She’s back!

 You may or may not have heard, but Courtney King Dye is back in the ring! According to her article in Dressage Today , Courtney is once again showing her horses. But where did she go, you may ask. Courtney King Dye was one of the USA’s brightest rising stars in the Olympics of 2008. She was the youngest person for the USA to ever ride down centerline in dressage. She was truly brilliant. But all this can to a screeching halt when on March 3, 2010 Courtney fell from her horse and suffered a skull fracture and an extreme concussion. Courtney King Dye lay in a coma for over a month before she finally woke; and when she did she had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat. However, over two years later, she is riding and competing again.

Courtney King Dye has been keeping a online diary since she awoke. In her diary she speaks about her recovery and training for new para competitions. Para competitions are horse shows for riders with physical handicaps. On 5/16/2012 she wrote that her current horse Buddy, aka Make Lemonade, was having trouble with her riding capabilities. She also shares her concerns about not being able to make the Para-Olympic team. On 6/06/2012 Courtney wrote “I’ve officially given up on Buddy”. In This post she announces that she will not be on the Para-Olympic team and that she will be donating Buddy to a college.

Courtney King Dye has always inspired me to try harder and get back on the horse I have fallen off of. She is a wonderful example of how something as life changing as a coma can open up new opportunities for a person. Courtney King Dye has also been a personal inspiration to me especially after my all to recent fall. In December of last year I was thrown from a horse that I had never ridden before and suffered a concussion, sever bone bruising in both my knees, and a sprained neck. I could barely walk for more than ten minutes for about a month and during that time I could not ride. I was extremely nervous about going back to riding but reading about Courtney’s story helped me a great deal. Thank you Courtney King Dye, you will always be in my prayers!

Paragon piaffes across the pond!

 The team was announced on June 18th of 2012! The official USA Dressage Team is as follows: Steffen Peters on Ravel, Tina Koynot on Calecto V, Jan Ebling on Rafalca, Adrienne Lyle on Wizard, and, as the reserve , Heather Blitz on Paragon. Steffen Peters will also be bringing Legolas as a back-up horse. This means that Todd Flettrich and Otto have declined the offer to be reserves. Instead Todd and Otto’s owner have decided to retire Otto as he is already 16 years old. Therefore, as the sixth place contenders, Heather Blitz and Paragon have stepped up to become the USA Reserve pair. The article  stating Otto’s withdrawal can be found here.

In her article Paragon Is Headed to England, Jennifer O Bryant expresses her sheer joy at Paragon’s inclusion in the US team. She tells us the story of how “Their’s is a wonderful story”. She goes on to tell us how Heather was present at Paragon’s birth and how she has been Paragon’s sole owner and trainer. She also reveals the reason be hind Otto’s withdrawal. He is retiring! Otto is 16 years old and O Bryant tells us, she suspects, his owners believe “He probably doesn’t have another Olympics in him.”

To those of you that are familiar with horse showing, it should come as no surprise that Otto is being retired. A horse’s body can only handle a certain amount of showing at different levels. Of course the level and duration of showing is determined by how well the horse is trained and genetics. However, even the best of horses can only handle Olympic level dressage for so long. Still Otto had an impressive run of showing with a 73.067% in the Olympic Grand Prix Special. So as we wish a fond farewell to Todd Flettrich and Otto, we can be sure that we will hear more from this talented rider!

Some may say that Otto has more experience than Paragon and is therefore a better candidate. While it is true that Otto has more experience, it is also true that Paragon is young and has more energy. We need a new face in the Olympics or we run the risk of becoming out dated and insignificant. Heather Blitz and Paragon are the type of fresh faces that we need to see more of.

Now on to Paragon. I guess it really is like they say on the Visa commercial, “when we cheer, they go just a little bit further.” Well, us at home cheered from behind the silver screen, and Heather came through. Although she did not make the original team, she did just well enough to make it after Otto declined. This is a great achievement for the pair, they have just started showing Grand Prix and they have already made the Olympic Reserve. If you’re not familiar with the term Grand Prix, you can click here for an explanation. This incredible team has progressed together for nine years to reach this point. As Heather Blitz has been Paragon’s sole owner and trainer since his birth, she has been able to have complete control when making decisions about her horse’s life. This is a luxury that most top level competitors do not have. I wish Paragon and Heather all the best in their upcoming adventure across the pond!

And the Olympic team is ….

 The Olympic spirit is in the air in the horse world. The much-anticipated list of nominees has been released by the USDF, United States Dressage Federation , you can see it here. Steffen Peters was the first and third place nominee on Legolas and Ravel. Tina Konyot was second place on her own horse, Calecto V! Jan Ebling was 4th on Ann Romney’s Rafalca. Adrienne Lyle was 5th on Wizard. In 6th place was Todd Flettrich on Otto. And the lastly Heather Blitz on Paragon, her own horse! With so many great contenders, it comes with no surprise that the official team has not been announced.

There is a question that Jennifer O. Bryant raises in her blog post of How many horses can we send to England?  This question has not been answered by either the Olympic panel or the USDF. Their silence only raises more questions, such as: Will we be able to send a back up horse? Will Steffen Peters be able to ride both Legolas and Ravel? and If Steffen Peters becomes unable to compete, can someone else ride Legolas or Ravel? In her blog the London Eye, Jennifer O. Bryant asks these questions and more.

