September 14, 2010 -- Ten days to go before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (September 25-October 10) and the American horses and riders are putting the finishing touches on their preparation. Where are they and what are they up to?
The dressage horses have all made it back to Gladstone, N.J. where they are training at the USET Foundation Headquarters up until the WEG. Ravel and Steffen Peters had their trip delayed a couple of days by Hurricane Earl, but they arrived safe and sound on Wednesday, September 8. They joined: Tina Konyot and Calecto V, Todd Flettrich and Otto, Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Nartan, Catherine Haddad and Winyamaro and Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger. They will remain there until they depart for the World Games under the guidance of Anne Gribbons, the US Dressage Technical Advisor.
The driving teams wrapped up the second of two mandatory outings for their 10 teams in Oldwick, N.J. Then six of the teams: Tucker Johnson, Chester Weber, Jim Fairclough, Josh Rector, Gary Stover and Bill Long went to the Laurels at Landhope CDE for WEG Team Training in a competition setting. They polished their skills under the guidance of U.S. coach Michael Freund.
Cindy O'Reilly is one of only two female drivers in the entire field at the World Games (Deb Laderoute from Canada is the other). Cindy, along with Bill Long, Gary Stover and Casey Zubek participated in a mandatory outing two weekends ago at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, N.C. Mike McLennan rounds out the 10 drivers who will represent the United States.
The endurance horses are all in Harrodsburg, Ky. where they are traversing and training through the historic Shaker village less than an hour from the Kentucky Horse Park. All 12 horses (10 riders - as Meg Sleeper and Ellen Rapp each have two) have been training well and staying fit under the guidance of Chef d'Equipe Becky Hart. They will have their final veterinary evaluation on the September 17, after which the final team will be named.
There are an unprecedented amount of family ties in the endurance group this year: Heather and Jeremy Reynolds are married (both are named to the short list) and Jeremy's identical twin brother, Tim grooms for him. Ellen Rapp's groom is also her identical twin sister Eryn. The chances of being an identical twin are 0.4% or 1 in 250, so the chance of two different identical twins being on this list of 10 is incredible.
The Eventing community spent the weekend at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Ga. for the Land Rover/USEA American Eventing Championships where the 17 remaining shortlisted horses (Phillip Dutton's Kheops du Quesnay was withdrawn before the competition) vied for a spot on the team. Becky Holder won the championship on Courageous Comet over Will Faudree and Pawlow but many of the short listed horses either contested a combined test (they didn't start on the cross country) or purposely went slowly. The team and individuals will be named Tuesday afternoon.
Many of the jumping horses picked up top finishes over the last two weeks: At the Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton, N.Y. and the following week in Saugerties, N.Y. at the Pfizer Million. They dodged Hurricane Earl at Hampton Classic and Sapphire stormed to victory for the second consecutive year in the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup Qualifier to give McLain Ward his fifth win in the class - setting a new record. Mario Deslauriers and Urico handled the $50,000 Spy Cost Farm Grand Prix Qualifier with ease, while Quick Study stretched his legs at CSIO5* Gijon in Spain for Lauren Hough with a fifth place finish in the Grand Prix.
The following weekend Sapphire and Ward then galloped home to win the Pfizer Million - picking up $350,000 in the process. Deslauriers and Urico had a speedy four-fault effort to finish sixth. Cedric is also in Europe with Laura Kraut, and he was sixth in the Grand Prix at CSIO5* Madrid. The riders used these competitions as the final preparation for their horses for the World Games.
The para-equestrian riders are preparing to leave for Joe Pagan's Kentucky Equine Research farm in Versailles, Ky. for a pre-WEG training session with the Team Coach/Chef d'Equipe Missy Ransehousen. The US will field a squad of 10 Para-Equestrian riders: four will ride on the team and all ten will compete as individuals. Team, Individual and freestyle medals will be awarded in five Para-Equestrian grades.
The reining horses are all practicing and training at their respective farms. They haven't been competing, opting for home schooling rather than match practice. All five horses named to the squad are in good form, and will be evaluated a final time before they ship to the Kentucky Horse Park in less than two weeks. Many of the riders have been competing on other horses but the WEG horses have been training for the big event.
The vaulting athletes are prepping on both sides of the Atlantic. Megan Benjamin (the reigning World Champion from 2006) is in Europe training and preparing her horse for arrival to the United States to defend her World title on home turf. The FACE Team, along with Mary McCormick have all arrived at their training facility in Tennessee. The Vaulters went through a rigorous training session at the end of August in Woodside, Calif. before their eastbound journey.