Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reiner Lisa Coulter (CAN) on the Road to Kentucky

I recently returned from a competition in Stephenville, Texas where I competed in 2 CRIs. The race is on to get qualified in both Canada and the USA. The CRIs were well attended and competitve. I have qualified as far as I possibly can to make the Canadian Team and its all about the final team selection in mid July in Chilliwack, B.C. However I feel strongly about keeping up competitvely and testing myself and my horses at the CRIs. It is the best way to keep the high level pressure as well as put me and my horses under the strict guidelines and criteria the FEI expect. As Reiners we are still relatively new to the criteria and it is a positive and necessary step in our progress in our sport.
(Photo Credit: Equisport Photos)

I am also looking ahead to the Masters and World Rankings so gaining points is also very important. I competed on Angels Mark. This is a 7 year old gelding owned by Bob Thomspon. He has been a wonderful horse for Bob, in Non Pro events, and has just begun to show with me in the Open. The greatest thing about this horse is his mind and how absolutely intent he is on pleasing his rider. He rarely takes a bad step and if he does its only because you put him there. He may not have plus one maneuvers but he is a solid plus half every day and his ability to patiently wait and work to the level you ask is astounding. Run after run this horse proves himself and the fact that he will come out sound and able to handle run after run makes him a fantastic FEI horse.

We marked 72 to 73s on both runs. This placed us 6th the first CRI and 3rd the second CRI. This was more than I expected as the competition was tough and I hoped to sit in the top ten but knew I was under-horsed. However Angel was his sturdy self and proved that a great heart and effort will be rewarded. I was able to acheive more points than I had hoped for and also came away from the event very confident and feeling more and more ready for WEG.

I schooled my top two horses in Stephenville in an effort to get them ready for the finals in July. Ace was his usual self and allowed me to school him like I needed to. We have minor problems and he is so honest he will make the mistakes and allow me to fix him. Then he simply gets better for the big runs. Weg (aptly named horse) is still my biggest challenge. He and I have not connected fully yet. He is by far my best maneuver horse but he is not my best minded. He requires preparation and patience...he also requires trust and I have been slow giving it to him. I feel great runs with Weg and myself and hopefully by the finals we will be ready. My plan is to run him at the CRI2 at the NRBC. This is not an attempt to win but to put a high pressure run together and see how we both fare. He then will go back to schooling to prepare for team selection.
(Photo Credit: Equisport Photos)

The NRBC has 2 CRIs scheduled in late April and that will be my next effort. I will be both schooling and showing all 3 horses to keep us all up to par.
I am feeling more and more confident as we get closer to WEG and look forward to the team slection. Its a new challenge I look forward to and a goal that sets me on fire. My focus is strong and my horses are ready......bring on WEG!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paralympic Medalist and European Para Dressage Champion: Sophie Wells (GBR)

Welcome to my first blog entry for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. This World Equestrian Games is different from any previous event because it’s the first time that all 8 FEI equestrian disciplines are competing together!

First I will introduce myself. I’m 19 years old and started riding when I was about 7. I did the normal riding club and pony club activities until I specialised in dressage at the age of 11. I first got introduced to Para Dressage at 13 and it all took off from there! I still compete in able-bodied dressage, and have competed and won internationally for GB too. I was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, which left me with just a few fingers. The doctors managed to save my feet but I have bad scarring and nerve damage in my lower legs. So I have good days and bad days! I’m a Grade IV Para rider, so I compete in the least disabled category of the sport. (Pictured: Sophie on her horse "Noki")

Campaigning for a place on the British Team is well underway now, but there are many riders going for just a few places, so competition is tough! Qualifiers for selection have already begun, and we have made a good start winning and coming second in both qualifiers I have done this year. I have two horses I am competing in the selection trials, Pinocchio (Noki, 13 yr old 17.2hh chestnut gelding owned by Dr Jackie Walker) and Valerius (Reece, 8 yr old 17.2hh liver chestnut gelding owned by myself since he was 5). My first major Championship was only last year, the European Para Dressage Championships in Norway, where I rode Pinocchio, and it was a great debut where I learnt a lot and was thrilled to win 3 gold medals!

