U.S Dressage Riders Prepare for Competition on Saturday, Give Venue High Marks
Rio de Janiero, Brazil—The U.S dressage riders and horses have settled nicely into the newly constructed National Equestrian Center at the Deodoro Sports Complex located on a military base 26 kilometers outside Rio de Janeiro. Deodoro also includes the competition facilities for archery, field hockey, shooting and modern pentathlon. The U.S dressage team members and the USEF sports staff give their venue high marks. “It is an excellent facility by anyone’s quality standards; Brazil did a wonderful job on it,” said Jim Wolf, Executive Director of High Performance for the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and Chef de Mission for the United States Equestrian Team in Rio.
This will be the first appearance for all of the U.S Dressage Team riders on a United States Equestrian Team. “This is a team of fresh faces, which is exciting for all of us, and it is a great opportunity for them to get international experience,” said Gil Merrick, Managing Director of Dressage for the USEF. “All of these riders are ecstatic that they made our Pan Am team and get the chance to ride here in Brazil. Our medal hopes are high for both team and individual medals.”
“They are all very good riders with the ability to get excellent scores from the judges,” said U.S Dressage Coach Klaus Balkenhol. “With this being their first time at an international competition, nerves might be a factor the first day, but that’s part of gaining experience.”
“The footing is really good in all the practice areas and the main arena,” said team member Chris Hickey of Colora, MD, who will be riding the nine-year-old gelding Regent, owned by Brenna Kucinski, which he describes as “the best horse I’ve ever had.” “He’s doing just fine, and it’s exciting to be here, it is an excellent venue.” By winning the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Intermediaire I Dressage Championship in June, which was also the selection trial for the Pan Am team, Hickey and Regent landed themselves a spot on the U.S team.
“The barns are beautiful,” said Susan Dutta of Wellington, FL, the alternate for the U.S team on Pik-L, the 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Horses Unlimited. “The stalls are quite nice, and there are big, generous wash racks. It’s a pleasure to be in them for all of us, especially for the horses.”
After the long flight from Miami, the horses seem to be enjoying the pleasant Brazilian climate. With Rio located below the equator, it is winter, but the sun is hot at midday when it is near 80 degrees with the heat tempered by a stiff breeze. “Zeul is acting very fresh, it’s pretty clear he likes this weather,” said Katherine Poulin-Neff of Newbury, OH. Her mount, the diminutive but bold-moving Brilliant Too, nicknamed Zeul, is an 11-year-old gelding owned by her mother, Sharon Poulin. This pair placed third in the selection trial in June. “He’s been training very well,” she added. Katherine’s sister, Gwen, is her groom at these games, and Brilliant Too is a home-bred and trained horse by the Poulin family. Poulin-Neff has been coached throughout her career by her mother and her father, Michael.
Lauren Sammis of South Orange, NJ, second in the selection trial, said her mount, the gelding Sagacious HF owned by Hyperion Farm, who at just eight years old is the precocious youngster of the group, also made the trip in fine shape and is ready to go when the Prix St. George team competition starts on Saturday.
The first horse inspection for the dressage competition takes place on Friday at 8:00 a.m., and the draw for order of go will be held at 9:00 a.m. Two sessions of competition will be held this Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day for the team medal, which is contested in what is known as the Prix St. George. Team medals will be awarded on Sunday afternoon. On Monday the Intermediare I qualifier for the individual medals will be held to determine which riders will move on to the final compe