Monday, June 23, 2014

USA Endurance Set Sights on Team Medal in France

by Merri Melde
Monday June 23 2014

The USA endurance team heads to Normandy, France for the World Equestrian Games on August 28, 2014, with one goal in mind: a team medal in the World Endurance Championship.

"I'm not going over there to look at that castle out there on the beach, Mont Saint-Michel," says US Chef d'Equipe Emmett Ross. "We're going over there to win a medal."

Ross will take a strong team to face the world over a previously unridden 160-km trail (parts of the trail were tested during last year's WEG pre-ride) that will traverse hills, fields, single track roads, pavement, and the beach along the Bay of Normandy on the English Channel. "In an event like the World Equestrian Games, riders must know how to manage their horse over a distance of 160 km, changing gait according to the terrain and the challenges faced, maintaining an average speed of 15 to 23 km/h throughout," says WEG Manager of the Endurance discipline, Nicholas Wahlen.

Ross has the riders for the course. "It puts a premium on good riders - and we have good riders. We have experienced riders." Ross' 2012 World Equestrian Championship team in Great Britain just missed the bronze medal, averaging 19.49 km/h. "This team is better than that one, even though that team was the Who's Who of American endurance."

USEF named the shortlist of horse/rider combinations on June 19, and the final Nominated List of 10 will be sent in to the Organizing Committee in France on June 25. Barring any mishaps, the top 5 will be the team that takes to the French trail: Heather Reynolds and Chanses, Ellen Olson and Hot Desert Knight, Dr Meg Sleeper and Syrocco Reveille, Jeremy Reynolds and RR Gold Dust Rising, and Kelsey Russell and My Wild Irish Gold. Russell is the first USA Young Rider to ever make the senior World Championship team. In 6th and 7th places are Jeremy Olson and Wallace Hill Shade, and Valerie Kanavy and Just Gold.

After the final list is turned in, Ross will focus on the top 7 riders and horses (countries are allowed 5 riders, and 2 spare horses in the barn), working with them on their training schedules and final preparations. The team will fly over on August 12 to a private stable near the venue, where they will have 2 weeks to relax, top off on training, and get organized.

Ross is pleased with his team and very confident. His riders are athletes, and all horses are fit and have been through exhaustive numerous veterinary exams. The weather, Ross feels, is not a factor. "We're coming from heat and humidity training - all of our horses are on the east coast or in Iowa - and they're talking about it being very hot over there, at 78 degrees!" Ross says. "And if it rains, then I feel we even have a better advantage, because we over here, like the French do in Europe, experience different types of terrain and different types of weather.

"We used to dominate the sport, but since 1998 we've done nothing at the WEC or the WEG. Nothing. No teams, no individuals, nothing. And we've been finishing teams now, with a lot of 4th places. So now we're ready to step up."

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