I only started riding Noki at the beginning of 2009, so our partnership is getting even stronger now. While we were snowed off over Christmas and New Year, my trainer (Angela Weiss) and I sat down and sorted out a competition schedule for both horses for the year.

Next week I have a qualifier and then a lesson with Nicole Werner, Edward Gal's trainer, which should be great! We then go on to World Class Performance squad training, so I’ll let you know how it all goes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Olympic Eventing Gold Medalist, Stuart Tinney (AUS)

Stuart Tinney OAM Olympic Gold Medallist Sydney 2000.

Being my first blog for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, I find that there is not much to tell just yet!

The Eventing season has only just kicked off here in Australia with CNC events, so only some young horses are out.
(Photo Credit: Jenny Barnes)

What I can do, is mention my prospects for the 2010 Games. Vettori, owned by Kathy Ward and Pete O’Connell, is my premier mount right now. With his win at Adelaide International CCI**** (and as long as the wheels don’t fall off) we are sure that the selectors will trust putting us on the team. As far as back up rides my mare, part owned by Tim Game, will certainly be one I will prepare. An outsider, Watermark Grayson owned by Sarah Ingham just may be hot on their heels, with a win at Puhinui CCI*** in New Zealand late last year.

All three horses are in full work and will go to maybe the HSBC FEI World Cup CIC*** Sydney in May, or to Werribee International CCI*** Victoria in June. There will be a few lead up events, but realistically they don’t need to do much; just be sound and fit.

I have few clinics lined up (trying to gain some revenue!) and also some nice young horses to ride, so with roughly 12 in work, both Karen and I are very busy! One trip I will be making is to The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event this April with my Federation. I will not be going to compete, but I will be going with some administration staff to “get a feel” for the grounds. I am looking forward to that trip very much.

More news as it comes to hand, certainly an exciting year.

More info

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden Blogs About USEF Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2010 Games--Part V

Wellington, FL--March 8, 2010--It's the morning after, and I have to say I'm relieved that it is over. I can say that because I am also excited about how well it went for me. Danny Boy really shined yesterday with a clear round to finish tied for third in the selection trial standings. He also had a fast clear in the jump off and finished second by just a tenth of a second to Cedric in the Grand Prix. I feel really good that he and I were able to pull off a good performance when we really needed one.

Although Mademoiselle finished with 8 faults, she was also very good. She handled all the scope tests very well again. Perhaps a little fatigue after all she has been through in the last month, caused one fault in the last line, and her other fault was at the second fence which did not cause much trouble all day. I think I was a little anxious and over-rode her there. She still finished 7th in the overall standings for the selection trials. It looks like I will be on two tours to Europe.

The first tour with Mademoiselle and the second with Danny Boy. None of the results become official, though, until this evening after all of the official committees have met and approved the recommendation of the selectors. I am optimistic at this time about the chances of the United States fielding a team for the WEG that could win the gold medal. If all the horses and riders can stay healthy, we have some strong combinations available. With McLain, Laura and Lauren already selected, I will probably be ranked 6th with Danny and 10th with Mademoiselle. So, for me to be a part of it, I will have to have some strong performances in Europe.

It's still a long time until the WEG and I look forward to the challenge. Whether I make the team or not, I will at least have been a contributor to the team at this point by being a part of the Super League teams and, at the very least, pushing the others to be their best. The first tour starts up May 13th. Both of my horses will have a couple of weeks without competing now. It is a well deserved rest. They will not have to peak again until their European tours. I'll be sure to keep you informed on how they are doing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden Blogs About USEF Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2010 Games--Part IV

