2002 WEG Selection Trials at Gladstone Begin.

Blinks and Flim Flam Win First Grand Prix

It looked like the Sydney Olympic Dressage Team lined up for ribbons when Sue Blinks, Guenter Seidel, and Christine Traurig took prizes for first, second and third respectively, and 2000 team horse Rainier earned fourth with Betsy Steiner, in the Grand Prix on Saturday, June 1, 2002, at USET Headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey. The class was the first of four in the USET Dressage Selection Trials for the 2002 World Equestrian Games and counts for 30% of the final score for the 13 riders in contention.

"I'm really pleased. He looks safe and he felt safe. He knows his job and he still likes his job," said Blinks, who won the class on Fritz Kundrun's 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Flim Flam. The pair earned 71.920%. Blinks said that she had been working with Seidel to help her get Flim Flam 'stable'. "There's a certain confidence he has about him," she noted, adding that it comes with experience. "He knows when we're getting ready for something important. He goes with it instead of worrying where it's taking him." Blinks said that though the first two piaffe/passage movements were "not exciting" she felt her whole test was "in rhythm" and that Flim Flam was "stable" and had an "inner forward feeling." She added that she'd have to see the videotape to know if her feelings were correct but that, "He felt fresh overall. I had the feeling he was really with me."

Blinks trained with USET Dressage Coach Klaus Balkenhol this winter in Florida. She has competed in only three shows since last fall - Devon and two in Florida. "This is a horse that needs to be shown sparingly," she said, adding daily work is the key to Flim Flam. "Good management for him is to keep him happy and strong and liking his job."

Seidel Knows What's Needed

Seidel, who qualified for the Selection Trials with two of Dick and Jane Brown's horses, earned 70.44% with Nikolaus 7 for second place, and 65.60% for seventh place with Foltaire. Seidel rode the Browns' Graf George in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Foltaire in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He said that in today's class with Nikolaus, all of the trot work was good and that "everything in canter was relaxed."

He said the first piaffe was "not so good" but the other two were "pretty good" and the last pirouette was not as tight, but throughout the test the horse was relaxed. Seidel has had the ride on the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding for only a year. "The longer I ride him, the better he gets," said Seidel, pointing out that it takes time to learn all the "little things" about a horse. "It's a matter of getting to know him. I'm still in that process." Seidel described Nikolaus as "so exuberant" and "so much horse." He was pleased with the test and the percentage, though he said that for the class, the judging was "a little all over the place." In his second ride, Seidel said Foltaire felt a little tired and had obvious mistakes in the ones and pirouettes, but that his piaffe and passage were "better than he normally does."

Traurig Pleasantly Surprised

Christine Traurig was recently reunited with her Olympic partner, Etienne, who was purchased in July 2001 from former owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert Haas by new owners Dan and Kelly Trierweiler. The 14-year-old Westphalian gelding earned 68.440%, the duo's best score since teaming up again.

But Traurig, who arrived from Germany on Tuesday, was surprised that she placed third. "I didn't come in qualifying very high," she said, pointing out that the pair had only begun training together in September with Jo Hinneman in Germany. Traurig said that Etienne "had it a little bit rough" during the eight months he spent in Europe when he was for sale, and that she is working on "getting his confidence back in the ring" and "getting back to where he can rely on me and me on him." Traurig said the highlight of her test was that there were no mistakes.

"That's really important for my confidence and his," she said, adding that Etienne gets shaken by mistakes and wonders what the consequences will be. After her final salute, she patted him exuberantly during the entire walk out of the arena. She plans to return to Germany following the Trials and continue training with Hinneman.

The Trials continue on Sunday, June 2, with the Grand Prix Special, and resume next weekend (June 8-9) with the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle. For the upcoming Special, Seidel said that the second day is "a little easier" and he did not have any particular strategy planned except to stay tuned up for the second Grand Prix; he said he would warm up less and risk a little more overall in the Special. Traurig said her strategy would be basically the same. "Since the Special is a real hard test, it's strength-consuming" so it is "too late" to work on improving any parts of the test at this point. She will have a short warm-up to keep Etienne fresh. Blinks agreed; in the Special there are "miles of passage to get through."

Mary Hilton for DressageDaily.com