Riders Praise Great Meadow as Ideal Final Outing Before WEG

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.
Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Team USA had nothing but good things to say about the WEG Prep Trials in the press conference following cross country at Great Meadow, and Kim Severson went so far as to declare this the best final outing the team has ever had. “If I was still a selector, I’d be very pleased with today,” Kim said, which is high praise coming from a rider who has represented the U.S. at numerous championships.

Phillip Dutton, who brought home the win with Bruce Duchossois’ Mighty Nice, agreed with Kim, noting that the rainfall in The Plains, Va., last night made the footing even better, and it proved to be the ideal location for the horses to have a proper gallop — “We couldn’t have hoped for a better weekend,” he said.

In addition to having great footing for cross country, Coach David O’Connor said he chose Great Meadow as a final outing venue because it has an arena that can create the type of atmosphere the horses will experience in Normandy — as evidenced by the nearly 900 people who attended yesterday morning to form an enthusiastic crowd for dressage.

“It produced an atmosphere that was very beneficial for us and for the horses because we don’t get to practice in that environment,” David said. Indeed, aside from Rolex, these horses and riders have likely never experienced such an electric atmosphere at another venue in the States, as more than 5,000 people watched show jumping last night.

David’s track rode beautifully this morning, with all 14 horses and riders jumping clear. He said in the press conference that he designed the track as a preparation for Normandy, as opposed to a test. He was able able to use elements that mirror WEG course designer Pierre Michelet’s style, such as combinations set on a half circle, three-stride related distances and mounds.

“We really do feel like (WEG) will be a cross-country dominant competition, which we’re really excited about because we have fantastic cross-country horses and riders,” David said. “That was part of the idea in the selection … these horses and riders have a real ability to answer any type of question someone is going to put in front of them.”

Rob Banner, president of the Great Meadow Foundation, also spoke at the press conference to unveil exciting plans for Great Meadow’s future — think hosting a three-star next year and ultimately hosting an FEI Nations Cup leg for eventing. We’ll have much more on that later this week, but for now, it’s clear Great Meadow is going to be a very exciting venue for the future of eventing in the U.S.

For a taste of just how pumped up everyone is after a great weekend, watch the video of the awards ceremony below. Team USA needed a weekend like this to show boost morale and show the riders we believe they can go to France and come home with a medal. Team spirit has never been stronger, and we’re less than a month away from go time. Get excited, EN. Go Eventing.