WEG Dream Dashed, Steiner and Rainier Look Toward 2004 Olympics, and a Different Summer Plan

So confident was Betsy Steiner of Rainier's ability to make the US Equestrian Team for the World Equestrian Games in Jerez that she made no other plans for the upcoming summer except to go to Europe to train and show in preparation for Spain. Steiner never envisioned how the trials would end - after placing 4th in the Grand Prix and 5th in the Special during the first weekend, and 6th in the Grand Prix on the second weekend, Rainier was withdrawn from the final day's competition and the WEG dream was over.

During the Grand Prix competition on Saturday, June 8, Rainier sustained a minor injury to the suspensory. Upon examination after his test, veterinarians assured Steiner that there were no tears to the fibers in Rainier's leg since the injury had been detected early, and that rest would be the healer, starting immediately; there would be no Freestyle on Sunday. Robert Dover, who rode Rainier in the Sydney Olympics and has stabled the horse at his barns in Florida and New York while acting as Steiner's coach, made the call to owner Jane Clark to break the news. Steiner spoke with her later that day.

Rainier is currently at a clinic in Connecticut near Clark's home. He is under the care of three veterinarians who will determine if he is comfortable throughout his entire body and whether or not he needs treatment in addition to rest. Steiner lives two hours away, but plans to visit Rainier.

Steiner and Rainier came into the Trials in a strong position - they qualified in fourth place with an average score of 70.524%, and their scores in the first three competitions proved they were certain to make the top six who would continue on to Europe. It's a hard knock to come from such a strong position of success with an attainable dream in place, only to have it be snatched away in a footfall. How is Steiner handling this blow and what are her plans now?

"This one's been real tough," said Steiner who has had other disappointments at Gladstone with her horses Unanimous and Giotto who also sustained injuries while there to compete. "Everything seemed to be so right. It's just really, really sad. I had truly hoped that all would work well, we could go to Europe and ultimately be members of the team for the WEG. Rainier is such a perfect horse for me. I thought this is really our time together - and there will certainly be other times - but it was sad. I was really hoping everything would go right."

Steiner said that the two weeks at Gladstone were tough on all the horses, and the strain was a topic the riders and Dressage Team Coach Klaus Balkenhol addressed. But though there was a great deal of pressure and tension involved, Steiner said those factors probably had no bearing on Rainier's injury. "It just wasn't meant to be for us this time. "Right now Rainier just needs some rest, which of course he'll get as much rest as he needs. Jane Clark, his owner, cares so much about him and will provide whatever he needs. The fortunate thing is that he's young and strong and an extremely willing athlete. He doesn't need to be pushed now, so after some rest and time to heal, he'll be able to go back and pursue his career."

There is a rule in the WEG Selection Procedures that states that if for a medical reason a horse cannot compete in one of the trials then the officials can take that into consideration and allow the horse to still be considered for the team. However, Steiner said she does not anticipate this being a possibility for Rainier. "The top three horses for the team are chosen," she said. "Christine [Traurig] and Lisa Wilcox will have to compete for the fourth place. The team is pretty firmly in place."

Steiner, who had been training on Long Island with Rainier at Dover's barn is at home in New Jersey where she and her daughter Jessie Steiner operate a training facility at Spring Fever Farm. "I'm going to take a couple of weeks off and re-evaluate and see what I want to do," said Steiner. "While Rainier's got a little down time, I'm going to take a little down time and reassess some things. Jessie's got our barn in very good control."

Steiner said that none of her clients had expected her to be there this summer, so they have already worked out their own summer training and show schedules with Jessie. "They've all been really, really generous and said, 'Relax a little bit, take some time to think about what you want to do and go from there.' Until Rainier is back in work, I thought I'd spend some time traveling and giving clinics."

Steiner will also have time to concentrate on some of her other riding related projects including pilates. She and her pilates instructor Dr. Susan Habanova, a chiropractor as well as pilates instructor, are in the process of opening a studio in Wellington, Florida, focusing on equestrians. "We're also going to give a clinic at Gladstone in late October and we're giving a lecture at the USDF Symposium in December. I thought I'd look into the idea of incorporating pilates at some of the regular clinics I give.

"I have a book coming out published by Trafalgar Square. Susan helped with all the pilates. It's a book on riding and training for horses and riders. It has to do with gymnastic training for horses and for riders and the mind-body-spirit for both. I would like to move more into the area of giving clinics, ones that are more in-depth than just the riding alone. I would love to see more clinics include sports psychology as well. I think you can learn all of the physical things and do the training aspects but then who are you? How do you handle your emotions and spirituality? What do you bring to that entire wholeness?"

Steiner has a full summer schedule ahead of her, and though not competing at the WEG is a disappointment, she remains optimistic and still has her sights set on the 2004 Olympic Games.

"When things like this happen, to have an owner like Jane Clark who is understanding is most important," said Steiner. "She's a horsewoman, and she knows and understands what can happen and her first concern is - let's be sure he's okay and let's do everything we can for him. In my heart, I adore that horse, and to have an owner that understands that the horse is the most important thing, is important to me. No matter how disappointing it is, we're in this for the horses. They need to be cared for and that's what it's all about. You have great hopes and aspirations and you try your hardest but sometimes, it's not meant to be. So you have to go back to the drawing board and take care of the horse, and then make plans from there. Taking every single step to be sure he's fine, that is first and foremost."

Mary Hilton for DressageDaily.com