By Jackie McFarland
On Monday July 7th, four months after announcing the short list, the USEF Ad Hoc Committee on Selection will name the US Olympic Equestrian Team for Show Jumping. With only Aachen remaining for the short-listed ‘A’ Team, the pressure is on.
What Has Happened to Date:
On March 10, 2008 the USEF Ad Hoc Committee for selection chose six horse and rider combinations based on their performance in the Selection Trials and four other pairs were given a bye.
The six top performers included Laura Kraut, Nicole Shahanian-Simpson, Anne Kursinski on two horses, Charlie Jayne and Kate Levy.
Two top riders, McLain Ward on Sapphire and Beezie Madden on Authentic, were given byes before the trials began – meaning they were automatically chosen to be on the short list and did not have to compete in the trials. After two trials Jeffrey Welles and Armani were also given a bye. Will Simpson and El Campeon’s Carlsson Vom Dach were awarded the final bye after solid performances in all the trials with the exception of the last, where the horse was unable to compete.
These top ten were divided into two groups of five to participate on two European Tours before selecting the final team to represent the United States in Hong Kong this August.
Ad Hoc Selection Committee:
Candice King (alternate selector)
Michael Endicott, who’s been on this committee since its inception six years ago, explained how they work. George and one selector are present at each event. “The entire committee discusses overall performance; everything from the jog to the jump. Essentially any details that would affect the team,” Mike explained. “It’s purely about performance, how this horse and rider will represent us.”
We had the opportunity to speak to Will when he was home briefly after representing the USEF on a European Tour.
JM: What was the most challenging aspect to the European Tour?
WS: The language barrier was sometimes a challenge. In Germany they changed the order and put 6 horses ahead of me and I didn’t understand until I was already schooled and ready. Had to prepare again once I knew. Some shows run exactly on time, others run late – it seems to depend on the country.
JM: Tell us about Carlsson Vom Dach.
WS: We bought him in April of 2007. He’s 12 years old and at the peak of his career. We knew he was special and it started to show last summer at Spruce. Good at 1.40m, 1.45m and then we did three 1.50m Grand Prix in Europe, returned to Spruce for the Masters and when we came home we started to discuss the best plan. We did the three World Cup qualifiers – Del Mar, Las Vegas and LA National and then we trained on a variety of surfaces at home – grass, sand – we jumped some big courses.
JM: How do you feel about his performance in these high-pressure situations?
WS: We had only competed at 1.50m before heading to Wellington for the trials at 1.60m. He stepped right up. Went in and came out fresh. He came out of the European tour fresh – it’s an unknown whether a horse will go through the trial system and come out like he has. Every time we ask a question of him he has the right answer.
JM: Who helped you prepare for the trials?
WS: Roger, an excellent horseman who’s been grooming for me for 10 years, set jumps. Eva was also my ground person. She was in Europe too. And she’s attending law school.
JM: How was the team experience in Europe?
WS: The team had great camaraderie. I have a great relationship with Anne. Nicki makes a really good teammate. The kids came to Rome and we spent time together as a family.
JM: How does it feel now that the tour is over?
WS: It hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful horse that is really hot. I’m fortunate to even have a chance. I do feel that everything is right: right horse, right time. We are fit and ready.
As we anxiously await the news on July 7th, we wish Will all the best and thank him for his time.