Hit the Hampton Classic for top-flight jumping

Want to see some show jumping stars on Labor Day weekend?

The Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton, N.Y., on Long Island’s east end is the place to be. Grands prix will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 2, 3 and 4, featuring such riders as U.S. Olympic team silver medal winners McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, as well as Jessica Springsteen and Georgina Bloomberg

The feature is the Sept. 4 $300,00 Hampton Classic Grand Prix presented by Longines, always a highlight of the season on the big grass field.

Need a break? There are loads of boutiques and places to eat on the grounds, along with activities for children, especially on Kids’ Day, Sept. 3.

For more information, go to www.hamptonclassic.com.


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Dressage supporter Parry Thomas dies at 95

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Parry Thomas, right, at the 2009 retirement of Brentina with Debbie and Bob McDonald; Parry’s wife, Peggy, and their daughter, Jane. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

He was best known as the owner of Brentina. But Parry Thomas, who passed away Friday at his River Grove Farm in Idaho, did a great deal for the entire sport of dressage with his willingness to invest in horses and riders.

A banker who played a pivotal role in the development of Las Vegas, Parry was serious about dressage. He would take the golf cart from his home to the outdoor arena every day that he was home to watch Debbie McDonald training Brentina and his other horses. Parry’s influence was felt on the podium and in the development of the sport.

While Brentina–who medalled in the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games and the Pan American Games–was Parry’s most famous horse, he and his wife, Peggy, also owned Wizard. Ridden by Debbie’s protege, Adrienne Lyle, Wizard went to the Olympics and World Equestrian Games. He was retired at the 2015 Las Vegas World Cup finals in the Thomas & Mack Center, named after Parry and his late business partner, Jerry Mack. Parry was on hand for the emotional occasion.

At the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse Dressage National Championships in Illinois this afternoon, Adrienne won the Developing Prix St. Georges National Championship on an overall score of 74.272 percent aboard Horizon, owned by another great supporter of U.S. dressage, Betsy Juliano.

“Today’s ride was special,” said Adrienne, citing Parry’s influence.

“He was excited about the competition and loving dressage up to the day he went. He was watching over us, and we rode for him today,” she said.

Services will be held Sept. 6 at the Encore in Las Vegas.

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Join Meg Sleeper in her endurance adventure

From the steaming jungles of Malaysia to the scenic fields of Normandy, Meg Sleeper has competed in four endurance world championships. She plans to make it five next month in Slovakia, riding along the Danube river under what likely will be optimum conditions to complete the race.

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Meg Sleeper and Shyrocco Rimbaud

The Kingwood Township resident needs help to do it, however. That’s understandable when you learn that the initial estimate for shipping her horse, Shyrocco Rimbaud, was $22,000 round-trip for a variety of reasons. The horse will fly into Frankfurt, Germany, and then have a 10-hour van ride to get to his destination.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation is giving her a $10,000 grant to be used as she wishes, but expenses are many. A friend, Robin Farrington, set up a GoFundMe account in Meg’s name, but it’s less than halfway to the $18,800 goal. (click on https://www.gofundme.com/megsleeperenduranc to read more about Meg and make a pledge).

It is rarely easy to go to a world championship (held every two years) for those in this non-Olympic FEI sport, because a large crew is required by each competitor. Meg will have four people to help her.

The race originally was supposed to be in Dubai, and expenses for that would have been covered by the organizer, Meg said, but horse welfare issues prompted the FEI to change venues. Slovakia (where the lavish Samorin equestrian center is a contender to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games) didn’t get the nod to hold the championships until June, which left little time for fundraising.

Although Meg was originally part of the U.S. team, one of the three horses selected had to drop out, so she and Thomas Hagis of Virginia will compete as individuals.

The championships are usually a financial struggle (and of course, there’s tons of work to condition and qualify a horse), yet the highly regarded University of Florida veterinary cardiologist has no thought of giving up on her opportunities to compete at the top of the endurance game.

I just love the sport. I love seeing the different trails and meeting new people and also some of the people I see just at these events,” said Meg.

Discussing the Slovakia location, 90 minutes by car from Vienna, she said, “I’m really excited about it. It will be an adventure.” But less of one, happily, than riding through that rain forest.

