The U.S. Eventing Team concluded their final outing on Friday, July 2, before their departure to Europe in preparation for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a morning of show jumping at Great Meadow International in The Plains, Va. Athletes and horses contested the Chris Barnard-designed course which featured a technical and well-built track.
“To have an event like this for our horses is amazing, and it’s been at the highest level, and this is more than we expected. It’s incredible to have an event like this for just 12 horses. With the atmosphere we have here actually created more pressure,” said Duvander. “Coming here, it wasn’t just an easy go. There was a step up for cross-country yesterday, so thank you to everyone for their efforts. With the team, there’s a very simple recipe, and it’s to surround yourself with a great group of people.”
Phillip Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., is heading to his seventh Olympic Games this summer and commented on the preparation and the importance of the outing for the team’s overall readiness to head overseas before the Games and the opportunity to represent the United States at a championship of this caliber once again.
“It’s been a great couple of days here at Great Meadow,” he said. “It’s been humbling watching all the riders here. Unfortunately, only three get to ride and represent the country, but any one of these riders you’d be proud to be on a team with,” said Dutton. “We feel very lucky to be part of this and the trip and what’s ahead of us. I don’t think any of us are taking for granted the enormity of what’s ahead in Tokyo, and the competition’s going to be very stiff with the new format of three on a team.”
Peter Wylde, the U.S. Eventing Team Show Jumping Advisor, has been instrumental in the progress of team combinations over the past several weeks and has been working with the program since the beginning of the year. His influence and individualized approach with each combination has paid off in their performances in the ring.
“I do think the great thing that Peter brings to the table is that he has a broad base of experience with a variety of different horses,” commented Doug Payne, of Aiken, S.C., the team’s traveling reserve. “Each preparation he brings to the different horses is completely separate and individual. I think he’s got a great feel for it, and it’s been a huge help.”
Boyd Martin, of Cochranville, Pa., who is heading to his third Olympic Games representing the U.S. Eventing Team, echoed Payne’s comments and commended the efforts and dedication of Wylde. “It’s hard to get the highest caliber people devoted to you, and I think Peter Wylde is one of the best riders and trainers in the world, and for him to help out this team is a huge sacrifice for him,” said Martin. “I feel like he’s enjoyed himself. I had him out cross-country schooling the other day. I was a bit nervous when I first met him because I looked up to him and idolized him when I was a younger rider. I was a bit intimidated, but when you get to know him, he’s actually a really nice guy, too.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp, of Lexington, Ky., who is heading to Tokyo for her first Olympic appearance also attested to Wylde’s ability to bring the best out of each combination, specifically tailoring his training to the needs of each individual horse.
“I think he has such a quiet way and a nice way with the horses, and it’s given me a lot of confidence,” she said. “I relax more into my own riding riding with someone who has that much knowledge. He’s really put effort into each horse and finding the best out of each horse.”
The four team combinations and two traveling alternates headed to Aachen, Germany the following week for their pre-export quarantine, before heading to Tokyo in late July for the Olympic Games, where the U.S. Eventing Team will begin competition on July 30.
U.S. Equestrian extends its sincerest gratitude to the sponsors of the U.S. Eventing Team Mandatory Outing, including Attwood Arena Footing, who readied and serviced the main arena at Great Meadow International for the event, Ocala Horse Properties, who provided athlete and groom meals throughout the week, as well as Taylor Harris Insurance for their support of the Welcome Reception, and GumBits, Land Rover, Platinum Performance, and Pulse Vet Shock Wave for their ongoing support.
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The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOPC, and USEF sponsors and members.