Road To The Olympics: Margie Engle, Part 1

Feb 15, 2012 - 10:03 AM
“It’s hard because [the Olympic selection trials are] just one week out of the year, and they have to be feeling just right just then. In a way, everything he’s done before doesn’t count.” Photo by Molly Sorge.

In this series, the Chronicle follows seven riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in London in 2012.

When I got Indigo in the beginning of 2010, I hoped he would have a shot at the Olympics. It was probably the end of February or March by the time he finally got here, because he was coming from Australia. One of the first grand prix classes I rode him in, in early April at the Tampa Bay Classic (Fla.), he won [the $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa CSI-W]. He was the only double clean.           

He had plenty of jump, but he’d never jumped that level before. However, he was very consistent in everything that he did in Australia. Whatever he did, he was a “trier.” I knew he had a lot of heart. From the time I had him in Florida, he was really good. It was just the matter of getting used to him; he’s a very blood horse. He’s got a lot of energy, so I had to get used to him a bit.

Gaining Experience

Indigo did a lot last year. I tried to give him some more mileage competing over in Europe, and I was really pleased with him over there. He was clean in Nations Cups in La Baule (France) and Rome. He was also clean [in the first round] in the $267,434 Loro Piana Grand Prix of Rome, and we placed eighth. He handled that all really well. We went to the Rolex FEI World Cup Finals [in Leipzig, Germany] last year, and he was very good there, finishing 12th.

He’s won quite a few big grand prix events and a couple World Cup qualifiers. I’m hoping that I will have enough horse left for the World Cup Finals this year. Hopefully we’ll still be in the ranking at the end.

Down Time

I decided to give Indigo a rest over the winter; he had December and most of January off. He wasn’t completely off, just off from jumping. He was trail riding and relaxing.

He returned to the show ring with a 1.40-meter warm-up on Feb. 8, and then he stepped right up and won the $125,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix on Feb. 11 at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla.

He jumped super the first round, almost a little too fresh. He was kind of kicking out over the top of the jumps, but he was really trying hard. I kind of lucked into it. As the jump-off went there were a lot of rails in different places. It was a pretty careful jump-off. I just kind of went medium. Where I went in the order was kind of lucky, and I just tried to go clean.

It’s so difficult to say about our chances in the Olympic selection trials—it’s kind of a guessing game. I don’t know him that well, and I’m mainly just trying to make sure to keep him happy and comfortable—and not too happy at the same time! We’ll just hope for the best.

For me, I just try and stay with the same schedule that we’ve been on. I never did anything too special with my other horses. Hidden Creek’s Perin won [the 2000 U.S. Olympic Selection Trials in Del Mar, Calif.], and he had just started the grand prix [classes] maybe four months before. I was still getting to know him when he was doing the trials.

It was kind of the same thing at [the 2006 World Equestrian Games Trials] with Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold and Hidden Creek’s Wapino, and they were first and second. I’d only had Quervo for a short amount of time [but ended up competing on the 2006 WEG silver-medal team with him].

Sometimes you get to know more about them as you go through these trials. I feel like I at least know Indigo a little better than I did some of those. I feel confident knowing that he’s jumped a lot of big tracks. There isn’t anything really that I feel uncomfortable about when I go into the ring, nothing that I worry that maybe he can’t do.

My owners [Gladewinds Farm, Hidden Creek Farm, Shay and Bob Griese and Selma Garber] have all been really supportive. They’ve been great with everything so far. I don’t feel any added pressure from them; I probably put far more pressure on myself than the owners do.

The Game Plan

I’m planning on doing the week of Nations Cup [Feb. 28-March 4 during WEF] with him. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that he peaks at the right time. He’s been very steady in everything I’ve asked of him so far.

When I was in Europe, and he had to do lots of rounds at the same time—the same at the World Cup Finals—he seemed to only get better with the more he did. That’s one thing they said about when he was in Australia. The people who owned him there said that when everyone else is getting tired, he’s just starting to come into his own.

You hope everything goes your way—it’s hard because [the Olympic selection trials are] just one week out of the year, and they have to be feeling just right just then. There are so many variables. In a way, everything he’s done before doesn’t count really during that week. But as long as he’s comfortable and sound, he’s capable.

Fast Facts About Margie Engle

Hometown: Gladewinds Farm, Wellington, Fla.

Age: 53

Horse: Indigo, 12-year-old, gray Dutch Warmblood gelding (Indoctro—AEA Dutch Lorel), owned by Gladewinds Farm, Hidden Creek Farm, Bob and Shay Griese, and Selma Garber

  • 1st place $125,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix (Fla.)
  • 1st place $50,000 Holiday & Horses CSI**-W (Fla.)
  • 1st place $75,000 Prix de Penn National CSI-W
  • 3rd place $75,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS On The Hudson (N.Y.)
  • 4th place $100,000 Presidents Cup CSI-W (D.C.)
  • 4th place $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational (Fla.)

Experience On U.S. teams: 1999 Pan American Games (Canada)—team silver; 2000 Olympic Games (Australia)—10th place individually; 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany)—team silver

Other Horses: In December of 2011, Elm Rock Partners LLC bought the Oldenburg stallion Royce for Engle to ride. The now 8-year-old (Café au Lait—Petula, Grandilot) showed great promise at the grand prix level in 2011 with Ljubov Kochetova of Russia. Engle began competing him at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) in January.

“Royce is going great. I love him,” said Engle. “But he’s not going to be able to do the Olympic trials; unfortunately he’s a year too young. It used to be that they could be 8 years old [and be able to compete], but now they changed it to 9.”

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original verstion of “Road To The Olympics: Margie Engle ran in the Feb. 20, 2012, Show Jumping issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.


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