat of two WEGs and two Olympics).
In fact, of the 130 combinations for Normandy, the American pair’s achievement will be matched only by four others–Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands on Jerich Parzival, Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein of Denmark on Digby, Claudia Fassaert of Belgium on Donnerfee and Sweden’s Patrik Kittel on Watermill Scandic.
Both Robert Dover, the U.S team leader as Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe, and Jan Bemelmans tell her that Calecto is going better than ever.
“He’s in great form and I feel very very good about that. I compare the way he feels now to how he felt at Gladstone priot to the Oympics in 2012,” she told dressage-news.com. “It felt amazing then and that’s how it feels right now.
“They ask why I think of retiring this horse.
“I want to live a long life with the horse. I know I don’t have the greatest dressage horse but I have the greatest horse.
“He’s the old guy on the block and I’m the old girl on the block. But we’re feeling young right now.
“My diesel engine continues kicking along. We’re very fortunate.
“We are looking forward to what may be our last hurrah at a championship.”
Tina’s life as a dressage rider and trainer springs from a unique heritage.
Her grandfather was a center ring star for the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and a trainer of horses for Hollywood stars, her gradmother a bareback equestrienne and ballerina who was a relative of renowned prima ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Alex Konyot, her father, was a major player in bringing dressage to America and among his students was a young Robert Dover, while her mother was a high wire artiste who performed without a net high above center ring.
Tina finds it wonderful to be on a squad with Steffen and Adrienne with whom she was team mates in London as well as Laura that she admires for her talent and being cool under pressure.
“We have strong energy together as a team” she said. “It’s a good feeling.
“Right before the WEG we have a very good mind set.”
She said that in the past she would ride through her tests perhaps a couple of time before a competition and think that was good enough.
“The mental absue from my trainer,” she joked of Jan Bemelmans’ advice to focus on every step. “I’m certain I needed it. I hope I can have a very respectable result for my horse and myself. That’s my goal–to ride him to the best of his abilty.
“I’m not loooking for fairy tales. Just the best he can be.”
After the WEG in Normandy, she plans to take Calecto for a vacation to nearby Deauville to ride on the beach.
The pair have been invited to ride in the Central Park Horse Show the third week of September that she’s “very excited to do to support the sport” but wants to be sure not to stress Calecto so soon after WEG.
After that, she said, “I was 100 per cent positive I wanted to retire Calecto. Now I’m not so positive–maybe 75 to 80 per cent.”
She would like for Calecto to be available for special riders, such as the owner of her young horse, Wyoming that she will campaign for a place on the U.S. team for the Pan American Games in Toronto next year.
“I’m not going to do the Young Rider thing,” she said. “He’s had enough stress in life teaching me. He deserves better than that.”
Maybe some jumping, perhaps some exhibitions and breeding–“have fun,” as she puts it, where Calecto comes out bucking and squealing in joy.