Anky Van Grunsven's Dutch WEG Reining Team Ascent

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If you don't believe in fairy tales, maybe you should start: The queen of dressage has a tough year and watches from the sidelines as younger riders, including former students, make the Dutch team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. They'll be coached by her life partner. She'll stay home and will not defend her title as world champion in dressage. As an almost humorous footnote in the annals of international horse sport, she was named alternate to the Dutch reining team. How sweet, a consolation prize to the queen of Dutch equestrianism--who would probably have made the vaulting team had she tried. She is that great an athlete, that great a competitor.

And now she's packing for Kentucky.

The withdrawal of Dutch reining team member Jurgen Pouls means that Anky moves up and will fly to Lexington later this month along with her palomino Quarter horse Whizashiningwalla BB. Chef d?equipe for the Dutch reining team, Caspar de Jonge, gave Anky the nod to replace Jurgen.

Who could have scripted this more perfectly?

Well, actually I did, months ago, when I predicted that she would be the first rider to compete in two WEG disciplines. I thought she would make both the dressage and reining teams for The Netherlands. And that is still a possibility. She did technically "make" two teams, but as alternate. The stallion Painted Black is still alternate for the Dutch dressage team; even though Anky has sold him, she retains him as her qualified ride should any of the Dutch team horses or riders be unable to compete in Lexington. My bizarre prediction is beginning to sound not so bizarre after all.

Contrary to what you might think, the palomino she will be riding is not imported from the USA. Whiz is born and bred in Europe. He was bred by and is still owned by the Eifel Gold Ranch Baeck in Belgium. He's also no stranger to international competition, although he has never been in a world championship before. In 2008 he was reserve champion at the Italian Derby, European Non Pro Champion and Non Pro Maturity Champion in Italy. Eifel Gold will have two BB horses on the Belgian reining team as well.

Anky's highest reining score was actually a 0. She was disqualified from a WEG qualifier in Switzerland when, at the end of her ride, she impulsively patted her horse as a reward. While that is accepted behavior in dressage and probably an automatic gesture for Anky, it's a no-no in reining and her score plummeted to zero.

Here's a news video clip from the Netherlands earlier today. Of course it is in Dutch. Anky is laughing at the end and basically saying that she hopes that she can still get plane tickets for herself and her children and the nanny. Of course, Sjef is already planning to be in Lexington to coach the Dutch dressage team.

Here's a rough summary in English, provided by Anky:

"I couldn't sleep after the chef d'equipe asked me to be part of the team as one combination had to withdraw. The world chmpionships come a bit too early. My highest score is 70.5 and that's good but not very good. On the other hand, I am reserve and if the team needs me, then I have to be there. If the team goes without me with three riders and something happens there to a horse or a rider, than The Netherlands don't have a team any more.

"Individually I don't think I will break records but I hope that I can help the team to a good team result.

"Whizashiningwalla leaves September 16. I don't know when I go but of course Sjef and the kids, the au-pair and the groom go with me. All is the same as normal, only we take another horse!"