For those of us who are headed to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy this last week is the final stepping stone. While media and spectators are packing their bags, riders and horses competing in the first week are prepping for their journey to France. On Sunday, August 10th, the Endurance and Para-Dressage riders were sharing quarters at the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, NJ. It offered an opportunity to capture some pictures while the riders excitedly talked about the trip ahead.
This day was a pivotal one for the Endurance riders as the final team and individuals were named following the jog. However, nothing changed from the order that was previously announced in a short list. On August 11th a press release was sent out making a formal announcement of the horses and riders which is as follows:
Ellen Olson (La Motte, IA) and Farzad Faryadi's Hot Desert Knight Arabian gelding (2000). Her husband Jeremy was named as an alternate and will be bringing Amy Wallace-Whelan's Half-Arabian gelding Wallace Hill Shade (2002).
Jeremy and Heather Reynolds (Dunnellon, FL) have both been named to the team on their own Arabian geldings. Jeremy will be riding RR Gold Dust Rising (2006) and Heather will be riding Chanses (2005).
Kelsey Russell (Williston, FL) will be riding Valerie Kanavy's Anglo Arab mare My Wild Irish Gold (2003). Valerie (Fort Valley, VA) was named as an alternate rider with her own Arabian gelding Just Gold (2005).
Dr. Margaret (Meg) Sleeper (Frenchtown, NJ) will be riding her own Arabian mare Syrocco Reveille (2000).
Also named as the alternates to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games U.S. Endurance Team are:
Lisanne Dorion (Williston, FL.) with her Arabian gelding SH Sur Trad (2004).
Melody Blittersdorf (Jeffersonville, VT.) with her Arabian gelding Synthetic (2000).
The Chef d’Equipe of the Endurance Team is Emmett Ross, who was there to watch the horses get settled in before heading off to the airport to catch a plane to France.
Jeremy Reynolds and RR Gold Dust Rising
While this was a time for the riders to focus on what lay ahead a few of the riders shared some of their thoughts about this upcoming international event.
Jeremy Reynolds is originally from California and will be competing with his wife Heather, who recently achieved the honor of winning one of the most prestigious Endurance events, the Tevis Cup. Because of that she was running late to meet up with her teammates and was not available when the camera was clicking away, but certainly for good reason.
“I have a background of fox hunting and jumping and started with horse guiding trail rides in the Sierra Nevada mountains,” commented Jeremy, who is also a farrier. “My wife and I run Reynolds Racing, an Endurance training barn in Florida (ReynoldsRacing.us).
Jeremy’s horse, Gold Dust Rising is an 8-year-old, 15.3 hand, chestnut gelding and just happens to be the only color horse other than bay on the team. “We call him dust because that's what people usually see of him as we are pulling away. He is a dream to ride and loves what he does. I got him from a dispersal sale from a women who embezzled millions and is now in jail,” Jeremy remarked with a chuckle.
This is the third time Jeremy has been short listed and the second time he will compete in this major competition that happens every four years.
When asked what this opportunity means to him, Jeremy was quick to respond, “I love the USA and am so proud to represent the greatest country in the world.”
Yet, he was also quick to give his wife high marks as well noting, “I have the greatest best friend and wife and I am so fortunate to get to compete alongside her. We have so much fun racing our horses together and traveling the world on our awesome horse partners.”
And Heather wasn’t the only one getting those high marks. “My wife's family are the greatest in laws in the world and they always bring excitement and great positive energy to the team (Holly Jonsson and Jean, Howie and Jonathan Spinner).”
And not missing a beat Jeremy applauded their crew adding, “And then, of course, we have our other crew members that we couldn't do this without.”
The crew boss and master is Skip Lightfoot who also co-owns the horses with them. “He is a logistics master and is tireless. Nicki and Andrew Thorne round up our crew and are the best Brits I have ever met. They are extremely giving and always keep the mood light with laughter,” he concluded.
Kelsey Russell and My Wild Irish Gold
Kelsey also took some time to chat about what lay ahead. It’s five years now since she started doing Endurance.
“I have competed in two young rider World Championships where I placed fifth in both. Last July My Wild Irish Gold and I came in fifth in the young rider in Tarbes France. Irish and I won the 2011 North American Junior Young Rider Endurance Championship which was a 120 km race. This is my first time competing on the adult team, and I am the youngest to make the adult team,” she commented.
My Wild Irish Gold (aka Irish) is a 10-year-old bay Anglo-Arabian Mare. This will be her third time going to a World Championship.
“She is a smart girl who is very cautious about the trail,” Kelsey explained. “She has a lot of go but does not waste her energy. We have competed together for 725 miles, so we know each other and have a special connection. She is my favorite horse by far.”
Kelsey is trained by Valerie Kanavy who Kelsey calls “an inspiration and a great teacher and friend.”
Like Jeremy, Kesley is proud to represent her country. “For me riding in the Alltech World Equestrian Games is a great opportunity to represent our country. During events like the WEG we take our individual team sport and come together to put all of that aside and participate as Team USA and compete together to accomplish our TEAM goal of bringing home a Medal!”
Kelsey is supported by her mother as well as other family and close friends who she is thankful to. “They support me in everything I do. Valerie and Larry Kanavy are most directly involved and words cannot thank them enough. They are a huge support and make this opportunity possible. All of my crew (Mustafa, Scott, Natasha), and all of Team USA crew make this possible, with their support and help we will bring home the medal. Thank you to all of our crew from the US and to our crew outside of our States that are such a great support,” she concluded.
A Bit about the Competition
The Endurance will take place on August 28th and start in the town of Sartilly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bay of Mont Saint Michel will provide the backdrop for this 100 mile (160 km) race, which will be done in a series of six loops. At each loop horses will rest for about 40 to 50 minutes and during that time be checked by a vet to ensure they are fit to continue.
Click here to learn more about the Endurance discipline at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France