by Steph Teeter
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has made final selection of the six horse and rider pairs to travel to Malaysia for the 2008 FEI World Endurance Championship:
Kathy Brunjes/ Theatric
John Crandell/ HH Saba Shams
Cheryl Dell/ Reason to Believe
Valerie Kanavy/ Flash Flame
Meg Sleeper/ Syrocco Reveille
Jan Worthington/ Golden Lightning
Lisa Green/ Amana Tabi
Heather Reynolds/ Cal Flaming Emit
Meg Sleeper/ Shyrocco Troilus
The selection was made at the end of a 3 day trial and evaluation held over the weekend in Florida. All horses were examined by the USEF staff of veterinarians. The performance of the riders and horses over a 40 mile demonstration course was evaluated by USEF staff including an independent selection committee, veterinarians, and Chef d'Equipe Becky Hart. The 40 mile course was run in 4 phases, with speeds of 10, 12, 14 and 15 mph respectively, with holds of 20, 30 and 40 minutes.
According to USEF Endurance director, Vonita Bowers, the trial went very well. "All of the horses that were selected recovered after each phase in 1 to 3 minutes. The horses did very well and we were pleased at the focus and professionalism of all of the riders and crews."
The selected horses and riders, as well as alternates, will now stay in Florida for the next month, prior to traveling to Malaysia. This will give time to train together, as a team, and to develop skills and strategies to improve their chances of winning a medal in Malaysia.
Three of the selected riders, Brunjes, Crandell and Sleeper gained valuable experience at the Sultan's Cup 160km event held last November in Terengganu, the venue for the 2008 WEC. Kanavy, Brunjes, Sleeper and Worthington have all had prior experience competing at World Championships, and Kanavy has won 2 Gold and 1 Silver individual medals.
Kanavy brought 2 horses to the selection trial, King Ali Gold and Flash Flame. While King Ali has out-performed Flash Flame in terms of speed and winning performances, he can also be a challenging horse to ride and difficult to rate. The final selection of Flash Flame was made based on her performance in Florida. Additional consideration was given to her prior experience at International events (a 5th place at the 2005 Pan American Championship in Argentina) and a more even temperament, which made her a better team choice. This year's goal for the USA in Malaysia is a team medal, and riders and horses were selected with that goal in mind.