After today’s first horse inspection, U.S. Endurance horse-and–rider combinations are poised and ready for the start of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games endurance race on August 28, 2014,. Setting out over the picturesque 100 mile (160km) track stretching from the Lucerne Forest to the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel are five U.S. combinations who look to climb atop the podium.
The horses of the U.S. Endurance Team, made up of riders Ellen Olson, Heather Reynolds, Jeremy Reynolds, Kelsey Russell, and Dr. Margaret Sleeper, all passed going into tomorrow’s ride, which kicks off at 7a.m. local time. After consulting with the U.S. Chef d’Equipe and Team Veternarian, it was decided that it would be in the best interest of Sleeper’s mount, Syrocco Reveille to be withdrawn from competition. Jeremy Olson will ride in her place. Lead by Chef d’Equipe Emmett Ross, the top three U.S. finishing times will be selected for the team ranking, while all riders will also be riding for individual medals.
Ellen Olson (La Motte, Iowa) will ride Farzad Faryadi’s Hot Desert Knight. An accomplished rider, last year she won the Fun in the Sun CEI3* riding the 2000 Arabian gelding. Kicking off the 2014 year with a win at Fun in the Sun 80km, the pair is fit and ready to compete.
Heather Reynolds (Dunnellon, Fla.) will ride her own 2005 Arabian gelding Chanses. After a win early in the year at the Broxton Bridge Fundraiser CEI3*, she continued her winning ways at the Biltmore Challenge taking top honors in both the CEI2* and CEI1*. Reynolds competed at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky., and she looks to pull from this experience to produce a strong result for the U.S.
Heather is competing along with her husband Jeremy Reynolds.
Riding his own, RR Gold Dust Riding, Jeremy Reynolds (Dunnellon,Fla.) has had a good year with wins in CEI2* and CEI1* competition, as well a second-place finish in the CEI3* at the Biltmore Challenge. Reynolds is making his first Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games appearance on the 2006 Arabian gelding.
The youngest member of this year’s team at just 18 years old is Kelsey Russell (Williston, Fla.) riding her and Valerie Kanavy’s My Wild Irish Gold. With a strong resume, including an impressive third-place finish earlier this year in the CEI3* at the North American Endurance Team Challenge aboard the 2003 Anglo Arab mare, Russell has confidence that she is ready.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s race, Russell said, “This is my first time riding on the senior team. I’ve been to two young rider world teams and I just have to just look at it as another ride and see what happens. I know my horse really well, so depending on the trail tomorrow, I will adjust my strategy.”
Dr. Margaret Sleeper (Frenchtown, N.J.) was slated to make her third FEI World Equestrian Games appearance in Normandy with her own Syrocco Reveille. In 2012 Sleeper was part of the Endurance World CH in Euston Park, UK moving onto the squad as a replacement member and turning in the best performance of all U.S. combinations. However, after being accepted at Wednesday’s Horse Inspection, it was decided by Sleeper, in consultation with the Chef d’Equipe and Team Veternarian, that it would be in the best interest of Syrocco Reveille to be withdrawn from competition.
Sleeper and Syrocco Reveille have now been replaced on the American team by Jeremy Olson (La Montte, Iowa) with his own and Amy Wallace-Whelan’s Wallace Hill Shade. The pair, which finished second in the Broxton Bridge Fundraiser CEI3*, traveled with the five other U.S. combinations to France and have been training diligently.
“The weather makes the course kind of muddy, it makes us change our strategies a little bit, but all in all I think it is a positive for us as the USA riders,” said Olson of the race strategy. “It is a little bit more technical and takes accurate riding into consideration.”
This year’s endurance course is made up of five different loops, all beginning and ending in Sartilly at the vet gates. After tomorrow's ride, the horses will be vet-checked again on Friday to determine which horse will receive the Best Conditioned title.
For more information on the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, visit www.normandy2014.com.
Follow the 2014 U.S. Endurance Team here.