Team USA World Equestrian Games Hopefuls Prepare for the Final Stretch Before World Equestrian Games

Written by Sue Weakley - In Dressage - Saturday, August 23, 2014

The 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games’ opening ceremony is just a few weeks away and the finalists for Team USA are working hard toward a successful showing in Caen, France. We caught up with the riders based in Retie, Belgium, at Rob van Puijenbroek’s Stoeterij de Begijnhoeve: Laura Graves, Tina Konyot, Adrienne Lyle, Steffen Peters and Caroline Roffman. There are a host of other riders, some riding at Hickstead this weekend, and others preparing for the Verden competition for Young Horses and FEI horses.

Graves and Verdades, her own 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Florett As x Liwilarda), said that Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover has allowed the riders the freedom to prepare their horses how they feel is best. Some of the athletes will compete in the International Dressage Championships in Verden, Germany, Aug. 6-10, but Graves and her gelding, also known as Diddy, will remain in Belgium.

Graves said the riders and grooms stay in private apartments while in Belgium and that the accommodations for the horses are top-notch with oversized stalls, excellent indoor and outdoor arenas, a hot walker, solarium, generous turnouts and a friendly staff.

“We are definitely being spoiled!” she said.

She and Diddy will work on cavaletti and interval training to prepare for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) later this month.

“Our main focus will be in the arena, polishing our freestyle,” she explained. “We need to spend the time to get as comfortable with our choreography as we are in the Grand Prix and Special.”

She said that her gelding is goofy and outgoing in the stable, but all business under tack. “He takes his work very seriously and does not like to make mistakes,” she added. “He really enjoys going to competitions now. He likes to see the other horses and to have the extra attention. He is a very humble guy who has absolutely no idea how great he is. His lack of ego is one of the things that makes him so fun to ride.”

Fellow teammate Lyle said she gave Wizard, a 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Weltmeyer x Pika) owned by Peggy Thomas, some down time after the mid-July CHIO in Aachen, Germany, and the pair also enjoyed some trail riding to wind down after the competition.

“After several days of rest, he was refreshed and ready to go,” the 2012 London Olympic Games athlete said. “We had a great showing at Aachen, finishing in the top 10 in the freestyle. Now I just want to keep Wizard physically and mentally fresh, fit, and happy.”

Lyle said she is improving Wizard’s fitness level with cross training and schooling in the arena several days a week. She is keeping her self physically fit with cardio work and weight training at a Belgium gym.

She said that training in Europe has been an invaluable learning experience for her.

“At Aachen, we had the incredible opportunity to compete against, watch and learn from the best horses and riders in the world,” she explained. “I’m trying to keep in my mind what those horses look like. Their scope and power is what you need on the international stage today.”

She believes Wizard, on whom she’s had the ride for eight years, has grown from the experience as well.

“He used to be quite hot headed and a bit wild in the ring, but I have to say that he has really grown up and is becoming much more settled and reliable,” she said. “He handled the packed stadium and electric atmosphere at Aachen incredibly well. I think he now enjoys the crowds, and likes to show off, especially when the music starts for our freestyle.”

The pair will compete in Verden to gain some more European show experience.

Roffman said she and Her Highness O, her own 11-year-old Hanoverian mare (Hohenstein x Wild Lady O), landed in Europe and hit the ground running.

“We have been to Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland and back again,” she said.

She the mare, whom she calls Hannah, will also compete in Verden, their final show before WEG.

“Because my horse is on the greener side, she is still developing and it is important to me to prioritize her confidence level and keep her content in the work,” Roffman said.

She is preparing the horse by strengthening the canter work and scope within the movements, and is preparing herself by working out at the local fitness center with time focused on the treadmill and core exercises.

Roffman said that Her Highness O definitely lives up to her name.

“She is convinced she is royalty and expects the royal treatment,” she said. “At Aachen, Hannah proved to be a strong competitor in the Grand Prix and put in a very solid and steady effort. Unfortunately, the atmosphere on Saturday for the Special caused Hannah to become tense and this caused mistakes. The special is normally a better test for her and so I was disappointed that we weren’t able to show that.”

Roffman added that she is proud of her horse and how far she has come.

Dover is pleased with the progress of the athletes.
“All of our athletes are continuing to work very hard toward making the strongest possible presentation in Caen at the end of the month,” he said. “As the Federation has yet to name the complete U.S. Team, everyone must remain dedicated and focused. For that reason, many of our combinations will be competing either in Hickstead, Verden or a local CDN in Belgium. All of our riders and horses are showing huge progress and I am proud of them all and encouraged by their efforts.”

All Photos taken by Laura Graves