Gladstone, N.J. – June 15
Tina Konyot blew away the judges with her Grand Prix test at the U.S. Equestrian Federation Dressage Festival of Champions, scoring an 80.14 percent, the first score out of the 70s for the Olympic selection trials this year.
Her test started with the most square and elegant halt of the group on her Calecto V, which impressed the judges enough to start her with an average of 92 percent for the first movement.
“He comes in and does a beautiful halt, like a feather landing,” Konyot said. “I would do my salute before, and he would dance a bit. I’ve been practicing halting and saluting. He stands there, and I wave my arm around. He has to wait until I tell him. [The halts] have been really good in all three tests now.”
Calecto’s test continued with solid elements that kept the score high, although Konyot, 50, said she knows they can do better piaffe and passage transitions.
“I didn’t know anything about the score,” she said. “I looked up there once, saw it say 79 and thought it might be broken.”
The scoreboard provided a running score average for each rider. Janet Foy, who judged at E, said she gave Konyot two 10s, one for her initial halt and another one for her halt and rein back. “As a trainer, I thought about what I’d tell her to do to improve the rein back, and I couldn’t think of anything,” said Foy.
Her test with Calecto, her 14-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Come Back II—Bahera, Rastell), kept Konyot, Palm City, Fla., in second place in the overall Olympic selection trials. They will canter down centerline one more time at Gladstone for the Grand Prix Special test on Saturday. Each of the four phases counts for 25 percent of the selection trial score.
“I intend to do the same thing tomorrow. I hope to anyway,” she said, adding that her focus is on riding her best with an eye on the Olympic Games. “[USEF Dressage Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons] says, ‘I don’t need you the best at the trials; I need you the best at the Olympics.’ She repeats that time after time to me. We’re not working toward peaking here, but showing what we have.”
Steffen Peters, San Diego, Calif., and Legolas 92, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding (Laomedon—Fürstin, Florestan II) owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm, certainly showed the judges what they had for the second weekend in a row. Despite a mistake in the one-tempi changes, they scored a 78.66 percent, good enough to place second for the Grand Prix and keep them ranked first for the selection trials.
Both of Peters’ mounts for the weekend—Legolas and Sundance 8, his small tour horse—are less experienced than some of their competitors.
“I’ll go for as much as they offer tomorrow. I won’t push it with either one beyond that. They’re simply too young,” said Peters, 47. “If we just look at the scores, I have to be happy with that.”
Jan Ebling and Raflaca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare (Argentinius—Ratine, Rubinstein), maintained their place in third for the selection trials with a third place in the Grand Prix test (75.25%).
“I’m very happy with her,” he said. “It’s my best score yet. The horse was better than last week still. I couldn’t be happier.”
He is based out of The Acres in Moorpark, Calif., where he and his wife, Amy, run a training and sales facility. Amy, Ann Romney and Beth Meyer co-own Rafalca.
“When I go into my zone, I shut everything out,” he said, noting that he wasn’t distracted by the boost in publicity the mare received recently due to a segment on “The Colbert Report” that poked fun at Romney’s partial ownership in the horse.
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“Dressage got a big boost out of it,” he said as he went on to do his own impression of Colbert riding a horse during the press conference.
With the final element of the selection trials, the Grand Prix Special test, set for tomorrow, June 15, no one is counting on making the team just yet. International judge Axel Steiner, who provided commentary through the Grand Prix test, said the difficulty of the Special test will make the final phase of the trials interesting.
“I think the riding today was really super, but the final decision will be tomorrow,” he said. “Should we expect a[n Olympic] medal? We always hope for a medal, but we’re dealing with some strong countries. Are we in the top three right now? Probably statistically not, but anything can happen.”
Shawna Harding had to deal with an unusual distraction in her test with Come On III. Just as he rounded the corner by K after the initial medium trot across the diagonal, Come On kicked the arena fence and momentarily got caught up on it, dragging one of the panels partway into the arena. The president of the ground jury, Linda Zang, opted not to ring the bell, so Harding continued her test with the corner missing. The pair placed 12th.
Lauren Sammis withdrew Sagacious HF before the Grand Prix test started today. She said the horse didn’t feel 100 percent. Barring any further withdrawals, 12 horse-and-rider teams will complete the Special test. Currently, the entire field is separated by less than 8 points in the selection trial rankings.
For full results, visit Fox Village Dressage.
Watch the tests on the USEF Network.
For all of the Chronicle’s coverage from Gladstone, see the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.