It’s a family effort. She rides homebreds and her husband, Dave Augustine, works as the shoer and a crew member. (He’ll be accompanying the horse on the plane as a groom.)

Her mark of seven hours, 49 minutes for 100 miles, set four years ago during the London world championships (where she was 11th) is the fastest off-continent time recorded for a U.S. horse. Meg’s mount for that event was Reveille, who sustained a fracture more than seven months ago and is still in rehab.

It seems unlikely Reveille will compete again, but she will be represented by Rimbaud, her Anglo-Arab half-brother out of a thoroughbred mare, Poetic Pride, a Northern Dancer granddaughter. Reveille’s half-sister, Shyrocco Rabia, who is also by Rimmon, will be ridden in the championships by Fernando Paiz, representing Guatemala.

Of the fundraising effort, Meg noted, “It’s really emotional for me. I feel really awkward asking for financial assistance. Some of the responses have been really emotional for me. I’ve had clients from years ago contacting me.

It’s been a really interesting voyage. I feel like I’m going to have all these people with me in my pocket as I’m riding, because the support has been really incredible. I’m hoping we can do well because I really feel like I need to do that for everybody.”

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Monmouth at the Team Update

The new Monmouth at the Team show has just wrapped up, but  plans already are under way for its 2017 edition. Co-organizer Tucker Ericson announced there will be an additional day of competition next year. That brings the total to seven, with three C-rated days.

A national hunter derby will be held on one of those days, but the $10,000 derby that debuted this year also will be held again on one of the unrated days. Three days of jumper competition also are on the program for the 121-year-old show. It made a successful transition from being a multi-ring fixture in its home county to debuting as a single-ring show at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation facility in Gladstone, Somerset County.

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Skelton gold, Fredricson silver, Lamaze bronze in Rio

It didn’t seem like it could happen. With three past Olympic individual gold medalists in the mix, Nick Skelton looked a bit like an outsider in terms of the odds for earning the  2016 individual gold. But Nick, who has beaten the odds so many times, this afternoon became the first British show jumper to take the individual Olympic title.

Photographie Eric KNOLL. Jeux Olympiques de Rio 2016. Olympic Games Rio 2016. Jumping Nick SKELTON (GBR). BIG STAR
Nick Skelton and Big Star. (Eric Knoll photo)

He has come back from a variety of injuries, including a broken neck that prompted physicians to advise him he shouldn’t ride. However, you don’t say that to Nick. Big Star, his horse of a lifetime, had been injured, and needed to be managed very carefully to make it to Rio in the kind of shape it took to go through to a jump-off for the title.

Fifth individually with Big Star in London 2012, where he rode on only the second British team to take gold in the Olympics, Nick at 58 was the second-oldest show jumper in Rio. (His teammate, John Whitaker, is 61 and gets top honors in that category.) His seven Olympic appearances are the most for any British Olympian in any sport.

Nick had a rail in the team competition, where the British squad didn’t make the cut to the second round. But he was resting up for today, when all 34 qualifiers started equal on zero penalties.

Time faults weren’t a major factor in the first round, where the fences were big while Guilherme Jorge’s route couldn’t be called tricky. But among the 27 who came back for the second round, a tighter time caught 10 riders, four of whom would otherwise have been clear.

Six competitors did go clean in both rounds, providing an incredibly exciting tiebreaker, something not often seen in the Olympics. Sadly, McLain Ward of the U.S., with a rail in the last element of the triple combination during the first round on the incredible Azur, did not qualify for the jump-off despite a clear in the second round because the two scores added together gave him a total of 4 penalties.

“I personally think the first course was really suited to the small horses, the horses that like to add strides, but that’s the test and we have to answer that test,” said McLain, whose mare has a big step.

“I’m thrilled with the horse, although disappointed with the day.”

His silver medal teammate, Lucy Davis on Barron, had 12 penalties in the first round and did not progress to the second round.

“My horse is very sensitive, and I think he feels not only the physical fatigue, but also all the stress gets to him as well, and he needed my help today a bit more than I gave him,” said Lucy.

“So I definitely take responsibility for those rails.”

But Kent Farrington of the U.S. produced two convincing clears with Voyeur, setting him up as a finalist.

