You would think that Courtney King-Dye would be happy to say good-bye to 2008, but it’s just not the way she reflects on her life. The rapidly rising American dressage star had the highest of highs, competing in her first Olympic Games for the USA, and the lowest of lows having her mount Mythilus test positive for a substance which remains a mystery to this day of how it could have happened.
In spite of the fact that the strict guidelines of the FEI made it necessary to disqualify the team from their fourth place standings at the 2008 Games, King-Dye still considers the Olympics to have been her greatest equestrian experience.
"It was a lifelong dream, a time of great ups, and great downs, and frustration." Courtney told DressageDaily. "I had so many supporters who were there before and still there after disaster struck. And the support of everyone else helped me through it. It was a very humbling experience for me. I will be forever grateful for everyone who stood behind us."
Courtney King-Dye has spent most of her young life in the dressage saddle, and was destined for a career in high performance dressage. As a protégé of dressage pied piper Lendon Gray, Courtney learned the ropes and then went off to Europe to compete and train with Conrad Schumacher returning in 2001. "I wanted to give myself a chance to have some fun when I got back from Europe, take a break from the horses for awhile. But when I went back to college at Columbia University I was five years older than most of my classmates, so for the heck of it, I signed up on Match.com!"
That is where Courtney met Jason Dye who had just moved to New York from New Zealand. Dye and King hit it off from the beginning; first in e-mails, then on the phone, then in person. "We had the same sense of humor." recalls Courtney. "We clicked right away, and I thought, well there goes my so called freedom time!" On their second date they flew to Salt Lake City for the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympics and were a couple from that point forward.
Little did either of them think that a few years later they would be together at another Olympic Games, this time with Courtney riding for the USA. Dye, a logistics manager for a freight forwarding company who won the trip to Salt Lake City through his job. He is able to do a lot of his work virtually from his computer, and his employers had no problem with him taking off the time needed to accompany his wife to the Olympics. "The first year of marriage I was away eight months.” recalled Courtney. “So this past year through the trials and in Hong Kong we were able to spend a lot of time together.” King-Dye also had the chance to spend some precious and rare family time over the holidays with her parents and siblings, before returning to Florida where her training barn is now in full swing.
Courtney Says Farewell to Idocus
Another tough time for Courtney was saying good bye to her longtime mount Idocus, who recently relocated to stand at stud, at DG Bar Ranch in California where the DeGroot Family and Willy Arts run one of the top breeding and training facilities for Dutch Horses in America. After Courtney returned from the Olympics she tried to work something out for his life so she could still be a part of it, but it soon became obvious that what was best for the nineteen year-old stallion is to finally give him and his owner Christine McCarthy a chance to focus on his breeding career.
"Christine made a lot of sacrifices throughout his competitive career so that Idocus and I could do all that we did. But he has a job, and he is good at it. He has proven he can produce quality horses, and maybe someday I will have one of his children to carry on!"
"It’s easy to be a rider at this level and to be selfish about having such a great horse.” Courtney added. "It was sad to say goodbye, but I know he is happy, and still in work with a young rider, and this will be a great opportunity for the breed to have him where he belongs. Still I miss him, there was a special bond between us, and I am so lucky to have had him in my life."
Ready for the New Year
With a new year underway Courtney has a full barn of horses in training. She is slowly bringing Mythilus back into work, and also has two PRE Stallions she is excited about; Grandioso and Idolo, owned by Hampton Green Farm. She has some exciting young horses to work with and is always looking for the next Olympic star which is sometimes not so apparant in the beginning.
"In a perfect world to be at this level you need seven or eight hopefuls in your barn at all different levels, to maybe find the next horse that can make it to the Olympics. It takes numbers to find that individual, and also luck and good fortune."
It's challenging to be a competitor at this level because of all that is required. King-Dye has to work hard at her job, and does about 7-10 clinics a year to help finance her career.
She enjoys working with young talent when she can, and finds for now during her competitive years, it 's tough to do it all.
Courtney King-Dye credits the hundreds of supporters who not only helped her get to Hong Kong, but stood behind her when the going got tough, and she knows that is her greatest reward. She also credits Match.com for finding her perfect match in Jason Dye.
Copyright Laurie Virkstis Photography