U.S. Endurance Team Takes Flight for Gold….A Special WEG Preview from Jennifer Nice
Wellington, FL - August 11, 2006 – The U.S. Endurance Team is ready to change its luck. After coming home empty handed from the last two world endurance championships, the five competitors and horses that have been selected for the 2006 championship could turn the tide for U.S. endurance on the international front.
Representing the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, will be Kathryn Downs of Somerville, Maine, and her 10-year-old Arabian gelding, Pygmalion; Joseph Mattingly of Scales Mound, Illinois, and his 11-year old Arabian gelding, SA Laribou, Stephen Rojek of South Woodstock, Vermont, riding his Arabian 10-year-old gelding LJ Moun Raff (Finch); Christof Schork of Moab Utah, riding his seven-year-old Arabian gelding, Taj Rai Hasan; and Margaret Sleeper, D.V.M., of Frenchtown, New Jersey, riding her 14-year-old Half Arabian gelding, Shyrocco Troilus. Jennifer Niehaus of Cloverdale, California, and Moms Cheyenne, a 14-year-old Arabian gelding owned by Ruth Waltenspiel of Healdsburg, California, are the alternates.
The team was named on July 21 following a strict and grueling selection process that began two years ago. The home stretch of this process required riders to compete in one of three CEI*** 100-mile endurance rides in May and June this year, after which the top 12 contenders were selected. Those competitors then participated in a 50-mile training competition and a series of soundness evaluations.
Horses and riders finally departed on August 3 for Germany. They will be housed at a private farm outside Aachen, where they will prepare for the championship on August 21.
“Our focus will be to keep the horses happy and sound up until the race,” said Chef d’Equipe Valerie Kanavy of Fort Valley, Virginia. Kanavy is a two-time world endurance champion who won the United States’ last individual gold medal at the 1998 World Endurance Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The U.S. won team silver at the event, but has won nothing since then after dominating world championships since 1988.
Kanavy pre-rode the Aachen course when she competed in the German Endurance Championship last year. “The [160 kilometers] course is not mountainous, but it’s certainly not flat,” said Kanavy. “It’s very concussive. That will be the team’s biggest challenge. However, I think they will be able to perform well on this course.”
Schork, 53, a native of Germany but now a U.S. citizen, has earned more than 99 wins in his 20-year endurance career. He said that being named to the team validates his belief that perseverance, dedication, hard work and teamwork leads to great accomplishments. “Making this team has personal sentiment, as the past years have been filled with long roads and obstacles that have finally converged to this point. Also, being able to compete in my home country carries great meaning for me on many levels.”
Sleeper is hoping for a change in her personal luck this time around. She and Shyrocco Troilus were members of the U.S. team that competed in Dubai in 2004, but her horse developed a foot abscess the day before the race and was unable to compete.