Courtney King-Dye shares something special with Steffen Peters and Debbie McDonald – all three riders are going into the 2008 Olympic Dressage Selection Trials with two horses. Peters is competing for a spot on the U.S. Dressage Team with Ravel and Lombardi II. McDonald is currently ranked number one with Brentina, but she's also ranked fifth with Felix.
Both Peters and McDonald have represented the U.S. in Olympic competition, but if she makes the team, this will be the first Olympics for King-Dye. She has represented the U.S. in international competition before, as recently as this year's 2008 Dressage World Cup. But she's clearly thrilled to be a serious contender for the Olympic Team. Right now she's ranked third in the country with Idocus and seventh with Harmony's Mythilus.
"I think both of my horses are strong contenders. It just depends on the day and how everyone else is going. Looking at the other riders and horses, we have lots of great horses and riders so it'll be hard to make the team, but whoever makes the team, we're sure to have a strong team," King-Dye said.
Having said that, she's optimistic that both of her horses – Idocus, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Equador out of Eretha and owned by Christine McCarthy, and Harmony's Mythilus, a 13-year-old, Dutch gelding by Ferro owned by Harmony Sporthorses, are up to the task. She admits, however, that she lost a bit of ground with Mythilus when she tried new shoes on him and they made him sore.
"Myth is doing awesome, but when I got home from the World Cup, I made the mistake of changing his shoes. You know that saying, 'If it ain't broke don't fix it?' I really should have listened to that, but I thought if there was something I could do to make him better, why not try it and I had gotten rave reviews on some new shoes," she said. "But he hated them. I never had to take him completely out of work, but it took a couple of weeks to get him back to being comfortable after we took the shoes off."
King-Dye said Mythilus is now moving "fabulously" but the rideability still needs a bit of work leading up to the Selection Trials. "In terms of movement, he's never been better and his quality is really showing. But, he does take over a little bit, so we're working on that," she said.
Idocus on the other hand, is on cloud nine, partly King-Dye said because he thinks he's the World Champion. At the World Cup, the pair finished at the end of the list of those who made the final cut, which meant that they were the first to enter the ring for the awards ceremony. Idocus is used to the American system where the winner is first to enter for the awards.
"He's under the impression that he won because he was the first to go in for the awards. Hence, he's feeling very good about himself because he thinks he's the World Champion," King-Dye joked. "When we come in second and he has to follow someone in, he can be so bad. So at the World Cup, when we went in first, he just lit up and got so happy. The World Cup was fun for him. Even though I screwed up at that show, he felt so good about it."
King-Dye said Idocus is also fitter than he's been in years, partly because she changed his diet. "He's often been a bit heavy, but he loves to eat and I love to make him happy so I feed him a lot. I've cut that out and Purina Mills helped me formulate a special diet. So, I've made a lot of changes to his diet and he's become more fit and dropped about 150 pounds. I think that's made a difference in how well he can work," she said.
In addition, King-Dye and Idocus have now been back together for nearly four years and that, she said, makes a difference. "I think our relationship is more concrete and I can ask him for more. In the beginning, if I put pressure on him, he didn't want to work. Now, he's just really fit and happy and always looking forward to work."
King-Dye arrived in California weeks before the Selection Trials and has been staying at the barn of Steffen and Shannon Peters. In addition to her Olympic hopefuls, she brought along Hampton Green Farm's PRE Stallion, Grandioso and her own horse, Harmony's Wyoming, to keep them in training. When asked what it's like training with someone who's competing against her for a spot on the team, King-Dye said, "Steffen has been incredible. He's been on the team before and wants the strongest team possible and is giving me tremendous help. He takes extra time to help when he's also so busy. I really feel that he wants me to do the best that I can do."