Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

Courtney King-Dye Is Taking One Step At A Time On Her Road To The Olympics

In this series, the Chronicle follows six riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in Hong Kong in 2008.

I first considered the Olympics this past fall after I’d done a couple of Grand Prix tests on Harmony’s Mythilus, although I know other people had it in mind before then.
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In this series, the Chronicle follows six riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in Hong Kong in 2008.

I first considered the Olympics this past fall after I’d done a couple of Grand Prix tests on Harmony’s Mythilus, although I know other people had it in mind before then.

Klaus [Balkenhol, the U.S. dressage team coach] was encouraging me at Gladstone [N.J.] last summer when I was trying to make the decision about going to the Pan Ams versus Aachen [Germany], but I didn’t think it was realistic until I started showing him at Grand Prix. Then we got the grant to train in Europe. It’s been a slowly hatching idea for “Myth.”

With Idocus, it’s always been a possibility. I had him in the back of my mind, but he is getting older, and I didn’t want to put any expectations on him. Although it’s been a nice surprise that he just seems to be getting better and better.

Competing in Europe over the winter was really useful. It was great having Klaus’ help. Regularly being in the same warm-up arena with Isabell [Werth] and Imke [Schellekens-Bartels] and all of the other big competitors is good for your confidence. It also helped me to increase the standard.

The difference I felt competing there is that the horses had so much more engagement, energy and expression. Riding a clean test is not nearly good enough. You really have to put the oomph and the pizzazz in.

That gave me a very good guideline of where I need to set my sights, especially with Myth. I always want to ride him conservatively, and it helped me a lot to figure out how to let that power come out without losing control.

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It helped me with Idocus too. He’s a special horse for me, and I had a lot of trouble getting him motivated to work again. Putting pressure on him to make him be more expressive was something I was always hesitant to do. Steffen [Peters] encouraged me to do so, and competing in Europe encouraged me even more so.

I’m so lucky to be riding that horse. More than most other horses could, he’s taught me how to be an effective rider and a better rider because of that. To me he’s perfect. He’s the love of my life.

About Courtney King-Dye

Hometown: New Milford, Conn.   

Age: 30

Horses: IDOCUS, 18-year-old, bay
                 Dutch Warmblood stallion
                 (Equador—Eretha) owned by
                 Christine McCarthy.
                 2nd place 2007 Collecting
                 Gaits Farm/USEF Grand Prix
                 Championship
                 6th place 2007 FEI World Cup
                 Dressage Final

                 HARMONY’S MYTHILUS, 14-
                 year-old, dark brown Dutch
                 Warmblood gelding (Ferro—
                 Flemiena) owned by Harmony
                 Sporthorses.

Both Idocus and Myth should be safely qualified now for the final selection trials, but I will just take one day at a time. They are both extremely good horses, but Idy is a bit older, and Myth is still pretty new on the scene. I am not changing the system or drilling them more. I’m just trying to build them up and continue doing more of the same.

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A Program For Each Horse

You can’t keep horses in prime condition for months on end, so I let them down after I returned from Germany in January. I’m hoping to have them at some kind of a peak for the selection trials at the end of June, then ease off a little bit. If I make the team, hopefully I have some horse to build back up.

With Myth it’s always about keeping him through and keeping him rideable. Myth is a workaholic. He can work day and night and never get fed up with it. He’s a horse who needs a lot of work. He’s getting really fit, and he’s lost a lot of weight in a good way. He used to be quite a bulky horse.
   
With Idocus I can pinpoint what I need to work on. With Myth it’s the overall rideability. The movements are easy for him, but it’s just getting him supple and rideable.

In Europe, I thought he’d be worried about the horse shows. When he gets worried, he gets tight and takes over—he tries too hard. But he handled Stuttgart [Germany] and Frankfurt [Germany] so well. Much more experienced horses like Whisper and Warum Nicht were spooking all over the place, but Myth went in there like he’d done it a million times.

“The Olympics are my dream, so I feel really excited about it, but I’m also very reserved. I know anything could happen. There are only three slots. If we don’t make the team, that’s OK. I don’t put too much focus and emphasis on it. It’s a goal and something I’m working for.”

He’s not like Idocus who can go anywhere. He for sure looks, but he looks to me even more. He was fantastic.
   
Idocus is Mr. Rideable, but he has to be happy, motivated and tuned. His best preparation is hacking. If I can school very little and hack a lot, then he is the happiest, but he has to stay really tuned. It’s a big balancing act. I warm up a little in the ring, and then I take him out in the field, then back in the ring. That’s the best way with him.

I have learned that I need to school the freestyle more with Idocus. Every time we did it, it was in the show ring, and he had to perform now, which is not good for him. If I can do the freestyle at home and make it playful, which is how we do the work for the other tests, then he won’t hear the music and think about the pressure.

On The Agenda

Myth needs to do a couple more shows, do the freestyle and the Special a few more times. Idocus will probably do the [FEI World Cup Dressage Final]. He’ll breed for the month of April, and then we’ll see. I don’t think I’ll do any more showing with Idocus.
   
It’s important for him to have a short breeding season. I’ll have the month of May to get him back to feeling good, and then I’ll take him to California for the selection trials.
   
They’re both on a big fitness regimen. I think all of the horses that have a chance to go to Hong Kong need to get fit, fit, fit. They need cardiovascular and breathing fitness as well. Both go out twice a day. I’ve changed their diet to take off some weight.
   
I need to do more fitness too. I’m not really too worried about the mental aspect of competing in the Olympics, but I think the heat on any athlete is going to take its toll. There’s been talk of having the riders do pilates in super hot temperatures, and I will follow the guidelines given to me by Klaus and the U.S. Equestrian Federation. I’m very riding fit because I ride a lot, but my intention was to do more biking
or cardio work. I haven’t started that yet because my days have just been so long, but I certainly will.

By Courtney King-Dye, as told to Sara Lieser

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