WELLINGTON, FL--March 6, 2010--Yesterday we were back at our familiar venue of the International Ring. I had good results with both of my horses. Mademoiselle was clear with a time fault, and I couldn’t have been happier with her. The time fault is just something that I need to get quicker on the ends of the ring with her. Danny Boy had four faults. He seems to have plenty of energy still, which might have caused the four faults. I’m hoping, however, that that will give him the stamina to come through on Sunday. This trial was part of the CSIO division at this show, however only one other CSIO competitor chose to compete. This is probably due to two factors: one is that riders are only allowed two horses in the CSIO division. There was a big class on Thursday and the Nations Cup last night, making it difficult for everyone to schedule their horses to compete Friday afternoon. The second factor was that everyone knew it was a selection trial and the course would be very difficult in relation to the $30,000 prize money. The standard of the course was similar to what we will see on Sunday for the $150,000 Grand Prix. In the end, Danny Boy finished ninth out of those eligible for prize money. Again, Mademoiselle was not eligible because she was the second horse that I rode in the class. You might be confused that some riders such as our student Cara Raether did not place with her horse Ublesco, but this is because she was not qualified for the CSIO division. It’s a complicated system but it’s all working out in the end. Sunday (3/7)there will be fifty riders who qualify during the week or were prequalified before the week started, plus the additional horses that are in for the WEG Trials. I’m expecting a very difficult course again. Right now, I’m tied for fifth with Mademoiselle in the standings and seventh with Danny. I’m looking forward to the final day and anxiously awaiting the final results of the trials.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2006 WEG Vaulting Gold Medalist, Megan Benjamin (USA)

Megan Benjamin is an equestrian vaulter. She is the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) women’s vaulting champion, 2006 WEG Team Silver medalist, 2008 World Championships Team Bronze medalist, and three time national champion. Following her success in 2006, the US Olympic Committee named her the August Female Athlete of the Month. She was also named the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Equestrian of Honor and a co-recipient of the coveted Becky Grand Hart trophy. She was named to the FEI Athletes’ Committee by FEI President HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, to the USEF Youth Council, and was nominated by her peers to serve on the American Vaulting Association (AVA) Board of Directors and the USEF Vaulting Technical Committee.
I like to think of myself as multi-faceted, but my friends know well that I have two prominent “facets.”

1. I’m a vaulter, and
2. I’m a bit of a nerd.

I am currently a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York trying to reconcile these qualities while simultaneously gunning for a spot on Team USA and hopefully the podium at the upcoming World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. This has been no easy task.

For those of you who don’t know Ithaca, it’s this great little hippie town in upstate New York (about four hours north of New York City) that just happens to be home to Cornell University. Well… not just happens. Apparently Ezra Cornell (the university’s founder) got a great deal on land in the 19th century and didn’t mind that he was about to found such a great university so far away from any real civilization. When I started my first year at Cornell, my dad, who himself was a Cornellian, explained that I probably wouldn’t be coming home for Thanksgiving, or any trip shorter than a couple weeks, because even though Ithaca is still in the United States, it is really in the boonies. Ithaca has this quaint regional airport with four gates and frightening puddle jumpers, but the trip from Ithaca to California, all said and done, takes at least nine hours. It’s almost easier to fly to Europe.

Needless to say, in signing on to be a Cornellian, I entered a land of self- imposed isolation, which was fine and great as a retired vaulter, which I was after the 2006 World Championships. But then I was roped me back into the sport when my WEG teammate and friend, Rosalind Ross, talked me into competing with the Dark Side of the Moon team for the 2008 World Championships. It was after those Championships I decided I couldn’t bear the idea of letting the World Equestrian Games in my home country pass me by, and I began to figure out the logistics, including a training plan, that would prepare me and simultaneously allow me to finish and enjoy my senior year at Cornell. Although these puzzle pieces have not been easy to connect, I have been lucky to be surrounded by great people, many of whom I have met along the journey, who have reached out to make my dreams possible.

My first and most important puzzle piece was, of course, finding a vaulting horse. My longtime vaulting horse who helped me win the 2006 WEG selection trials, Faronia, is now happily retired in California, and my WEG vaulting horse, Leonardo, is with my trainer Lasse Kristensen in Denmark, preparing for European competitions and eventually for this upcoming WEG. To be prepared for the Games, I needed a horse to keep here in Ithaca who was already trained in vaulting, was high quality, and was willing to travel to the bitter cold tundra of Ithaca to be my training partner. To my fortune, some great friends of mine, the Hamar Family, offered to sell me their pride and joy, Paradox, so I could train for the Games.

But then I had to find a stable in the area… preferably one that had a decent arena, some nice footing, and ceilings high enough for leaps. The first stable I called had all these qualities, was a ten minute drive from my apartment, and had one open stall available. Are you sensing a theme? This stuff literally FELL into my lap.

