Lyon, France, is now the destination for Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final competitors Tina Konyot and Cesar Parra, who will represent the United States there April 16-20.
Although Konyot is the top-ranked North American rider on the 2013-2014 North American League qualification standings, she wasn’t immediately sure she’d round off the circuit in Lyon with her Calecto V.
“It was a little bit of a question in terms of my horse’s well-being. So it took some negotiating and thinking,” she said.
The Danish Warmblood stallion (Come Back II—Bahera, Rastell) hasn’t had any travel issues in his 16 years, and Konyot hopes to keep it that way. He’s tentatively set to depart on April 10.
“Most people love their horses to travel to the Olympics or World Games or whatever it may be, but this time period is much shorter. To make this long journey to Europe is a concern always,” Konyot, 52, said.
As for her training strategy between now and then, she’ll try to keep Calecto happy and healthy.
“I’m hoping to step up my Grand Prix,” said Konyot, Palm City, Fla., who qualified with a score of 75.42 percent. “I’ve had poor Grand Prix [showings] over the last competitions and very good freestyles, and I need to be able to do both. So I’m working on that at the moment and hopefully that can carry us on to the World Cup.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country,” she added. “I did so in the [2010 Alltech FEI] World Equestrian Games [Ky.] and in the 2012 Olympic Games [in London], and this is one more he can add to his list for his career. He doesn’t owe anyone anything, and he doesn’t owe our country anything, and he doesn’t owe me anything. He’s just a wonderful animal. God willing, we will head to the selection trials for the [2014 Alltech FEI] WEG in Normandy, France. If we can add that to our list of accomplishments, that’s all he ever has to do again. He can become my permanent professional trail horse.”
Parra also considered the effect of the trip’s duration, and he plans to elongate it. “The horse will leave April 6 with the groom, and I’ll leave on April 7 or 8,” he said, joking that this is the second draft of their original plan.
“We’re going to train in Germany for a few days and then go to France,” said Parra, who qualified with a 73.96 percent. “Hopefully I’ll stay after that for a few more weeks, training in France and Germany, before I come back to America.”
Likewise, he plans to maintain a consistent training program, but stressed the importance of movement. He and his groom will hand-walk Van The Man several times a day, a bit more than is usual.
“We also might add to the [freestyle] choreography to make it a tiny bit more difficult in terms of technicality,” Parra, Whitehouse Station, N.J., said.
The experience of competing at the World Cup is more than a personal achievement.
“For me, it pays tribute to my trainers, some of [which] are dead already, who I learned this from,” he said. “The system that we have is very methodical and very classical. We don’t do anything out of the ordinary, but it’s every day, and I’m very, very happy to prove to my students at home what persistence, perseverance and a positive attitude brings to the team and to the results. I think that’s very important.
“[Van The Man was] a little bit opinionated, but I never gave up on him, and now he’s getting better and better,” added Parra, 51, of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Obelisk—Lady, Landjonker) gelding owned by Sarah and Michael Davis.
Stepping onto the world stage is still a remarkable experience for Parra, a 2011 Pan American Games (Mexico) team gold medalist, who became a U.S. citizen in 2008 after representing Colombia in the 2004 Olympic Games (Greece).
“I’m very excited to be in the same warm-up as the best in the world,” he said. “[Van The Man] will be riding in the same trailer to Lyon with [Helen Langehanenberg’s] Damon Hill! It’s this kind of thing that I think is amazing, and I learn from it.”
Joint funding will facilitate the trip. Tim Dutta will provide transportation for Calecto V and Van The Man, and the U.S. Equestrian Federation has provided additional funding, as has the organizing committee for the World Cup in Lyon.