Postcard from WEG Selection Trials

Top U.S. riders and horses converge at the USET headquarters in New Jersey for the first of two weekends of dressage competition that will decide the team that will represent America at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain.
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Top U.S. riders and horses converge at the USET headquarters in New Jersey for the first of two weekends of dressage competition that will decide the team that will represent America at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain.

July 3, 2002, Gladstone, New Jersey -- The weather at this weekend's dressage selection trials for the World Equestrian Games couldn't have been much better. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze and the humidity was fairly low--near-perfect conditions for 12 top riders and 13 horses to vie for spots on the 2002 World Equestrian Games dressage team.

The list of competitors read like a who's who of the dressage world including 2000 Olympians Guenter Seidel, Sue Blinks and Christine Traurig as well as team members Steffen Peters, Betsy Steiner, Debbie McDonald and Shelly Francis. World Cup finalists Cherri Reiber and Tom Noone were on hand, as were George Williams and Susan Dutta. The relative newcomer of the group was Lynda Cameron riding Orion in only his fourth Grand Prix on Saturday. As expected, the competition was tough, and even with half of the scores already in, the scores are so close that it's anyone's guess what the outcome will be next weekend.

Riding Flim Flam, Sue Blinks put in a nearly perfect ride to win the Saturday Grand Prix with a score of 71.92 percent--the first leg of the competition that counted for 30 percent of the total score. "I had a great ride," she said.

Nipping closely at her heels was Guenter Seidel and Nikolaus 7-one of two horses he qualified for the competition--with 70.44 percent. Rounding out the Olympic reunion was Christine Traurig on Etienne who scored 68.44 to take the bronze in the Grand Prix.

A bit of a surprise during Saturday's Grand Prix was the performance of Debbie McDonald and Brentina. The pair scored 67.84 percent, putting them only in fifth place, which was unusual for this pair that has been consistently winning at home and abroad. "She was having trouble with the thicker air," said McDonald who lives and trains in Hailey, Idaho. "Her breathing was labored, and it affected the performance." The team veterinarian put Brentina on a nebulizer overnight, and McDonald says that helped. By Sunday, Brentina proved that she was feeling better by coming back with a 73.40 percent in the Grand Prix Special, scoring 28 points higher than second-place Guenter Seidel. "I knew I needed to come out and do a good test today. I felt it was smooth and harmonious," said McDonald.

Seidel held onto the red ribbon with a score of 66.36 percent, and Blinks slid down to third place in the Special with 71.56 percent, though her combined score for the two days was high enough to keep her in first place at the close of the weekend. Blinks had a mistake in the one-tempi changes. Judge Dr. Josef Knipp of Germany said that her Sunday test wasn't as good as Saturday's: "She tried too much," he said. "This was a case of less equals more."

Stay tuned to Equisearch.com for more results and a wrap-up of next weekend's Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle.