LEXINGTON, Ky.--McLain Ward and Contagious, just off winning a team silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics, along with a win in the Grand Prix at Devon and a pair of incredibly impressive wins in two of the toughest classes at Aachen, where Ward was the Leading Rider, seemed like an absolute shoo-in to make the team for the World Championships.
So when US Equestrian announced the five combinations selected to represent the U.S. Jumping Team at the World Jumping Championship in Herning, Denmark, from Aug. 6-15,it was no surprise to see Ward with Contagious on the team.
The team will be led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland and Team Leader Lizzy Chesson.
The other three riders and their horses, listed in alphabetical order, are Lillie Keenan of New York, N.Y., on Argan de Beliard, Brian Moggre of Flower Mound, Texas with Balou du Reventon and Adrienne Sternlicht of Greenwich, Conn., and Cristalline.
The traveling reserve is Jessica Springsteen of Colts Neck, N.J. with RMF Zecilie.
Competition in the World Championship will begin on Wednesday, Aug. 10 with a speed class, and continue through Sunday, Aug. 14.
The Team Final will take place on Friday, Aug. 12, with the top five finishers earning automatic qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The Individual Final will be on Sunday, Aug. 14, to conclude competition in Herning.
THERE ARE a number of questions to be asked when selecting a team," said Ridland who, along with three selectors, Anthony d'Ambrosio, Leslie Howard and Molly Ashe Cawley, was responsible for naming the team that was presented to the USEF for approval.
Ridland said that the first question is, is the rider capable and is the horse capable, another is has the rider and/or the horse had championship experience, and then evaluating their performances.
Keenan on Argan de Beliard was double clear in the Nations Cup in Wellington, in Rome she was clean and 4 faults and in Aachen she was 4 faults and clean.
Moggre on Balou du Reventon jumped five clean rounds at the Aachen show last fall, which had been delayed from its usual dates by Covid, including double clears in the Nations Cup, and then was clean and 4 in the Nations Cup at Knokke, where his 4 faults came from a foot on the tape over the water.
Because of their previous performances, neither Keenan nor Moggre rode their top horse in the Grand Prix at their respective shows, although Moggre did compete in the Grand Prix at Knokke, but on MTM Vivre le Reve, who had 4 faults to place 10th.
Ridland said he had advised Keenan and Moggre to skip the two grand Prix because, "When you've asked all the questions and they've all been answered, you don't want to overuse the horses.You want to keep the horses fresh for the World Championships."
Ridland said that the last spot on the team, between Sternlicht and Springsteen, was a close call.
"Adrienne has championship experience, so that's one box checked," said Ridland. "She and Cristalline are the only combination on this team that were on the defending World Championships team."
Sternlicht was on the gold medal team at the Tryon World Championships in 2018.
"Cristalline is back from an injury and seems fine now," said Ridland. "Adrienne was clean in the World Cup qualifier at Live Oak, she was double clean in the 4 star grand prix in Wellington on March 27, she was clean in the Grand Prix at Devon and was fourth, and in Aachen in the Nations Cup she had a rail and then a rail and a foot in the water."
Springsteen's best horse, Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, suffered a minor injury, and it was decided it would be best to save him for future competitions rather than push him for this championships and maybe cause a worse injury.
"We're always going to do what's best for the horse," said Ridland. "With Zecille, she had 4 faults and 12 faults in the Nations Cup, but then she had just a time fault in the grand prix."
Two of the top riders on the selection list were Kent Farrington and Laura Kraut.
"For Kent, Gazelle is just past her prime," said Ridland. "She can do a grand prix but not three straight days of competitions, and Landon and Orafina are top prospects but they're not quite there yet."
"Laura's top horse, Baloutinue, got hurt, but she still had Confu," said Ridland.
Then Kraut had that bad fall schooling in Knokke on Confu, and although bath are now okay, that counted them out.
Spencer Smith's Quibelle is still too green for a championships, and Bliss Heers and Chloe Reid both had multiple faults in various selection trials.
"I think we have a team that can make waves in Denmark," said Ridland. "But I bet no other team will have as young a team as we will have. Of our five riders, four are in their 20s. We've had teams that young compete in Nations Cups, but we've never had a team this young in a Championships. But all these riders are hungry."