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London Olympics 2012: Show Jumping and Dressage Previews

Although the United States Equestrian Team won’t become official until approved by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the United States Equestrian Federation announced its nominated entries for the show jumping and dressage teams two weekends ago.

This narrows a large field of more than 50 Olympic hopefuls to a team of just eight contenders (the nominated entries for the U.S. eventing team will be announced on July 2, following the Barbury Castle International Horse Trials). It also opens the door for increased speculation about each horse and rider team: Favorites are being picked, training routines scrutinized, and the Olympic venues dissected by eager fans. Here’s a snapshot of the horse/rider combinations to keep your eyes on during the lead-up to the opening ceremony on July 27.

Olympic Show Jumping

A team of four and a traveling reserve will be finalized on July 6.

The Top Four:

1. Rich Fellers and Mollie and Harry Chapman’s Flexible
2. Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Ranch’s Coral Reef Via Volo
3. Reed Kessler on her own Cylana
4. McLain Ward and Grant Road Partners’ Antares F

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The Riders and Horses:

Rich Fellers and his stallion Flexible started the season as the crowd favorite to lead the U.S. team to the London Olympics after winning the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in April. At 52 years old, Fellers is among the most decorated riders competing on the West Coast circuit. His scopey, nimble stallion Flexible proved his athleticism during a daring turn at an Olympic observation event that won them first prize — and the top spot on the team.

Beezie Madden on Coral Reef Via Volo is an Olympic veteran; she was part of the back-to-back Olympic gold medal teams in show jumping during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and also won individual jumping bronze in 2008. Via, a 13-year-old Belgian warmblood, suffered from a skin condition that kept her out of the show jumping ring until May 2012, but recovered to nab a second-ranking spot under Madden, 49. Madden is also second alternate on Abigail Wexner’s Simon.

Seventeen-year-old Reed Kessler made headlines by rocketing to the top of the Olympic selection trials in March on her horse Cylana. This is the first year she is old enough to compete in five-star FEI classes, and she’s the youngest recorded rider in show jumping history. Her horse Cylana, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood, is also relatively new to jumping at the Olympic level (1.6 meters, or 5.2 feet), but has shown great promise under Kessler.

McLain Ward on Antares F battled his way back into contention following a compound fracture of his left kneecap in January. He didn’t start showing until May, when he won the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon on Antares F. An Olympic veteran, Ward, 36, took two Olympic team gold medals on his former horse Sapphire, retired in May, and took team silver at the 2006 WEG.

Olympic Dressage

Pending final notification from the FEI, the top three finishers are set to represent Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics. Fourth-place finisher Adrienne Lyle, riding Peggy Thomas’ Wizard, will compete as an individual rider (her score will not count toward the team score) in London.

The Top Three:

1. Steffen Peters riding Four Winds Farm’s Legolas 92 and Ravel
2. Tina Konyot riding her own Calecto V
3. Jan Ebeling riding Ann Romney, Beth Meyers and Amy Ebeling’s Rafalca

The Riders and Horses:

Steffen Peters, who has the option of riding either Legolas 92 or Ravel in the Olympics, received an exemptionfrom the trials. The two-time Olympian (1996 and 2004) rode Legolas, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, to the top-ranking spot on the team with a win at the National Grand Prix Dressage Championship. Ravel, Peters’ top mount, will also travel to London as part of the team. Considered the most successful American dressage rider in history, Peters, 48, won back-to-back World Dressage Masters and the 2009 World Cup, and earned two individual bronze medals at the 2010 World Championships. He also won team and individual gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games.

Tina Konyot, riding Calecto V, a 14-year-old Danish Warm blood stallion, nabbed an 80.14 percent score for her Grand Prix test at the U.S. Equestrian Federation Dressage Festival of Champions — the highest score of the Olympic trials. Konyot, 50, has competed in the Olympic Trials twice before, in 2000 and 2004, but came seventh each time. A fifth-generation horse person, Konyot both owns and trains Calecto, who she often takes trail riding and jumps as part of his cross-training.

Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare co-owned by Jan’s wife Amy, Beth Meyer and Ann Romney, have a six-year partnership, to which Ebeling credits much of their success. He won the Grand Prix Special at Dressage Getaway Inc. and at the Mid-Winter Dressage Festival with Rafalca, and says he had the Olympics in mind when he purchased the mare from Germany.

Eventing

The U.S. Eventing team named its nominated entry and short-listed Olympic three-day event team on June 11, following the final Trial event over the weekend in Quebec. The 11 shortlisted combinations will compete at the Barbury Castle International Horse Trials from June 27—July 1 and the official three-day event team will be named on July 2.

1. Will Coleman on Jim Wildasin’s Twizzel
2. Tiana Coudray on Jaital, Inc’s Ringwood Magister
3. Buck Davidson on Carl and Cassie Segal’s BallyNoe Castle RM
4. Phillip Dutton on Team Rebecca’s Fernhill Eagle
5. Phillip Dutton on Bruce Duchossois’ Mighty Nice
6. Phillip Dutton on Jim and Arden Wildasin’s Mystery Whisper
7. Will Faudree on Jennifer Mosing’s Andromaque
8. Sinead Halpin on Carraig, LLC’s Manoir de Carneville
9. Boyd Martin on the Neville Bardos Syndicate’s Neville Bardos
10. Boyd Martin on the Otis Barbotiere Syndicate’s Otis Barbotiere
11. Boyd Martin on Henley House Stables’ Remington XXV
12. Clark Montgomery Holly Becker and Kathryn Kraft’s Loughan Glen
13. Karen O’Connor the Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s Mr. Medicott
14. Allison Springer Carole and William Springer’s Arthur

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