WEG Endurance Team Hopefuls Prepare to Demonstrate their Abilities

With the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) just three months away, the top endurance riders in the U.S. are preparing to demonstrate their abilities in hopes of earning a place on the U.S. Endurance Team. In order to be considered, each rider must compete at one of three FEI***/AERC dual-sanctioned 100-mile rides scheduled for May 20 in Oreana, Idaho, May 27 in Grand Island, Mich., and June 11 in Ashland, Mont. Members of the National Selection Committee will be present at each event to evaluate the competitors' performances.

According to United States Equestrian Federation's (USEF) Director of Endurance Programs Mary Lutz, there are approximately 49 riders scheduled to compete at one of the three observation trials, including members of the current National Training Squad and former World Endurance Champion Valerie Kanavy and former Pan American Endurance Champion Heather Reynolds. Riders who have nominated on more than one horse must compete at one observation ride with each horse.

Chef d' Equipe Tom Johnson of Loomis, California, said the he doesn't expect the nominated horses to be "peaked" for the observation trials, but should still be building up toward the World Equestrian Games.

"I expect the successful riders to ride strong and smart, and to finish within a reasonable distance of the winning horse but not necessarily win," Johnson said. "The top horses will make it look easy by finishing strong and looking good doing it."

Following the final observation trial, the National Team of 12 horse/rider combinations plus six ranked alternates will be selected by the National Selection Committee.

 "Those riders will then attend one of two training events," said Johnson. "Locations of the events will be selected based on their location in order to minimize how far they have to haul. Riders will complete a test ride of 30 to 50 miles."

The final team will be selected based on several factors, which include but are not limited to the horse's fitness and soundness and the rider's ability to ride to instructions.

Johnson added, "The goal of the selection process is to finish strong in Aachen. The observation trials are a step in that direction."

The team of riders selected to represent the United States in the endurance competition at the World Equestrian Games will be named by mid-July and will depart for Aachen, Germany, the first week of August. The 100-mile world endurance championship will be held Aug. 21.

The USEF is the governing body of U.S. endurance competition at the international level. The American Endurance Ride Conference is the National Affiliate of endurance in the U.S. and governs the sport at the national level.


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