While there are no easy answers to these questions, I can offer my opinion based on what I know as a second level dressage rider. I predict that the English dressage panel will allow us to send six horses, four on the team and two backup’s. Steffen Peters will be allowed to ride one of the horses in the individual competition and one in the team event. The panel will most likely allow a reserve horse to be shipped along with the others.

My predictions for the Olympic team are: Steffen Peters on Ravel, Tina Koynot on Calecto V, Jan Ebling on Rafalca, Adrienne Lyle on Wizard, and Todd Flettrich on Otto as the reserve. However, receiving an invitation does not mean they must attend. If a rider and owner agree that the horse or the rider is not ready or able for whatever reason they can decline the invitation and their slot would be passed on to the next in line competitor. It is my hope is, as Otto is old for an Olympian, that Todd Flettrich will decline the offer and that his slot will go to Heather Blitz and Paragon. they have been one of the most tenacious competitors this season. Although it would be relatively unheard of for a horse to go to the Olympics after only one season of Grand Pre level competition it would be wonderful to see a fresh face representing the USA on this team!

Who is your favorite Olympic hopeful?
(polls)

Ride On Para-Equestrians!

Image Although most of the current hype in the equestrian community is for the Olympics, a ground breaking event is also in the making. The equine para-olympics is one of the biggest yet least well known equestrian events in the world. Recently the para-olympic trials were held at the same horse park as the traditional olympic trials, after these trials took place the American equestrian para-olympic team was announced. The riders on the team include: Rebecca Hart, Jonathan Wentz, Robin Brueckmann, Erin Alberda, Mary Jordan, Kim Decker, Wendy Fryck, Jennifer J. Baker, Susan Treabess, and Laura Goldman. To learn more about these riders, click here. These brave riders will represent our country at the London Para-Olympics.

Although not many blogs in the dressage community picked up on the Para-Olympic riders, luckily one did. In her blog The London Eye, Jennifer O Bryant speaks about how we should not take our gifts for granted. She instead shows us that we should respect these para-olympians because they can do things we cannot even with our able bodies. She reminds us that we, the able, cannot complain about minor aches and pains when some riders are missing entire limbs but they still manage to reach olympic levels of coordination and skill. they are truly amazing.

Jennifer O Bryant is right on the money when it comes to para-olympians; they are some of the most talented riders in the world. Although they may only ride at the walk-trot speed they can perform movements that most of us struggle with. These men and women exemplify what being a rider is about: riding to be the best you can possibly be. While many of these riders are not physically able to do many things that we can, they can do many things we cannot. After watching a video of Rebecca Hart ride, I know she could wipe the floor with me if we ever went head to head. I also know that after I have learned about the challenges these riders face on a daily basis I can no longer complain that my foot has fallen asleep in the stirrup of that I have bruised my arm in a dismount. These riders have taught me that we should all strive to be the best we can possibly be!

Welcome Stephen!

Hello there! If you have found your way here then you probably already know what dressage is, however if you don’t, allow me to briefly explain it. Dressage is an equine discipline than is descended from French military equine training in the middle ages. Dressage was originally a series of movements aimed at making the horse and rider more flexible before they headed into battle. In dressage there are two main groups of movements: suppling and collecting. Collecting exercises are aimed at gathering the horses’ strength in their middle and gathering energy in their movements. Suppling exercises are aimed at increasing flexibility of both the rider and the horse. If you still don’t understand this sport, click here!

As many of you have heard Stephen Colbert has been talking about the olympics, in specific, the dressage olympic qualifiers. If you haven’t seen the video you can see it here. In this clip Colbert shares his sarcastic love for Rafalca, an olympic dressage hopeful who is owned, unfortunately, by Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney. My point is not that Ann Romney is bad, but that she is not the best ambassador for dressage. Colbert announced that dressage would be his “sport of the summer”. Although he outwardly encourages people to enjoy dressage he wags a subtle finger at the Romneys and subtly suggests that dressage is an elitist sport.

Although many have been cheering for this show of support for our beloved sport in the prime time media, one blogger calls our attention to the fact that we should “be careful what we wish for“. It her blog, The London Eye, Jennifer O. Bryant tells us that Colbert may be painting our lovely sport as elitist and that it is a sport for the rich. Although she admits that the rare spotlighting of dressage in the prime time is never bad, she reminds us to be casus  of our  initial enthusiasm as we may be lured in to a false hope.

Although Colbert is poking fun at dressage, I truly believe in the age-old saying Any publicity is good publicity, or at least when it comes to a sport that is as little known in America as dressage is. My fellow dressage queens, we cannot be picky when it comes to endorsements from the mainstream media. We are lucky to get any at all, let alone one from the king of comedic news, Stephen Colbert. I believe we should spend less time thinking about all the ways Colbert will ruin our sport and think of how many new people will see the video he played of Rafalca piaffe and fall in love with dressage. Now is our chance to say to our friends: “I do that thing with horses that Stephen Colbert said was his sport of the summer!” or something to that nature.