Before Paradox made his trek east, I had to find a lunger. For those of you who are unfamiliar with vaulting, this is the person who controls the horse from the center of the ring. The lunger is fundamental to the performance of the horse, and therefore, to the performance of the vaulter. My roommate, a member of the Cornell Equestrian Team, had a teammate who mentioned teaching vaulting at summer camp. As it turned out, Kelsey O’Shea had been lunging horses for summer camp for the past four years and knew all about vaulting! And I thought I was the only vaulter around these parts…

It was amazing how quickly all the basic pieces came together with seemingly minimal effort and astonishing ease. Unfortunately, even with my team of random but enthusiastic supporters, I am still training in Ithacan isolation. One of my coaches, Emma Seely, lives in California, and the other, Lasse Kristensen, lives in Denmark. My personal trainer, Stacey Burnett, also lives in California and sends me my workouts electronically—videotaping herself doing the exercises and explaining proper form. My chiropractor, my dressage trainer, and all my vaulting peers are in California, and I’m here, in snowy New York.

For the most part, I have made things work. I coach myself, create my own schedule, and force myself to stick to that schedule. I have found a great local gym where I do my “Stacey” workouts (people look at me as if I’m crazy when I’m doing them). I train once a week with a private gymnastics coach, twice a week with a dance instructor, and I have even found a pretty good substitute for my favorite chiropractor. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when there is snow on the ground, the wind is blowing, and it’s 10 degrees outside, but then I just think about the Kentucky Horse Park, the experience I had vaulting in that brand new arena this past summer during the Kentucky Cup, and how great it would feel to stand on that podium once again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden Blogs About USEF Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2010 Games--Part III

WELLINGTON, FL--March 3, 2010--It was another day of mixed results to say the least. WEG trial #3 was a very nice event held in a grass field which gave the horses something fresh to see and changed things up a bit. It was Danny Boy’s day to shine with a clear round. As I thought he might, he responded well to the change of venue. He has had a lot of experience on grass at places like Spruce Meadows and Aachen, so while he hadn’t had a look at this field before, it wasn’t something too unusual for him.

Via Volo and I had trouble at a difficult double. Again, it was a matter of not knowing the horse very well and her not having a lot of experience. It was an airy double with a spooky panel at B. Her attention was totally on B, causing her to have A down quite hard. The rail went in front of her, and it would have been pretty impossible for her to jump B – she ducked to the left, and I fell off to the right. The fall results in elimination and put us out of the running in the standings. I won’t be doing any more trials with Via. She’ll have some time off since she’s been doing a lot lately and then we’ll start her in smaller classes, and I’ll take my time getting to know her as I normally would have if I hadn’t had gotten her just in time for the Trials. She’s a very nice horse, and I’m looking forward to spending the time with her.

Mademoiselle was the last horse that I rode. I thought she had a good day even with her 8 faults. Similar to Via, I had no idea how she would react to having to jump a big course off the bat in a new venue and on the grass which I haven’t done with her before. I was happy with how she responded and know that each day I’ll learn more and more about her.

The last two Trials are on Friday and Sunday. Mademoiselle and I should continue to get more comfortable with each other, and I’m hoping that Danny stays on the upswing. I have the feeling that he’s getting more and more comfortable and in the groove.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden Blogs About USEF Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2010 Games--Part II

WELLINGTON, FL--February 28, 2010--Saturday night was the second round of the WEG Trials. As expected, the course was a lot more difficult than the first one. I had mixed results with my horses: Mademoiselle was clear, Danny Boy had 8 faults and Via Volo had 12 plus a time fault. Although I was a little disappointed with my scores with Danny and Via Volo, I am still very happy with the horses. Mademoiselle jumped beautifully, but I am not going to get too excited with how high she is in the standings. And I’m not worried about where Via Volo or Danny are right now because we’re less than halfway through. You can see how much the standings changed just from trial 1 to trial 2, and at this point all three horses are right in the hunt to be in the top 15. As I get to know Via Volo better, I think we will be able to handle the more difficult courses together more easily. Danny’s faults were just a misjudgment at a not very wide oxer which is very uncharacteristic of him and also a triple that was difficult for a lot of the horses.

