In this series, the Chronicle follows seven riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in London in 2012.
After placing third in the first Grand Prix (71.53%), fourth in the first Grand Prix Special (72.04%), third in the second Grand Prix (75.25%) and fourth in the second Grand Prix Special (73.84%) at the U.S. Equestrian Federation Dressage Festival Of Champions National Grand Prix Championship, which also served as the selection trials for the Olympic Games, Jan Ebeling and Rafalca earned third overall with a score of 73.16 percent. That third-placed standing put them fourth on the Fédération Equestre Internationale nominated entry list for the U.S. dressage team behind Steffen Peters on Ravel and Legolas 92 and Tina Konyot on Calecto V. Pending approval from the USEF High Performance Working Group and the USEF Executive Committee, the U.S. Olympic dressage team will be composed of Ebeling on Rafalca, Konyot on Calecto V and Peters on Ravel. Legolas 92 will be Peters’ alternate, and Adrienne Lyle will ride as an individual with Wizard.
It’s a big dream come true to make the team. I’ve had a couple of World Cup experiences, and I rode on the 2003 Pan American Games team in the Dominican Republic, but this is my first Olympics. Let me tell you, it’s amazing. It’s so exciting, and it’s a great honor to be able to represent your country.
We came to New Jersey on June 1, the Friday before the competition started, so we had about a week before to get settled in. [The selection trials were held over two weekends, June 9-10 and 15-16, in Gladstone, N.J.] We’ve done this trip before with Rafalca several times, so we know how many days out we need to be here to give her time to rest and get acclimated. This time wasn’t too bad because the weather was absolutely perfect. It stayed cool. There were two days where it was a little warmer, and it started to get muggy, but it was beautiful overall.
My strongest test [at the selection trials] was the second Grand Prix. I got my highest score of the weekend, and it was also the highest score I’ve ever gotten on Rafalca in the Grand Prix. It was a personal best, and it was a very good test.
Watch the test. Anne Gribbons and Christine Traurig watch from the sideline in the beginning.
I think Rafalca was getting stronger every time we went out. She had been getting stronger every time we went out for the last two years. I think there’s been a steady improvement to her steadiness. She’s very consistent. It’s a very positive thing about her. I think we really peaked at Gladstone, where it counted.
I felt confident going into the competition, even though the field was close together. Several of us were super close together, all within less than a percentage point of each other. I knew everyone was a seasoned rider, and most of us had seasoned horses. I think it could’ve been anyone. But I knew what I had; I knew what my horse could do. I think when you can go into a competition with that level of confidence it really does help. When I compete, I don’t think, “Oh, I have to win this one.” I just think about my riding. There’s not really anything else on my mind besides riding and doing my best ride.
So after the first weekend, when I was placed pretty well, I was getting even more confident without getting overconfident. I knew Todd [Flettrich on Otto] was still really close, and Adrienne [Lyle] was also close. The important thing to remember when you’re in that situation is that the others don’t sleep; they’re working just as hard if not harder. They want to make that team just as much as you do.
I was really thrilled with my scores. I didn’t see many of the other rides. In the first Grand Prix, since I went as the first rider of the day, I got to watch some other tests. But on the other days when I went further back, I think I watched maybe one other one. I don’t pay much attention to how the others are scoring because that’s one sure way to psych yourself out. I didn’t even really know how I had placed the last day.
On the last day, I was sitting in the tack room with Christine [Traurig], who was coaching me, and I said, “You want to go and watch Todd?” She said, “No, I’m not going. I can’t watch.” I said, “I’m done. There’s nothing I can do now. I’m going to go watch.”
He had a few mistakes and got some low scores, but then he came up, and I thought, “Oh, he can still do it.” Then I watched Adrienne’s ride, and her ride was very good. In the end, it wasn’t enough to put me out of my third place, but there certainly were a couple of tense moments!
Maybe it wasn’t close between the first two and the rest of us, but between the next couple of spots it really was a tight race. It was very gripping and suspenseful.
A Great Group
If you look at the list of our scores throughout the show season, everyone was very consistent and then we each had one show where it didn’t really happen. I was so thrilled for Adrienne to make the team. She’s worked really hard.