USA Olympic Observation Event at Night in Subtropical Florida Becomes America’s Dressage Spectacle of the Year

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USA Olympic dressage team observation event in the iconic Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Arena usually reserved for top jumping competitions. Steffen Peters on Suppenkasper, Benjamin Ebeling on Illuster van de Kampert and Alice Tarjan on Candescent familiarizing themselves with the venue. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, June 7, 2021–The United States Olympic team observation event in sub-tropical Wellington this week has become the dressage spectacle of the year in America in what was launched as an effort to create a competition in a climate similar under lights at night to be expected at the Games in Tokyo less than eight weeks away.

The event at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in the arena that is the centerpiece of the Winter Equestrian Festival has attracted paying spectators from around the nation to watch the 11 short listed riders on 14 horses compete head-to-head for selection to the team of three combinations and a reserve.

More than 500 spectators each of two nights of competition–the Grand Prix Wednesday and the Grand Prix Special Friday–paid $165 for food and drink. No free spectators are permitted, but the event will be streamed live. Equestrian Sports Productions that manages the show grounds, offered to underwrite the entire cost of the event even before knowing whether there would be any spectators to provide conditions as close to Tokyo as possible. The organization had staged almost continuous horse shows with barely a hiccup in Wellington for more than a year, the lengthiest successful schedule of any sport in a single venue in the world since the Covid-19 pandemic and equine herpes virus scares.

Adrienne Lyle on Salvino riding around the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center centerpiece arena at sunset, about the same time observation events will be held similar to what’s expected at the Tokyo Olympics. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The event’s lineup of 11 riders and 14 horses–three riders have two horses–is:

Adrienne Lyle, 36, of Wellington, Florida and Salvino, 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Betsy Juliano LLC, and
Harmony’s Duval, 13-year-old American-bred Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Duval Partners LLC;

Steffen Peters, 56, of San Diego, California and Suppenkasper, 13-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Four Winds Farm and Akiko Yamazaki;

Sabine Schut-Kery, 52, of Napa, California and Sanceo, 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Alice Womble;

Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, 37, of Haymarket, Virginia and Rassing’s Lonoir, 17-year Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Olivia and Mary Anne McPhail;

Nick Wagman, 47, of San Diego, California and Don John, 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Beverly Gepfer, and
Ferano, 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Elizabeth Keadle;

Benjamin Ebeling, 22, of Moorpark, California and Illuster Van De Kampert, 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Sasha Cutter for Nuvolari Holdings and Amy Roberts Ebeling;

Jennifer Schrader-Williams, 41, of Olympia, Washington and Millione, 18-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Millione Partners, LLC;

Charlotte Jorst, 56, of Reno, Nevada and Kastel’s Nintendo, 18-year-old KWPN stallion owned by Kastel Denmark;

–Susan Dutta, 52, of Wellington, Florida and Don Design DC, 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, and
Figeac DC, 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, both owned by Tim and Susan Dutta;

Jessica Howington, 41, of Wellington and Cavalia, 14-year-old KWPN mare owned by Jessica, and

Alice Tarjan, 41, of Oldwick, New Jersey and Candescent, 11-year-old 2010 Hanoverian mare owned by Alice.

Alcazar, 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, that was to be ridden by Katherine Bateson-Chandler of Wellington sustained a a minor injury and was scratched.

This observation event was created by the U.S. Equestrian Federation after opting out of a planned European competition swing following Florida’s intensive winter circuit–a decision that turned out to be fortuitous. A squad of Grand Prix riders sent to Europe in place of Olympic prospects pulled out of a Nations Cup competition because of concerns over equine herpes virus.

After years of warnings that temperatures and humidity in Tokyo during the Games are forecast to be the most stressful of any previous Olympics, this equestrian community 80 miles/129km north of Miami provides similar conditions this week–temperatures of about 83F/28C with 62/64% humidity when the Grand Prix on Wednesday and Grand Prix Special on Friday are staged beginning at 8:15 p.m. US ET. According to forecasts drawn up for Tokyo for when the Games are held beginning July 23, temperatures at the same time of day are figured to be about 83F/28C with humidity 60/70%.

To heighten competition reality, the panel of five judges will include only one American, unlike many previous national events in which almost all are Americans–similar to national events elsewhere.

Adrienne Lyle on Salvino in front of judges booths for the US Olympic dressage observation event. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The ground jury comprises Stephen Clarke 5* of Great Britain, a veteran Olympic and championship judge; Ulrike Neville 5* of Germany who was on the panel for last week’s German Championships where that nation’s top Olympic prospects competed; Agnieska Majewska 4* of Poland and Cesar Torrente 4* of Colombia, both with extensive experience at the winter-long Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, and Michael Osinski 4* of the United States who has added European shows to his resume of judging around the U.S.

Also like Olympics and major championships, a so-called “mixed zone” is being set up for the riders to be interviewed immediately following their rides.

The three combinations selected for the American team plus one reserve will be announced 10 or 11 days from now.

The most likely team members will remain in Wellington until near the end of June.

The Dutta Corp. will fly the horses from Miami to Amsterdam and then on to stabling in Belgium.

About July 5, the horse will move into quarantine at Aachen, Germany, home of the premier World Equestrian Festival CHIO, for about 10 days.

Current plans are for the horses to fly to Tokyo in mid-July, about a week ahead of the veterinary inspection in Tokyo July 23.