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US dressage prepares Olympic challenge

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has unveiled its short-list of horse and rider combinations from which it will pick its dressage team to challenge for the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Athens.

The squad is headed by the world’s number two rider Debbie McDonald, who was short-listed on 4 June, ahead of the final selection trials. The 2003 World Cup champion is also America’s leading rider. McDonald and the incredibly talented chestnut mare Brentina, have repeatedly produced tests worthy of the highest scores at international level, although this will be the partnership’s first Olympics.

Olympic dressage veteran Robert Dover (pictured) demonstrated that he has lost none of his hunger to win at the recent selection trials, when he reigned supreme in all four of the competitions with an overall score of 78.478%. Dover has previously represented his country at five Olympic Games and stepped out of retirement last year when he gained the ride on the former top Danish team horse FBW Kennedy.

Guenter Seidel has been short-listed with both of his top rides, Aragon and Nikolaus 7, after taking second and third places overall respectively in the selection trials. Both horses will travel to Europe for the US team’s final preparation, after which a decision will be made on which horse he will ride.

Either Germany-based American Lisa Wilcox or substitute rider Steffen Peter is expected to fill the final spot on the US team. Under the USEF’s selection policy a rider who is based in Europe can be short-listed without attending the selection trials as long as they are producing competition performances at a satisfactory level. These two riders will compete head-to-head in the squad’s European warm-up competitions for the chance to represent their country in Athens.

The final substitute rider named in the short-list is Leslie Morse, who will travel to Europe to train with the US squad and will be available if another horse and rider combination has to be replaced.

US dressage coach Klaus Balkenhol, who is looking forward to the competition, said: “I hope we can maintain our current form for Athens and bring home a good medal. Debbie and Brentina are looking excellent and I hope all the other horse and rider combinations will shine in Athens to make America dressage the talk of the rest of the world.”

The squad leaves for Europe next week where they will compete in Germany at Aachen (13-18 July) and Lingen (5-8 August) before travelling to Athens.

US dressage short-list

  • Debbie McDonald, 49 (Brentina)
  • Robert Dover, 48 (FBW Kennedy)
  • Guenter Seidel, 43 (Aragon or Nikolaus 7)
  • Lisa Wilcox, 37 (Relevant)Substitute combinations
    • Steffen Peters, 39 (Floriano)
    • Leslie Morse, 42 (Kingston)

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