Nick was in the unenviable position of being first to go in the jump-off over a shorter course with sweeping turns against two gold medalists, the title defender Steve Guerdat of Switzerland on Nino des Buissonets and the 2008 gold medalist, Eric Lamaze of Canada on Fine Lady. (Poor Jeroen Dubbeldam of the Netherlands, the 2000 winner, had a single time fault to finish a frustrating seventh on Zenith, a horse that now will be auctioned off.)

Nick finished fault-free before a packed stadium at the Deodoro Equestrian Center in 42.82 seconds, a time that looked beatable, but not easily.

He decided “to go as fast as I could but be safe and not take risks. He’s a quick horse anyway. I wanted to put pressure on everyone else and I had luck on my side.”

Steve’s chances ended when he had the first fence down, finishing in 43.08. Ali Al Thani of Qatar, an upcoming country in the sport that impressed with the quality of its Jan Tops-coached riders and horses, had two down in 45.03. Kent also toppled a pole at the first, and at the last as well to finish in 42.23, a time that would have edged Nick had he been clear.

Sweden’s Peder Fredericson did what he could on the lovely All In, finishing without faults, but in 43.35, which would be good enough for silver.

Everyone waited on Eric, who is known for speed, and Fine Lady was just the horse to beat Nick’s time. Beat it she did, in 42.09, but at the cost of having the next-to-last fence down, even though Eric went wide there. So he claimed bronze instead of gold.

“The Olympics is the most difficult challenge in our sport,” said Eric.

“We try our hardest to do our best. Anybody in that jump-off deserved a medal. Most of us go to shows every week and you can win a big grand prix, but an Olympic medal–well, that stays with you forever.”

While Nick tried not to focus on what the others were doing, he conceded, “I had to watch Eric and he made me sweat for a minute.”

When it was clear he had won, Nick–looking suddenly overwhelmed and a bit teary– was greeted with a flurry of hugs and handshakes.

“I’ve been in this sport a long, long time and to win this at my age makes me so happy,” he said.

The big question now is, will Nick retire with that individual gold he always wanted? Don’t bet on it. The lure of the arena may be just too tempting.

“I’m not going to stop riding now,” he advised. “The only horse I ride is Big Star and when he stops, I’ll stop.”

Of course, there’s the World Cup finals in Omaha next year (oh, wait, he already won the World Cup title) so we’ll just have to wait and see. The 2018 WEG may beckon.

I can’t say enough about Gui’s courses. He is a master who produced good sport, but not at the expense of the horses and riders.

I remember how long it took the Brazilians to announce he would do the courses; I was asking him every time I saw him, “Did you hear yet?” But choosing him was the only outcome possible. How lucky is a country that can have one of its own do the job, and so beautifully.

That’s a wrap for the equestrian portion of the Olympics. I’m sure many of the riders are already thinking about 2020 Tokyo, which had its own fence in the finals.

The U.S. can be proud of its Rio results, with a medal in each discipline. Germany was the only other country to be able to make that claim. It’s a big contrast from London, when no medals came back to America with the riders.

Phillip Dutton’s individual eventing bronze in Brazil with Mighty Nice was well-deserved after the decades he has devoted to the sport. The team bronze in dressage stands as a testament to the dedication of technical adviser Robert Dover and trainer Debbie McDonald, as well as the talent and efforts of the riders, three of whom had never ridden in the Olympics previously. And team silver in show jumping was the end product of a well-calculated process overseen by coach Robert Ridland.

Let’s not forget the support staff, who did yeoman work under often difficult circumstances to enable the riders and trainers to perform their best on the world’s biggest stage.

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Essex Fox Hounds set hunter trials

The Essex Fox Hounds are moving down the road from their Peapack HQ to Gladstone Aug. 27 for their hunter trials. They’ll be going in the main ring at the USET foundation, a great place to ride, even lacking the terrain of the Peapack location. You don’t have to be a hunt member to compete.   Go to www.essexfoxhounds.org to see the prizelist. It’s a neat family fun day, even if you’re not riding. Perfect for tailgating.

