Two-times Australian Olympic team eventing gold medallist Phillip Dutton plans to ride for the USA, his home for the past 15 years.

“There’s been casual talk about it for a while,” said Phillip, who gained permission from the Equestrian Federation of Australia (EFA) to change flags after becoming an American citizen this year.

Phillip, who led the world eventing ranking list in 2005, was the flag-bearer for the Australian team at this year’s World Equestrian Games. He lives in Pennsylvania with his twin girls and American wife, Evie. He called his new affiliation “a logical step”, although he admits it was a difficult decision to make.

The EFA’s Geoff Sinclair said: “While Phillip’s decision is a considerable loss for Australia, we don’t wish to stand in the way of an athlete who has built up a great career in the USA.”

Phillip, 43, has ridden in three Olympics and four World Equestrian Games since making his international debut in 1994.

USA eventing team coach Mark Phillips said: “Having someone of Phillip’s calibre available is only going to increase competition for places on the team — and competition is always healthy. He’ll be in contention for a team place in Hong Kong [for the 2008 Olympics], if he’s got the horse.”

Phillip’s string includes Tru Luck, the United States Equestrian Association’s 2006 Horse of the Year, and The Foreman, runner-up at Burghley in 2005.

He described his decision to ride for America as “a new chapter”. He added: “Australia has been incredibly good to me, but now maybe I can have some success here [in the USA], too.”

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (28 December, ’06)