In this series, the Chronicle follows seven riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in London 2012.
After being named No. 2 on the U.S. Equestrian Federation long list for the London Olympic Games in March at the conclusion of the USEF Olympic trials, Margie Engle and Indigo traveled to the Netherlands for the FEI World Cup Final, where they finished in a tie for 20th. After returning stateside, they competed in two of the required observation events for Olympic long list candidates, at Kentucky Spring, May 11 and 13, and at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.), May 31 and June 2. They placed second in the $50,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic and the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon.
Unfortunately, that was a mistake that I even went [to the World Cup] because I wasn’t even supposed to be riding or showing for a month. [Indigo] had already left, but I was still here riding another young horse at home and got knocked in the face. I had a severe concussion, multiple facial fractures; I had a black eye, a smashed-in face.
I wouldn’t have shown, but Indigo was already in Holland, so I felt obligated. But I wasn’t in good shape. The flight over there really messed me up too. I did go back to the doctors when I got back from World Cup. I got the second CAT scan and MRI that they wanted. It was severe. The MRIs and CAT scans didn’t look great.
I was very happy with Indigo at both observation events. He was really good. He was one of only two clean [in the Hagyard Lexington Classic] in Kentucky and jumped really well, to finish second [when Engle chose to skip the jump-off and concede the win to Beezie Madden in order to save her horse]. [During the $75,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix, when we had 12 faults] it was raining, and I just got a little off to the water—got a little bit frazzled with the rain and everything, so I ended up over riding the water and too deep to the in-and-out, but still he was going fine. I wasn’t up to par myself.
Both of us were finally in one piece at the same time at Devon. In [the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon], he jumped double clear, and he got really, really unlucky in the [$50,000 Idle Dice Stakes]. He actually rode even better than he did in the first class. Saturday night he rode beautifully. He jumped around rub-free, but the second-to-last double, it’s just like he kind of saw the out of the double, and he started to slow up a little bit on top—but barely. In the video you can’t even see him touch it. It just rolled out. Just very unlucky. I thought he really couldn’t have jumped any better. I was really happy with him there. We placed fifth with just 4 faults.
Through it all I think he’s been fantastic. He really couldn’t have been more consistent. I think right now in the standings, he’s leading for all the horses that have done the trials and already completed two observations events; he has the least amount of faults for all the horses who have done that. I think he’s got the least overall faults for that and the least overall points-per-round average.
I’ve been briefly in touch with [Chef d’Equipe George Morris], but I couldn’t get much. I checked in to see how he was feeling about Indigo and if was there anything more he wanted to see. I tried to find out what they wanted me to do, but he really didn’t say much.
[In choosing the final team for the Olympics, the selectors, in consultation with the chef d’equipe and team veterinarian, will consider the performances of long-listed horses and riders at the selection trials and the observation events. Their evaluation criteria include the ability to meet the standards of the event and compete without jumping and/or time penalties, overall performance and soundness, previous international experience, prospect to win an individual medal or contribute to a team medal, and other attributes such as carefulness, scope, consistency and ability to perform.]
With the choice of riders being subjective, I don’t know if I’m one of the ones who are very high on the subjectivity part. I’m just hoping that they deal [in choosing the team] as much objectively as they can. If not, it’s just going to make a mockery of our whole trial system. I just hope they do things fairly.
It’s been a rough road between my injuries and with the abscess Indigo had earlier this year. But he’s proven that he’s got a lot of heart. He dug down even when he had the abscess before the trials. He’s proven that he’s a top horse. Health wise, now he’s doing great. The abscess is all the way through, the bruised heel is fine. I told [Morris] they could talk to Dr. Tim Ober who has been taking care of Indigo all the way through—but it’s not like it was a soft tissue injury. So, he’s in good shape—and I’m getting there. Most of the dizziness and blurry vision is almost gone.
My horses went to HITS-on-the-Hudson (N.Y.), where Royce won the $100,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix. The horses then have two weeks off before heading to Lake Placid (N.Y.).
I feel like I’ve done as much as I can do. Indigo has proven over and over. You know, last year he was leading horse in the Rolex FEI World Cup standings. He’s been clean in every big venue. He was clean in both the Nations Cup and grand prix in La Baule (France). And same thing in Rome. If you go on past histories, hopefully that will help him to some degree. For sure, if they go on the trials, he should hopefully be there. But unfortunately, I just don’t know.
So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed between now and then.
Fast Facts About Margie Engle
Hometown: Gladewinds Farm, Wellington, Fla.
Horse: Indigo, 12-year-old, gray Dutch Warmblood gelding (Indoctro—AEA Dutch Lorel), owned by Gladewinds Farm, Hidden Creek Farm, Bob and Shay Griese and Selma Garber
Her U.S. Team Experience: 1999 Pan American Games (Canada)—team silver; 2000 Olympic Games (Australia)—10th place individually; 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany)—team silver
Top Finishes In 2012:
2nd place: USEF selection trials for Olympic show jumping team
Tie for 1st place: $100,000 USEF National Show Jumping Championships (Fla.)
1st place: $125,000 Spy Coast Farm CSI***-W (Fla.)
2nd place: $50,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic (Ky.)
2nd place: $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon (Pa.)