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France gold, USA silver, Germany bronze in Rio show jumping

Team Jumping Medalists Gold France,Silver USA, Bronze Germany Rio Olympics 2016 Photo Arnd Bronkhorst
Team Jumping Medalists USA team, silver, left; France, gold and Germany, bronze. Photo Arnd Bronkhorst

Drama was the order of the day as the team show jumping medals were decided in Rio, starting with the announcement that U.S. anchor rider Beezie Madden wouldn’t compete because her mount, Cortes C, had sustained an injury during his previous round at the Games.

The U.S., tied overnight with Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands on zero penalties, would have to do without a drop score. The same applied to Brazil and the Dutch, who had their fourth men fall by the wayside, while powerful Germany still fielded a team of four and thus the ability to drop its worst result.

Lurking in fifth place with a single penalty was France, waiting to pounce with its team of four, and pounce it did.

This was designer Guilherme Jorge’s most challenging track at the Games, as it should have been, and the time allowed of 82 seconds caught more than half the starting field of 48. So time faults figured in very influentially.

“We thought the course was brilliant today,” said McLain.

“It was real Olympic caliber team jumping. So we are very proud.”

Guilherme, who upped the difficulty of his route today to accommodate the capabiity of the riders, noted that “to design an Olympic course in my home country, it doesn’t get better than this.”

France had one time penalty from round 1 yesterday and two today, but didn’t need the contribution of its final rider, world number 3 Penelope Leprovost, because the French had it won before the competition ended. (It was their second gold of the Games, having also won the eventing.)

And remember, prior to the show jumping getting under way, France’s world number two, Simon Delestre, had to be replaced by alternate Philippe Rozier on Rahotep de Toscane because his horse, Ryan, had suffered a microscopic fracture in his hock. And Penelope fell in the first round when her horse stumbled, taking her out of the individual running but still enabling her to ride for her team.

“Maybe the problems helped to make us fight more and more” said French team member Kevin Staut, who added he is, “really proud–to be French, to be a rider and to be a gold medalist.”

For the U.S., a single time fault from the previously immaculate Kent Farrington on Voyeur and a knockdown by Lucy Davis and Barron at the second part of the double late on the course meant McLain Ward had to go clear on Azur to block a threat from the Germans yet to come. He did it with a technically spot-on ride that clinched silver, as the U.S. just ended two penalties shy of the French with 5 faults.

Bronze was a jump-off between the 8-faults-each Germans and Canada, which was not rated as a medal contender before the Games. Germany prevailed with three rounds that left all the rails in place, while both Yann Candele and Amy Millar had rails for the Canadians.

Special mention should be made of Tiffany Foster, fault-free in both rounds today for Canada with Tripple X, who was on the British gold medal team in 2012 with Ben Maher. The only rider not to incur any faults throughout the jumping competition in Rio is Canada’s Eric Lamaze, the 2008 individual gold medalist, riding Fine Lady.

The top 35 start for the individual medals on Friday, with 20 coming back for the second round that day. Everyone begins on zero penalties, so it’s a whole new ballgame. Perhaps Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonets can make it a clean sweep for 2012 defending Olympic champions at these Games, following the trend of Germany’s Michael Jung on Sam, who repeated his 2012 eventing title, and Charlotte Dujardin with Valegro, who did the same in dressage.

But there is plenty of stiff opposition, starting with Kent, who had only 1 penalty throughout the jumping, and including Eric, of course, as well as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany on Fibonacci and her three teammates; McLain–who is looking for his first individual Olympic medal after two previous team golds, and Sweden’s Peder Fredericson. And that, literally, is not the half of it. Should be quite a battle for individual honors.

It is interesting the way there are so many family links among the show jumpers, both people and horses. It’s kind of like how movie stars’ kids follow in their parents’ footsteps.

You know Meredith is the sister-in-law of German anchor rider Ludger Beerbaum, but Phillippe Rozier’s father, Marcel, was an Olympian who rode on France’s last show jumping gold medal team in 1976. Hansueli Sprunger of Switzerland, father of Swiss team member Janika Sprunger, also was an Olympian. Sydney Une Prince, the mount of France’s Roger Yves Bost, is by Rodrigo Pessoa’s multi-medal championships mount, Baloubet du Rouet, and Barron’s sire is For Pleasure, who competed with the Germans in Atlanta 20 years ago. That’s just a few of the connections!

