“To be honest, the pressure I was feeling [on June 16 at Spruce Meadows] was a lot more than I’ve ever felt, even at an Olympic Games,” Ward said. “I think with this particular year and situation, I felt like I really didn’t want to let down all the people who have helped me and stood by me. It was a little bit of a stressful day, but the horse is solid, and he’s clear or 4 every time, so I’m excited to go. Everything with me right now is judged off the standard of Sapphire, who was unbelievably consistent, and you don’t find that often. But I think Antares has a great shot; I think he has the energy to go five rounds. I will only be healthier by then.”
Clear Rounds Pay Off
Rounding out the five is the traveling alternate, Charlie Jayne on Chill R Z. Jayne was in a unique position for selection. Chill R Z, who hadn’t even jumped his first grand prix until the winter of 2011, had a laceration just before the selection trials in March and was unable to compete. He and Jayne were placed in a tie for 35th on the long list. Jayne still had Olympic ambitions, however.
He entered Chill R Z, a 9-year-old Zangersheide stallion, in the observation events at Kentucky, Devon and Spruce Meadows, and the bay never had more than 4 faults. In fact, they had no rails in four of those six rounds. They won the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake at Devon with the only round with no rails.
“For me even to be considered, I wanted to do more than two observation events, to show the selectors what my horse is and really give them a chance to see my horse,” Jayne said. “[Chef d’Equipe George Morris] said, ‘Just go out there and jump clear rounds,’ and I think that’s how he proved himself during the observation events. At the end of the day, I think that’s why he was chosen as the fifth.
“Bumping 30 spots all the way up to fifth is really an achievement in itself. It’s an honor,” Jayne said. “Especially since he’s so young. But he does it like he’s been doing it for years. Honestly, we go in the ring, and it feels like I’m doing an equitation round. I feel like that horse has a bright future, and it will be a huge experience for me to go there and support our team. I really think the four best horse-and-rider combinations are going, and I think we have a strong shot at medaling. I’m so excited to be there for it.”
Madden, put into sixth on the list of nominated entries, is the second alternate. USEF will ship the top six horses to the Netherlands in early July to lay over and train at Johan Heins’ facility before the show jumping at the Olympic Games, Aug. 4-8. Until they ship out, the Olympic horses will remain at or near the Spruce Meadows venue.
One name notably missing from the top six on the nominated entry list is that of Margie Engle on Indigo. Engle and the gray tied with Kessler and Cylana for the lead in the USEF selection trials, then competed at Kentucky and Devon observation events. In Kentucky, they had one clean round and one with 12 faults, and at Devon they had rounds of 0 and 4 faults. They were named in ninth on the nominated entry list and aren’t planning to ship to Europe with the team.
Engle was concerned that the balance of objective versus subjective consideration has been tilted. “For sure, I was a little shocked and very disappointed to not be bamed to the team,” she said. Engle emphasized that she gives her full support to the riders selected for the team. “I don’t want to take anything away from anyone named to the team or be at all negative about them. I respect and admire all the horses and riders on the team and I think it's a really strong team. I wish them all the luck,” she said.
Engle is concerned about the balance between objectivity and subjectivity in the selection process and hopes that once the Olympic Games are over, perhaps a discussion could be had about that balance.
The USEF published selection procedure for the London Olympic Games does state that a horse/rider combination that did not compete in the selection trials for reasons other than discretionary selection, but has submitted an application for Olympic consideration, “will not be eliminated from the Selection Process, but will be awarded 20 penalties more than the competitor who has been the most severely penalized during the same round.”
Mario Deslauriers and Cella also missed the selection trials due to injury but competed at Kentucky, Devon and Spruce Meadows observation events. They were named to 13th on the nominated entry list after rounds of 1, 4, 4, 8, 1 and 8 faults over the six rounds.
• 2008 Olympic team gold medalists Cedric and Laura Kraut were given a bye from the selection trials and placed into third on the long list by selectors. They jumped to fourth in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon with a clear first round and 4 faults in the jump-off, then had 12 faults in the first round of the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake. At Kentucky, they had rounds of 1 time fault and 4 faults. The selectors placed them into eighth on the nominated entry list.