The U.S. team established its intentions today in Greenwich Park by finishing in bronze medal position after the first day’s dressage of the London Olympic Games. Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere put the first marks on the score board in front of a large crowd when they got things underway in ideal weather conditions for the horses. Boyd, who was asked to be pathfinder by Team Leader Mark Phillips, is currently tied for 13th place on 50.7 at the halfway stage and is clearly enjoying his Olympic experience, “I’m thrilled to be here. It’s something you work all your life,” he stated after his test. And he was clearly all business despite quipping that he just tried to remember the test. With no real mistakes it was the kind of start that the U.S. needed get on the board although Boyd admitted to his timing being slightly off at one point. “I could have mailed the flying changes earlier,” he added. So with the dressage behind him Boyd is now focused on the cross country and he was the only rider who felt that the cross country course would be easy if you go slow but conversely, “it would be the most difficult in the world if you try to make the time.”
Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott made their entrance at the end of the second morning group and for a brief moment at the start of the test he looked as if he lifted a bit to the atmosphere, but Karen felt he was where she wanted him to be and they posted a score of 48.2 . Karen commented that the stands are really high and he loves to have a look at stuff but felt that she had it except for the center line but she joked, “I had to go straight both the first and last time”. Technically he offered an accurate test. “The changes were good and the extensions were good. He was a good boy, he has so much power, we changed from the snaffle to the double bridle this morning and I was grateful that we did so I could have a little bit more leverage to keep pushing all the time.”
With just eight months to form an Olympic partnership Karen complimented the work that Mr Medicott’s previous rider Frank Ostholt had done previously. “Frank did a fantastic job. For me it was the perfect blend of the perfect horse. He’s Irish bred and I’ve been riding Irish horses all my life and then to be trained in Germany with the articulate way they teach the horses technique was a fantastic ride and my hats off to Frank bringing the horse to and at Olympic level. We had a nice chat yesterday about the horse and I think he’s really happy for Mr. Medicott.”
Although this is Karen’s fifth Olympic Games, she noted, “ It’s the first time I’ve ridden a horse that’s been to the Olympic Games and so there is an air of confidence about the horse but having said that I had to make him my own ride and it’s been a journey for me and for Mr. Medicott for the last eight months. We felt a real partnership and I’m feeling excited about the cross country. The course is difficult with the terrain but as you can see he’s pretty fit, I’m looking forward to that first hill up. If anyone can make the time, I’ll make the time. For the most part he’s got such an engine that he’s rideable and if he’s giving me a good ride then we’ll be looking to coming quite quick to those jumps and taking one less stride easily,” she added confidently.
The third U.S. rider out today was 23-year-old Tiana Coudray from Ojai, CA making her Olympic debut with the 11-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding Ringwood Magister and she clearly wanted to make a good impression in what is a strong phase for this partnership. It was clear that Tiana was somewhat disappointed to not produce the test she had clearly hoped for which earned 52. 0 to put them in 18th place individually. “Unfortunately it wasn’t really forward enough to get the big marks. We had a few mistakes which are really frustrating. You want come come out here and lay down a perfect test,” she noted. “He doesn’t know he wasn’t good. The judges just didn’t like what they saw,” Tiana added philosophically.
But it’s back out on the cross country course again for Tiana knowing she has a very fit horse to tackle the Greenwich hill. “I don’t have all my plans finalized - I need to go and walk it again the I’ll have a better idea but it’s going to be a test that is a lot of ways different to a traditional four star. We don’t even know until people start going around what’s going to be difficult. Obviously there’s the terrain, it’s twisty a course in places. They’ve given us some galloping room as well and there’s some proper big questions out there interspersed with the rest so it will be very interesting to see how it starts riding,” she added.
It was Australia, despite last minute changes to its team, that holds the gold medal position at this stage on 133.20 penalties followed by Germany on 137.60. Not surprisingly the very established German partnership of Ingrid Klimke and Butts Abraxxas is heading the individual rankings with 39.30 closely followed by her team mate Dirk Schrade and King Artus on 39.80. Britain’s Mary King riding in her sixth Olympic Games is in third place on Imperial Cavalier on 40.9.
Will Coleman will resume the U.S. campaign with Twizzel at 11:20 local time followed by team anchor Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper at 2:38 whose job it will be to maintain the team’s medal position going into cross country on Monday.