In this series, the Chronicle follows multiple riders as they seek to fulfill their World Equestrian Games dreams in Tryon, North Carolina, in 2018. We’ll check in with them in the coming months as they pursue a team spot to see how they’re getting their horses ready and preparing mentally.
Since competing at Sopot CSIO***** (Poland), Margie Engle conserved Royce’s jumps while they stayed in Chamant, France. She jumped two classes at Knokke Hippique CSI***** (Belgium) with the 14-year-old stallion and focused on giving her up-and-coming 9-year-old Dicas more mileage. The Rheinlander gelding won the £25,000 CSI***** ranking class.
The CHIO Aachen (Germany) was Engle’s second observation event for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Royce jumped clear in the first round of the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup there and had three down in the second. The U.S. team ended on a score of 16 to finish in fifth place. In Dicas’ first visit to the legendary facility, he ran away with the top prize in the 1.45-meter SAP-Prize class.
You can catch a video of their winning round in our Watch Why They Won.
Now settled back Stateside, Engle reflects on Aachen and her summer in Europe.
To learn more about Royce, check out his Behind The Stall Door feature.
The first year I went [to Aachen] was ’97, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had a great group of horses, and we had a great team that year. [The U.S. team took silver in the Nations Cup.] I’ve probably been there seven or eight times, and until you go for the first time, you don’t realize. It’s just a fantastic feeling walking in that ring. It is kind of intimidating for a lot of horses. There are huge jumps, and the crowd is knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Every time you go there, it’s very special. I’ve gone with a lot of different horses. Quervo Gold did the WEG there in 2006. Even though they have all the other sports—[dressage, driving, eventing and vaulting]—there’s plenty of room to ride. It’s very well set up, and it’s very well run. It’s a great place for the horses, and it’s kind of nice to have big schooling areas for them to be ridden in and permanent stabling. It’s just grown top class.
Even the closing ceremonies, it’s amazing. The crowds stays there. After the grand prix when everything is done, they all stay there. I’ve never been to any event where they stay that long. I went to a football game; when it’s over everyone can’t wait to get out of there. [At Aachen] they all stick it out through the end, and they stay there with their handkerchief. It’s just an incredible feeling.
My last class there was the win with the young horse, Dicas, and playing the national anthem is a great feeling. The crowd really tries to root for everybody. Of course most of them are German, but they really appreciate a good horse, and they kind of root for everybody.
I was pleased—both horses jumped great. The young one I brought along to get mileage, and he’s really grown up this summer. He’s gotten a lot of good experience at the shows, and I was able to keep getting in the ring and showing with him. He won a couple of ranking classes which was great, and he won one at Knokke.
He did his first 1.60-meter class at Aachen. I showed him there on Wednesday; I was trying to give Royce a bit of a break. [Dicas] was a little overwhelmed with that, but he got better and better through the week. I think that was a little overwhelming for his first time in the ring at Aachen, but at least he came back stronger and stronger in the other two classes and got ribbons in both the 1.55-meter [Allianz-Prize] on Saturday and the class he won.
And then Royce is fantastic. He jumped amazing the first round of the Nations Cup. There’s a fine line between keeping him fresh with the jumping and not jumping enough and keeping jumping fit enough. He’s just been in such top form all year.
Watch Margie and Royce jump a clear round in the Nations Cup, courtesy of ClipMyHorse.TV:
[I was flatting him the whole time], but I gave him a bit of a break from the jumping because he just felt so good, and I figured we’re going to do a lot of jumping in Aachen. He was amazing the first round, and then when I came back the second round, he was just a little bit not jumping fit I guess. He just felt a little bit empty when I came back in the second round.
I was doing Royce over raised cavalettis and doing other things and just trying to keep him fresh at the jumps, and I probably just overdid trying to be good to him and saving his jumps for the ring.
Every horse, they’ll all have a class. It doesn’t matter. They’re not machines. At the end of the day every horse in the world has a round that’s not as good.
He jumped amazing all the other rounds, and the first round of the Nations Cup, I don’t think he could have jumped much better. I had so many people coming up [saying so]. He was rub free, jumped around, rode nice, and he felt great.
It’s a funny sport. You’re always learning no matter what level. And you try to be good to them and not jump them and save their jumps for the ring. Then I probably overdid not jumping enough. He was very fit on the flat, but I think he got a little bit fatigued jumping wise.
I hate to dwell on the one round because he’s had 30 or 40 other rounds where he’s been clean and 4, and he’s just been Mr. Consistency with everything else.
I can’t be too unhappy. He’s an amazing horse, and he jumped incredible throughout the whole process.
At the end of the day, they’re not machines. You look at the rankings, [and] there’s not a horse in there that doesn’t have a round [that goes poorly]—they just can’t go clear every time.
I go to Traverse City (Michigan) with some other horses this week. I got some new horses [in Europe] that I’m trying to [build] partnerships with. Some of the young ones that I’ve had over there [are] 8-year-olds and so forth. I’m going to bring those over and try to get them going, so I have a little more depth. It’s kind of hard because I don’t want to put too much on those two horses [so I’m trying to] find some more horses that can do some of the FEI classes. So I have three coming over in the next few weeks.
I don’t like to make too many predictions [with the young ones]. I’ll see more when they are going. They’ve been doing well. I’m excited to see what they’re going to turn into, especially the ones that are just 8.
[Royce] makes you smile—just watching him, he does silly things. You kind of have to laugh. We got him stuffed animals. He won one after Spruce. They gave out these huskies, and we put it up in his stall, and he destroyed it in two days. There was all this stuffing everywhere. That was last year, so this year [my groom Taylor Roney] tried again. She got both horses stuffed animals. [Royce] was just playing a little bit with it the first day, and it was destroyed. There was stuffing everywhere. It was like an explosion. It didn’t last very long. You’re better off giving him boxes or bottles—he’ll chew those. He’s like a little kid. When you get him a nice toy, and you give him the big box [it came in], sometimes they play with the box rather than the toy.
[I’m] very pleased to have them both come away from Aachen, and to have them both jump clear rounds there in those classes is a great feeling. We just have to sit and wait until after Dublin, but whatever happens I know he’s jumped his heart out.
Catch up with our other Road To The WEG riders: