Lisa Wilcox and Naomi had their last competitive outing before preparing to head to California for the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions. The pair continued their trend of earning scores in the 70s, bolstering Wilcox's belief that a spot on this year's U.S. Olympic Dressage Team is no longer an unrealistic goal.
"I'm really feeling like she would be a really strong team contender. My dream would be the number three rider. I know that's going to be a challenge because there are some good riders there. But when I look at how the mare has progressed and how consistent she has become, I get excited. I feel like that goal is more and more tangible. Things are coming together at the right time," Wilcox said.
At the Gold Coast Dressage Association's May Dressage Show, held over Memorial Day weekend at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, the pair scored a 72.20 in the Grand Prix Special and a 72.708 in the Grand Prix. Wilcox trains with Robert Dover and said he's become as optimistic as she. "Robert is just as thrilled with her," Wilcox said. So was the judge, Fran Dearing, of Texas.
"It was a beautiful ride. I thought the lateral work was so fluid, especially in the half pass. And the extensions were wonderful. I don't know what more you could ask for in the extension. I gave a 9, but perhaps it should have been a 10. The mare just reaches from her shoulder and the extension is so big," Dearing said.
Like other East Coast riders who have made the list of 12 horses and riders qualified to compete in this year's Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions, the Grand Prix portion of which will also serve as the U.S. Olympic Selection Trials, Wilcox is preparing to ship west in early June. There is one more show on the East Coast in which Grand Prix riders could earn a chance for the Olympic Team and that is the Raleigh CDI this weekend. Wilcox is skipping Raleigh. She said as things stand right now, she's at 11 on the list once riders drop their lowest scores.
Once in California, she'll be based at the barn of Guenther Seidel and will get help from him, as well as U.S. Team Coach Klaus Balkenhol, who is scheduled to arrive in California on June 14. Dover will fly out to coach her during the two weekends of the trials with a trip back home in between. "Robert has been unbelievably supportive and is really helping me through this one even though I know he worries about his mom, who is undergoing cancer treatment," Wilcox said.
She said she also owes much to Naomi's owners, Janet Bell and Tom Benson. "I want everyone to know what great owners they are. They told me from day one, when we decided to try for the Olympics, that what ever I needed for the training, etc. they would provide. And they have followed through with 100 percent support," Wilcox said.