Follow me Friday at twitter.com/@nancyjaffer for a round-by-round look at the individual finals, and come back to nancyjaffer.com later on Friday for the final equestrian story from Rio.

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USA, Germany, Dutch and Brazil tied in Rio; read George Morris’ comments

I know the Olympic show jumping has been a bit hard to follow, with the teams and individuals on seemingly separate tracks, as the opener on Sunday was only to place teams in the order of go, while for the individuals, it counted big time.

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Lucy Davis, the youngest member of the U.S team, was clear today on Barron

So although the U.S. was down the line on Sunday, today American riders shone, with clears from Lucy Davis (Barron), Kent Farrington on Voyeur (the only one who also was clear Sunday) and McLain Ward (Azur). Just the best three out of four count, so anchor rider Beezie Madden’s toppled pole and water jump fault with Cortes C was the team’s drop score. Together with a rail from Sunday, that knocks her out of individual contention.

“It was a short seven up the first line, and maybe I was a little casual about the back rail, and then he clipped that,” Beezie said about her knockdown at fence 3.

“The water has been riding difficult all day. I just didn’t quite get across. I think he actually finished better than he started in the course, so hopefully tomorrow we’re in good shape.”

I had been thinking Cortes, her individual and team bronze horse at the 2014 WEG, wasn’t at his sharpest this season. It’s quite an art getting a horse ready for the Games, what with all the observation events and fitness required to get them to peak at the right time.

But as expected, the USA is leading after the first round of the team jumping, tied with the Netherlands (world champions), Germany (the faves to medal in Rio) and Brazil.


Let me blow my horn a bit; I did pick them as a key contender in previews, and not only because they are “at home” and the crowd is behind them. Having former U.S. coach George Morris on their side as coach is a big plus in any team’s book.

I spoke to George after today’s jumping at the Deodoro Equestrian Center and he emphasized, “I have two teams.” While he’s in the kiss-and-cry stand (where team officials and family observe competition) when the Brazilians are going, he is still thrilled that America is doing so well.

“I’m beholden to the States,” he said, and of course, the U.S. is beholden to him as well–not only for his team coaching, but also for his system of equitation and horsemanship that has been a key to American success.

He emphasized that he isn’t changing the riding style of his Brazilian team members; that isn’t his function in the relatively brief time he has had with them. Rather, he calls himself “a supporter,” who tries “to keep it all structured.”

One of his methods is going over and over–and over–the route of the course with each rider, to get it into their subconscious and give them confidence.

There had been a small kerfuffle when Rodrigo Pessoa–a former Olympic and world champion–was not named to the squad and selected as alternate, but based on current form, it turns out the right four were picked. Brazil had three clears and one 8-fault round today, and they’re riding high.

Course designer Guilherme Jorge (who we see so often in the U.S., he’s setting up house in Wellington, Fla.,) did it again with a route that enabled 21 of 69 starters to sail through with no penalties, while posing puzzles that stumped those at the lower end of the scale. That’s how it should be, and he’s a master of bringing the best to the top. Brazil is lucky to have one of its own so eminently qualified to lay out the floorplans on the country’s biggest-ever equestrian stage.

The 4.3-meter water obstacle was pesky once again, as it had been in Sunday’s round, and 19 faulted there, including Australia’s Scott Keach who fell off before the jump when his horse refused. It was seven strides from an oxer to the water (laid out going away from the ingate, which makes it harder), so riders really had to rev without overdoing it at the oxer as they thought about the H20.

The teams you’d expect to be near the top are France, fifth with just 1 time fault total (those time faults can be expensive, though) and Canada, with 4, in sixth place. (Keep an eye on them, they have Eric Lamaze, the 2008 individual Olympic gold medalist with the stellar Fine Lady).

Tied for seventh on 8 are Sweden and Switzerland. It was disappointing to see the latter’s defending champ, Steve Guerdat, have 8 faults–including the water–on Nino des Buissonets. The 2012 Olympic gold medalists in eventing and dressage repeated their feat here in the individual standings, and if Steve could have done the same, it would have been an unprecedented sweep for former champs. But he’s behind the tide right now, so it seems unlikely.

