Road To The Olympics: Jan Ebeling, Part 2

Jun 6, 2012 - 12:47 PM
Jan Ebeling and Rafalca represented the United States at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final and were the highest-placed U.S. pair in the freestyle. Photo by Lisa Slade.

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

For the [Reem Acra FEI Dressage] World Cup Final, we left California and flew to Amsterdam. We were picked up by a truck in Amsterdam, and then we drove to this place near Hanover [Germany], about a four-hour truck ride.

Once we were there, we took a few days rest and then started working Rafalca. She handles the flying quite well, but I think the time change is what’s tough on the horses, so we always give her a couple days to take it easy and let her sleep. She came through pretty well.

After a few days at Wolfram Wittig’s farm, we left for ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and arrived there and had some really good sessions in the days before the World Cup [held April 20-21]. It was an amazing horse show—a really wonderful atmosphere. I think it was pretty much sold out.

In our Grand Prix, we had a few mistakes, and that kind of killed our score, which was a real bummer. Unfortunately, those things happen. [Jan and Rafalca placed 17th with a 65.25 percent after earning penalties for failure to enter the arena within 45 seconds of the judge ringing the bell.]

It has never happened to me before, entering late. You have 45 seconds to enter, and it took me more than that. I took my merry time for some odd reason. I didn’t hear the bell, but I knew the bell had rung because they opened the ring at A. That was my signal, and I decided to go around the ring one more time for some reason, and when I was at the other end, I looked up, and I only had 14 seconds left. It was not enough time. I think I lost my focus and my concentration, and then the horse made a couple of mistakes.

We had a really nice freestyle the next day, but after having a weak day on the first day and you go early in the class as well, it’s hard to catch up. [Rafalca finished 15th in the freestyle with a 69.87 percent.] So I was very happy with her freestyle and very unhappy with myself in the Grand Prix; I didn’t ride the way I should have ridden or could have. But it was a good thing that we had a good freestyle. It was, overall, an amazing experience.

I was happy with pretty much everything in the freestyle. She piaffed great; she passaged really super. My final centerline was really fabulous. We do a piaffe fan at the end, and I used to turn about 45 degrees left and then back to centerline and then 45 degrees right and then back to centerline. But she’s gotten so good at that, so I’m rubbing it in now. We’re turning 90 degrees left, then all the way back to centerline, and then 90 degrees right and then all the way back again. She was so good in that fan. She was really on and very focused. It’s really a bummer that I didn’t have a better Grand Prix.

On To Gladstone

We went home [to Wittig’s farm] for a few days and took a rest one day. I think we travelled back to Germany on Sunday and worked a bit on Monday. Tuesday we went to Hagen, Germany, for the CDI there [held April 26-29].

That really was an absolutely amazing show. As far as the quality goes, it was a mini-Olympics. There were 30 in the Grand Prix for the Special. The other big class was the Grand Prix for the freestyle, which also had 30 horses in it. There were just so many amazing pairs, and the scores were accordingly very high.

We hadn’t quite decided which Grand Prix to do, and we opted for the one for the freestyle. Had I taken the other one, I think I would have ended up 12th or something and would have had the chance to ride in the Special. But I ended up 16th [with a 69.08 percent], and I was just one out of the freestyle. [The top 15 from the Grand Prix for the freestyle went on to the freestyle.] But the horse went fantastic. The Grand Prix was very good, and I was really pleased with it.

Then we went home to take a very short break. We had a couple of days of easy trail riding, and then it was time to go back to work. We’re getting ready for Gladstone [N.J., and the USEF Dressage Festival Of Champions and USEF Dressage selection trials for the Olympic Games].

I think when you have mistakes or weaknesses, there’s always a pattern. You figure out what the pattern is, and then you take time in your daily schedule to zero in on those weaknesses. One we have right now is the halt, and it’s driving me crazy. She stands still like a tree at home, and then we get to a show, and she’s all revved up, and she doesn’t halt. That’s one of the challenges for us right now: getting the halt.

Competing in Europe, it opens your eyes to how good the others are, and it makes you ride better yourself and try harder. Besides it being a lot of fun being around that and seeing other riders and learning from them, I find it interesting and challenging. I’m very glad that I have the opportunity to do that, and that I have my friends and family and clients who are very supportive of that.

I hope we have a successful show at Gladstone.

Fast Facts About Jan Ebeling

Age: 53

Hometown: Moorpark, Calif.  

Olympic Contender: Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg (Argentinius—Ratine, Rubinstein) mare owned by Ann Romney, Amy Ebeling and Beth Meyer, and bred by Erwin Risch Menslage.

Competition Highlights:

  • 1st place Grand Prix freestyle, Burbank CDI-W (Calif.) (2012)
  • 2nd place Grand Prix, Burbank CDI-W (Calif.) (2012)
  • 2nd place Grand Prix freestyle, Del Mar CDI-W (Calif.) (2012)
  • 2nd place Grand Prix, Del Mar CDI-W (Calif.) (2012)
  • 1st place Grand Prix, Burbank CDI-W (Calif.) (2011)
  • 1st place Grand Prix freestyle, Burbank CDI-W (Calif.) (2011)
  • 10th place Grand Prix, Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Germany) (2011)
  • 11th place Grand Prix freestyle, Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Germany) (2011)
  • 15th place Grand Prix freestyle, Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final (the Netherlands) (2012)
  • 16th place Grand Prix for the freestyle, Hagen CDI (Germany) (2012)

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. “Jan Ebeling’s Road To The Olympics Took Him To Europe And Back” ran in the May 14, 2012, issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.



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