Wellington, Fla.—March 22
Reed Kessler’s eyes get wide and her voice wavers a bit when she talks about the position she’s in. Kessler, who is just 17, is sitting on top of a field of heavy hitting horses and riders in the U.S. Equestrian Federation selection trials for the U.S. team for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“This is without doubt the greatest moment in my riding career. It might be short lived, because things are going to get bigger and harder, but I’m enjoying it for now,” Kessler said.
Clean rounds were hard to come by over Alan Wade’s Round 2 course. In fact, there were just six clean trips recorded. And Kessler posted two of them, riding both Cylana and Mika to faultless rounds. The performances put her solely in the lead in the trials standings with Cylana, as the only horse/rider combination to jump clean in Rounds 1 and 2. And she’s in an eight-way tie for second aboard Mika.
Watch Kessler’s round on Cylana.
Kessler had analyzed her one mistake yesterday—a rail aboard Mika. “I think I just at the very end got a bit casual at the double of oxers and underestimated how wide the one was and had a rail. But Mika was really trying to go clean. So, today, I just made sure to ride every single jump to the best of my ability, and he jumped fantastic,” she said.
Before this winter, Cylana actually hadn’t shown over 1.45 meters, so Kessler is thrilled at how well she’s jumping the healthy 1.60-meter selection trials courses. “Cylana is like an over-scopey equitation horse; she’s so easy,” she said. “She has such an amazing brain. She’s so smart and so brave and game for anything. She just flew up the levels. When you’re riding her, it’s just so effortless. She just feels like she’s stepping over the jumps. We kept moving her up, and she never struggled, so we figured we’d do the trials.”
Kessler insists that she came into the trials with no expectations of making the U.S. team for the Olympic Games. “I think it would be a little unrealistic to go into this thinking I could be on the Olympic team, so I’m just trying to do the best I can and have a positive experience so that in the future, if I ever do really have a shot, I’ll be prepared. I’m going to do the best I can. It’s a long shot, but it’s all I want, whether it’s this time or four years from now. I’ll just keep working at it, taking it day by day and jump by jump,” she said.
Wade’s course produced some dramatic results today. The most shocking was Beezie Madden’s round on Simon. She’s only had the ride on the talented bay since November, when Abigail Wexner bought him from the Netherlands. Simon had a stellar international record with Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam, including second place in the 2011 Rolex/FEI World Cup Finals. But Simon and Madden’s communication faltered on the approach to a massive triple bar on course today. Simon swam through the rails and landed off balance. Madden circled to regroup, and she had a few other rails as well as Simon looked unsettled. Their score of 21 faults has dropped them well down the standings and into 26th. Madden is in a better spot on Wexner’s other horse, Cortes C, who just dipped a toe in the water in Round 2 to add 4 to his 8 faults from Round 1 and lie in a two-way tie for 15th.
Eight riders are hot on Kessler’s heels with just 4 faults to their names after Round 2. Margie Engle on Indigo, Laura Kraut on Teirra, and Christine McCrea on Romantovich Take One had all jumped clean in Round 1 and added just 4 faults in Round 2. Saer Coulter on Springtime, Rich Fellers on Flexible, Charlie Jayne on Uraya, Quentin Judge on HH Carotino, and Kessler on Mika all jumped clean over Round 2 to add nothing to 4-fault scores from Round 1. They’re all tied for second behind Kessler.
Fellers was thrilled that Flexible, a rubber ball of a horse, was the first to jump clear in Round 2. “I just took the advice of my daughter,” he said. “She called me a couple of hours before the class. She was at home in Oregon, playing in the snow since there are 4” of snow there, and she didn’t have school. She told me, ‘Make sure you let Flexible know that you love him.’ So, that’s what I did.
“He’s starting to feel really super. I didn’t jump him much in California [at the HITS Thermal circuit], and I kind of gambled. I didn’t really have him to the point where I was totally in my groove with him. I jumped four classes, and we had one down in three of those, so I wasn’t really in an ideal place, but I didn’t want to overdo it. Now, he feels like he’s coming into his own well,” Fellers said.
Watch Fellers’ round on Flexible.
Jayne had a smile on his face after Uraya’s clean round, but he also ran into trouble with Athena, the game little mare who jumped to a brilliant clear round over Round 1. Athena picked up 28 faults in Round 2 with six rails and a foot in the water. “I think I rode her hard yesterday and rode her hard today, and I think we had to take a little too much gas out of the tank,” Jayne said. Athena isn’t on the order to return for Round 3 later this evening.
Saer Coulter turned in a lovely clear round on her Springtime over Round 1 to put herself into that tie for second place in the standings. She was surprised at how hard she had to ride the water jump line Wade set. “It rode a lot differently than it walked. When you walked it, it seemed like you could sit and wait for a stride, but when you rode it, you really had to ride hard from the minute you landed. I think people misjudged the line a bit,” Coulter said. The water jump was set six steady strides after an oxer and seven strides before a one-stride combination. The line also came very early in the course, at fences 3, 4, and 5AB. There were a lot of wet feet galloping to 5AB, and that combination was where both Indigo and Romantovich Take One pulled a rail.
Round 3 starts under the lights at 8 p.m., and riders will be battling it out again. Check back for coverage.
Standings After Round 2
|Place||Rider/Horse||Round 1||Round 2||Total|
|2T.||Quentin Judge/HH Carotino||4||0||4|
|2T.||Christina McCrea/Romantovich Take One||0||4||4|
|11.||Lucy Davis/Nemo 119||1||5||6|
|15T.||Charlie Jacobs/Leap Of Joy||4||8||12|
|15T.||Beezie Madden/Cortes C||8||4||12|
|18.||Jimmy Torano/Walk About||5||9||14|
|19.||Lauren Hough/Blue Angel||8||8||16|
|20.||Katie Dinan/Nougat de Vallet||10||8||18|
|22.||Karl Cook/Jonkheer Z||8||12||20|
|23.||Lauren Hough/Quick Study||8||13||21|
|24T.||Nick Dello Joio/Scarface||12||12||24|
|24T.||Brianne Goutal/Nice de Prissey||4||20||24|
|27.||Ray Texel/Kismet 50||13||13||26|
|28T.||Jessica Springsteen/Vornado van de Hoendrik||16||12||28|
|31.||Alicia Jonsson-Foster/Tao Tao 3||18||22||40|