It’s not just Caroline Roffman making waves in Europe. The United States has sent a strong contingent of dressage riders across the pond in two waves.
The first—Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot, Jan Ebeling and Shelly Francis—rode to a bronze team medal in the Nations Cup at the CHIO Aachen (Germany). Now a second set of U.S. riders is gearing up to fly the flag in the Nations Cup at the Hickstead CDIO (England) on Aug. 1-4.
“It all has the goal of not only providing experience and exposure for greater numbers of our riders, but also this is just the second wave,” said U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover. “We still have a group going over for indoors in the fall and into the winter. By the time we’re done, we will have had close to 20 combinations that have competed in Europe this year.”
Sending multiple horses and riders abroad for European experience is a key part of Dover’s strategy.
Francis, on Doktor, is the only holdover for Hickstead from the Aachen team. She’s joined by Arlene “Tuny” Page on Alina, Kathleen Raine on Breanna, and Guenter Seidel on Coral Reef Wylea. Roffman and David Blake will compete as individuals.
The Hickstead team will compete at two smaller shows before heading to England. On July 12-14, they showed at the Lingen CDI (Germany).
Francis and Doktor (69.02%) placed second in the CDI Grand Prix for the freestyle, with Page claiming third on Alina (68.42%). Ikaros and David Blake were 10th (see results). Page and Francis placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the freestyle (see results).
Seidel took second in the CDI Grand Prix for the Special on Wylea (70.00%) (see results); Kathleen Raine was fifth on Breanna (69.04%). In the Special, Seidel was second (71.81%) and Raine third (71.54%). These riders, and Roffman, are competing this week in either the CDI Perl (Germany) or the Munster CDI (Germany).
Konyot, who chose to stay in Europe after Aachen, showed at the Fritzens CDI (Germany) the same weekend. She and Calecto V took third in the CDI Grand Prix for the freestyle (70.78%) and second in the freestyle (76.45%).
“There’s not one combination that has come to Europe that hasn’t made me incredibly proud,” Dover said. “I’ve marveled at how they’ve grown, not just from show to show, but also from class to class. Even some of our strongest riders—Steffen Peters and Guenter Seidel—had incredible growth and showed so much class. I was really thrilled with every single person. Every rider and horse have proven that they deserve to be among the top combinations in the world. I couldn’t be happier.
“Success breeds success, so I’m psyched, and I know that our community is more and more excited,” Dover continued. “The momentum of our athletes over there is great. We’re committed to producing a medal-winning team for [the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France] and on to the 2016 Olympic Games.”
Seidel chose the Hickstead tour for Wylea because of the newness of the pair’s relationship. "For me, Aachen would have been too early because I hadn’t had the horse for long,” he said. “These shows were good timing, and I thought they would be good to get my feet wet back over here with her. They weren’t huge shows, but they had good competition. Aachen would have been too much for her first show here.”
While in Europe, Seidel has been working with Klaus Balkenhol, who trained the horse under its former rider, Balkenhol’s daughter Anabel. “There’s always a learning process with a new horse, but working with Klaus has been really helpful and fun,” Seidel said. “[Wylea's] a worker bee, and she wants to work and be good. She’s very dependable; she’s doesn’t over-react about things; she’s very sure of herself, which is nice.”
Each of the U.S. riders chose to base themselves with a personal trainer. Peters, Raine and Francis worked with Johann Hinnemann, Susie Dutta and Page rode with Jurgen Koschel, and Konyot was based at Jan Bemelmans. Dover met them at the shows. “I’ve been enjoying working with the riders and their personal trainers. There’s a great camaraderie and a strong sense of purpose,” he said.
For Seidel, these European shows are the necessary homework he needs to do looking toward future international championships. “This year is a time to get mileage and get to know her. That way I can make mistakes at the smaller shows and hopefully not at the bigger shows,” he said.
Dover sees riders competing in Europe as essential to preparation for future championships. “That’s just one of many strategic moves that the high performance committee and I have formulated,” he said. “It truly encompasses a bottom-to-top plan for a world-class machine. That’s 100 percent necessary for team success in the future.”