In the individual standings, Kent, the USA’s only double clear (Sunday and today), is tied with Germans Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum; Peder Fredericson (Sweden), Pedro Veniss and Doda de Miranda (Brazil), Harrie Smolders and Maikel van der Vleuten, (Netherlands), Sergio Alvarez Moya (Spain) and Eric Lamaze (Canada).

“I wouldn’t say it’s massive in size yet, but I am sure that’s to come,” Kent said of the round one course.

Like George, he noted, “I think tomorrow will be significantly bigger. It’s exactly what you would expect at a championship level. The time allowed is quite short, which I think is going to be a factor either through time faults or rails down because of people worrying about the time. Obviously, I am thrilled with my horse. It was a great start for Team USA.”

Tomorrow is the team finals for the top eight nations. Be sure to check out my running commentary at www.twitter.com/@nancyjaffer.

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Valegro’s gold again; USA’s Graves fourth

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Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro on their victory lap.

The two most successful dressage riders in history battled it out today in the Olympic freestyle for the individual medals, but in the end it was no contest Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, the horse who has set all the records for the Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle, repeated their 2012 Olympic gold with a score of 93.857.

An emotional Charlotte, for whom tears came as she performed her final halt, said, “I just knew he couldn’t have done any more. I felt like he’d done his very best.”

While this is doubtless Valegro’s last championship, the exact retirement plans for the horse who’s been everywhere and done everything are still pending.

Germany’s Isabell Werth took the silver on Wiehegold OLD to become the most decorated Olympic equestrian medalist ever. Her score was 89.071 percent, and like the others in the top three, her artistic score was over 90.

But no one came close to Valegro’s 97.714 for that mark, and he was the only one to hit 90 for technical merit. Charlotte and “Blueberry,” as he is known, were the second pair at this Olympics to repeat their London 2012 individual success. Germany’s Michael Jung took his second straight individual gold on Sam in eventing last week.

Though it was expected that Charlotte would be at the top of the podium again, and two Germans would take the other places (world number one Kristina Broring-Sprehe earned the bronze with Desperados on 87.142), there was plenty of excitement in this finals.

The USA’s Laura Graves, who clinched bronze for her team last week with her unwavering ride on Verdades, produced another spectacular performance during her Olympic debut to wind up fourth on 85.196 for a test that got an 88.429 artistic rating, with 81.964 for technical merit. It was her third personal best at these Games.

It was a great Olympics for the U.S.dressage contingent, with Steffen Peters winding up 12th on Legolas and Allison Brock 15th on Rosevelt. It was her first Olympic appearance.

One of the biggest surprises was Spain’s Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez of Spain, fifth on Lorenzo (ahead of Germany’s Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH). His 83.553 percent performance ended with passage down the centerline that he rode one-handed, as a delighted crowd clapped in rhythm to his music.


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Rio show jumping under way; Germany, Brazil on top


Nearly one-third of the 75 starters made it fault-free through the first jumping qualifier at the Rio Olympic Games, but only one American–Kent Farrington on Voyeur–was among them.

WEG sj day 2 Sept. 3 no. 1763 Kent Farrington and Voyeur 300dpi
Kent Farrington and Voyeur were clean for the USA in Rio. (Photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

Beezie Madden (Cortes C), McLain Ward (Azur) and Lucy Davis (Barron) each had 4 faults. That’s a total of 8 for the squad (only the three best scores count) but teams start on a score of zero in the first team qualifier Tuesday. So what was this class for?

It determines the order of go on Tuesday, with Germany and Brazil–the latter buoyed no doubt by a near-capacity cheering crowd at the Deodoro Equestrian Center–coming home on zero faults. The U.S. is tied with Britain, Sweden and Spain for eighth place out of 15 teams.

The class was crucial for individuals, however. Only 60 can come through to Tuesday, unless they are part of a team. For instance, a familiar face int the U.S., Daniel Bluman of Colombia, whose country doesn’t have a squad, won’t be seen again because he finished 63d.

But Penelope Leprovost of France, number three in the world, will reappear, despite a startling fall when her mount, Flora de Mariposa stumbled after the liverpool. Penelope lost her reins and her balance, tumbling off for elimination. So she can ride for the team, but has no chance for an individual medal.

It’s tough times for the French. A few days ago, that country’s world number two, Simon Delestre, announced he could not ride because his horse, Ryan, had a microfracture in his hock.

Still, it was good to see reserve rider Phillippe Rozier, along with Roger Yves Bost, working to fill the void with clear rounds.

Steve Guerdat of Switzerland is on track early in the game with a clear on Nino des Buissonnets to try and replicate his individual 2012 gold medal with that horse, the way Germany’s Michael Jung did last week on his 2012 eventing gold medal games mount, Sam. It will be interesting to see in the dressage freestyle tomorrow if Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain can repeat her 2012 individual gold with Valegro. How cool if all three of the London Games’ individual medalists re-take their titles with the same horse!

Guilherme Jorge’s course for the first qualifier was his usual brilliant effort. If anyone ever deserved to design an Olympic show jumping course, he’s the one. The time allowed was just time enough to make sure riders didn’t dawdle, but they didn’t have to rush, either. I counted only eight time penalties.

Faults were spread around the route, which is a sign of great designing. Particularly influential was the last line, a double with an oxer one stride from a vertical, then five strides to an oxer before the finish line. I called the combination the “trouble double,” because so many either dropped a rail or came to grief there. McLain was nearly home when he had a rail at the “A” element.

We were breathing a sigh of relief when Lucy went through the double, only to topple a pole at the last.

Beezie was fine with the double, but earlier en route, a strong ride to the 4.3-meter water (which caused its own brand of problems, ie, leading to 4 faults for Dutch world champion Jeroen Dubbledam) seemed related to a brick down at the white wall that followed.

Some of those who were too cautious heading for a vertical/vertical/oxer, one-stride/two-stride triple found themselves with knockdowns at that location, so there was a lot to do and a lot to watch.

While the teams start fresh on Tuesday, there is an inkling of how things might go, even though it’s still a long way to the podium after that. The George Morris-coached Brazilians do benefit from the home side advantage, and they’re well-mounted. Canada, not among the early favorites, got clears from its 2008 individual gold medalist, Eric Lamaze on Fine Lady and from Amy Millar on Heros. Amy is the daughter of 10-time Olympian Ian Millar (he holds the record for Olympic participation, but did not have a horse for these Games.)

Her father was in the kiss-and-cry stand for family and staff, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, to cheer her on. Fellow Canadian Tiffany Foster on Tripple X, Ben Maher’s ride for the British 2012 team gold, had only one rail; ditto Yann Candele with First Choice. Canada was tied with the Dutch, the 2014 world champions; Guerdat’s Swiss and France on 4 penalties (again, only the top three scores count.) I don’t think the Brits have the horsepower to medal this time around. Qatar, seventh with 5 penalties, has super horsepower, but the riders lack experience at this level.

Dutch team member Jur Vrieling not only was eliminated from the class after his horse, Zirocco Blue, refused at two different fences, he also was disqualified for over-using the whip.

Rob Ehrens, the Dutch coach, said,  “I’ve been a professional rider for 27 years and I know the feeling when everything goes wrong. But this should not happen and will not happen again. While Jur and Zirocco Blue are chasing medals, this has to be handled professionally.”

The rider’s explanation of the situation went this way: “I was encouraging him, saying ‘come on boy, don’t do this again’. I should not have given him these extra pushes. It is stupid, this happened in the heat of the moment, and it will not happen again.”

He will get a chance to start with the Dutch squad (which is tied with 4 faults with France, Canada and Switzerland) on Tuesday in the team qualifier, if the veterinarians deem the horse fit.

Nicola Philippaerts of Belgium, whose Zilverstar refused twice at the B element of the double combination, was eliminated and disqualified for over-use of spurs and will not continue, since he was competing as an individual.

As mentioned above, Monday is the individual final for dressage, the freestyle. Three U.S. riders: Laura Graves, Steffen Peters and Allison Brock, have qualified (no team can have more than three reps in the field of 18.) I will be tweeting on twitter.com/@nancyjaffer, so follow the action with me. And I’ll post another story later in the day in the On the Rail section at www.nancyjaffer.com.

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