Don John, the traveling reserve horse for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games U.S. Dressage Team, has been withdrawn before the first horse inspection. The 13-year-old gelding is ridden by Nick Wagman.
“After arriving safely at the venue in Tokyo, Don John sustained a minor injury,” stated a press release from the U.S. Equestrian Federation. “He has continued to show improvement, but after further evaluation with the team veterinarian, the decision was made to withdraw him before the start of competition out of extraordinary precaution, and though it is believed he would have passed the horse inspection if presented, the team felt that he should not be considered to compete to ensure he has the proper time to fully heal. The team will present the three selected team combinations of Adrienne Lyle and Salvino, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper, and Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo.”
Don John is a Dutch Warmblood owned by Beverly Gepfer. With the gelding, Wagman finished fourth in both tests at the U.S. Dressage Olympic Shortlist Mandatory Event (Fla.) in June.
Wagman posted a statement on his Facebook page:
“Today, we made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw DJ from competition, as he unfortunately sustained a minor injury here in Tokyo several days ago. Everyone has been working around the clock to remedy the situation (and he has improved tremendously), but ultimately the decision was made that even though we were confident he would pass the jog, that his long term future shouldn’t be risked for immediate goals.
“As you can imagine, this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make for so many reasons. The last thing I wanted to do was let my teammates down, or his owners down, or the incredible Jose, or Debbie, or all the other members of this amazing team, or all of the people who have been cheering me on through all of this. Nothing would’ve given me more joy than to live up to what we are capable of and made you all proud.
“But, the truth of the matter is that this is the reality of horses. They can get hurt, and they take time to heal. They aren’t machines, nor pieces of equipment that can be fixed or replaced; and that’s why we love them so much — that’s why we love this sport so much. That’s why I love DJ so much.
“So while, the tears continue to flow, I’m going to remind myself of all the good that has come out of this remarkable experience. I’m here in Tokyo as part of the US Team. I have made new friends in my teammates who have demonstrated nothing but kindness towards me, shared their vast experience with me; and I am becoming a better horseman because of it. It will be an honor to cheer you on from the sidelines. But most importantly I have DJ who no matter what, still eagerly awaits my arrival everyday, wants his neck scratched, and knows my right pocket is always full of sugar cubes. And that, is what makes all of this worth it.”
The Olympic Games dressage begins tomorrow, July 24, with Day 1 of the Grand Prix test.