Some of you may wonder why I didn’t ride in the jump-off with Mademoiselle. The reason is that riders were only allowed one horse in the class unless they were participating in the Trials and in that case, only one of the horses would count toward prize money. Since Mademoiselle wasn’t eligible for prize money, I couldn’t go in the jump off.

The next Trial is on Wednesday afternoon (March 3) on the grass polo field. The change of venue will be interesting since I have no idea how it will affect my new horses. I think Danny may like it, though. He has been a little tense under the lights at this venue so I might notice a real difference in the afternoon.

Stay tuned to hear more from Beezie Madden as she blogs through out the U.S. Show Jumping Team Trials!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden Blogs About USEF Show Jumping Team Selection Trials for the 2010 Games

WELLINGTON, FL--February 26, 2010--It’s the morning after the first Trials for the 2010 WEG, and I’m feeling great about my horses. One went clear and the other two had just four faults each. When I last wrote, I told you about Danny Boy and my newest horse Mademoiselle, but even more recently, I got another horse to ride, Via Volo, that I will tell you about it a bit.

First of all, I have to say that I’m so pleased with Mademoiselle. One of questions we had with her was how she would handle championship level courses so I was glad to see that she handled it easily, finishing with only four faults. Danny felt like he got off to a great start. He just had the last fence down, and he feels like he’s set up well for the next Trials. Since they are so new to me, I’ve never jumped either Mademoiselle or Via Volo as high as I did last night. Though they’ve jumped tough courses with other people, it felt great have them both respond so well in our first real test together.

It’s really been kind of a whirlwind lately. It felt last-minute enough getting Mademoiselle with the Trials just a few weeks away, and then Via Volo came up for sale. We just got her about a week and a half ago! That suddenly gave me three horses to ride in the Trials, for which I needed to get permission. Georgina Bloomberg was the only other rider in that position, and we both found out it was granted on Monday. And then on Thursday, Via Volo came through for me with a clear round. She is a 12-year old and by the same sire as Danny Boy, Clinton. Via Volo comes to me thanks to Allison Robitaille, who would have had a great chance to make the team herself with this horse, but decided to spend more time with her husband and young child instead of taking on the commitment of a big European tour over the summer. Alison came to us, knowing that we were looking for a top horse, explained the situation, and told us how much she believes in this mare. I have been watching Alison and Via Volo for years, giving input whenever Alison asked, and had always been impressed. But she was never for sale. Alison felt Via Volo should have the chance to shine, and that’s why she was willing to give her up. Thankfully, Gwendolyn Meyer of Rancho Santa Fe, California, who has been a client of ours for a few years, bought the horse for me to ride. I’m delighted with Via Volo so far. She has scope and can handle a big course easily and has a really good temperament about wanting to do the job. I’ve actually found that she’s better in the ring than outside it.

I’m so lucky to have owners who provide such great support. This is the first horse that Gwendolyn has purchased for me to ride so I appreciate her confidence. Abigail Wexner has been there for me for a long time now. Not only does she own both Danny Boy and Mademoiselle and several other horses over the years, but she also owns Authentic, the horse that has made so many of my dreams come true.

The next leg of the Trials is coming up on Saturday night. We’re not planning anything different in terms of preparation – we’ll just try to keep the horses as happy as we can! Last night was a great first test for the horses (I was actually surprised so many went clear), but I’m expecting a harder course on Saturday. There will be more horses competing in the class because it will include horses and riders not participating in the Trials as well. More horses will actually help me in a way because it should spread out the time between my three rides more.

Since the Trials are scored overall on faults, not placings, I’m feeling great about where I am with a clear and two four-faulters. Competition is tough though, which says great things about the depth in the U.S. this year. Laura Kraut’s Cedric is of course a proven horse, and Lauren Hough’s Quickstudy has been solid performer. Jeffrey Welles has the great Armani back. Todd Minikus, one of the winningest riders, proved it again last night taking first with Pavorotti. There is also a lot of West Coast talent in the mix: Rich Fellers, Richard Spooner, Nicole Simpson, Will Simpson and Ashley Bond. Of course, the top U.S. horse, McLain Ward’s Sapphire, isn’t competing in the Trials because she appropriately has been given a bye onto the long list of horses that will to go to Europe. As far as my own chances, it’s hard for me to say which one of my horses is best right now, but the Trials will probably sort that out.