Between now and the Olympics, Liz Fletcher is going to be filling us in on everything we need to know to be an informed spectator. Earlier this week, she gave us the ins-and-outs of Olympic dressage; today, we get the scoop on show jumping.
To follow up with our Dressage 101, I’ll now tackle the Show Jumping 101.
How are medals determined in show-jumping?
Each horse and rider pair has to go through five rounds to determine who will win individual gold. Here’s the breakdown:
In the first round, all riders compete. The best 60 individual riders (including those tied for 60th place) and all team riders that are ranked lower than 60th progress to the second round. The second round is the first ranked team competition round and the second individual qualifier. The best 45 riders in this round (again including those who are tied at 45th) progress to the third (individual) round. The top eight teams, including those tied for 8th, based on the scores from the second round (first team round) only move on to the second team round. The team event medals in the third round (second team round) and is ranked based on the combined scores of round two and round three (first and second team rounds). So now, you’re done with the team events. But there are still individual medals to win. In the third round for individuals, the best 45 riders based on the combined scores of rounds one and two progress to the third round. According to the Olympic website, a maximum of three riders from each country can progress to the fourth round for the individual medal. So if all four of the U.S. riders make it through the 3rd round and are in the top 35, one of them has to sit out. How that is decided, I don’t know.
Now we’re in the fourth round, which is also called the individual final round A. The best 20 riders in round four progress to the fifth round (individual final round B), and their scores are based on round four’s results only. Finally, the individual medals are awarded based on the combined scores of the fourth round and fifth round. If there is a tie at the end of the fifth round, there is a jump off.
Wow, clear as mud. So how did the U.S. pick its team?
In order to be considered for the Olympics, horse and rider pairs had to have competed at two out of four observation events. The events were:
The Del Mar National Horse Show - Del Mar, California May 1-6, 2012
Kentucky Spring Horse Show - Lexington, Kentucky May 8-13, 2012
The Devon Horse Show - Devon, Pennsylvania May 29-June 2, 2012
Spruce Meadows - Calgary, Alberta Canada June 13-17, 2012
After the completion of Spruce Meadows, the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping team was picked by the selectors. The team is:
Rich Fellers and Mollie and Harry Chapman’s Flexible
Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Ranch’s Coral Reef Via Volo
Reed Kessler on her own Cylana
McLain Ward and Grant Road Partners’ Antares F
Reserve: Charlie Jayne and Pony Lane Farm’s Chill RZ
Here’s a profile of each horse-rider combo:
Fellers and Flexible, a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse Stallion, have dominated the horsey news lately, being the first American pair to win the Rolex FEI World Cup in 25 years. They competed in the Netherlands in April, then flew home and won both observation trials in Del Mar, California, in May. Then, in June, they competed at Spruce Meadows and won the USEF Olympic observation events at the Spruce Meadows Continental tournament, the Husky Energy Classic and the CN Performance CSI-W. Intense, right? You’d think that this horse has an army to take care of him, but in a recent interview with Fellers, he told TheHorse.com that, basically, the horse is just a horse. They don’t have a massage therapist, or an acupuncturist, and they see the vet for routine shots and nothing more. As they say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
By the way, if you’ve never seen this horse jump, you’ve got to watch him. Here he is in the Netherlands winning the World Cup:
Making a great comeback is McLain Ward on Antares F, a 12-year-old Baden-Wurttemberg Gelding. Earlier this year, Ward broke his kneecap rendering him unable to ride for five months, and in May he retired his superstar mare Sapphire. Antares F was his ride for the Pan Am games in 2011, but together they still had a lot to prove at the selection trials. But prove they did. Just weeks back in the saddle after his broken knee healed, Ward won the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon and claimed second in the $50,000 Idle Dice Stakes. At Spruce Meadows, Ward and Antares had two four-fault rounds in the observation events, which, in the grand scheme of things, Ward thinks is not that big of a deal. “I think you have to look at: ‘In the toughest situation, what’s a bad day?’” he said during an interview with the Chronicle of the Horse. “And if a bad day is four faults, that’s a good thing. Every horse can win a class, but if their bad day is five down, that’s not great.”
Watch McLain Ward and Antares F at Devon:
Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo, a 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, are second on the list, which is very impressive, considering the horse missed out most of the Florida winter circuit with an injured leg. However, Via competed at the Pan Am Games in 2011 with Madden and came home with a team gold and an individual silver medal. Because Via and Madden were already on the long list, Beezie and her husband John decided to lightly campaign the mare to save her for the selection events and then hopefully the Olympics. At Devon in May, she had two clear rounds but she was Beezie’s third mount and was ineligible for placings. At Spruce Meadows she was second in the Husky Energy Cup, earning the number two spot for the Olympics. The mare is small, only around 15.3 hands, but she’s powerful and quick. Madden also says that “the more she goes in the ring, the better she gets.” Perfect for five rounds of show jumping in the Olympics.
Watch Madden and Via at Aachen in 2010:
Half the age of the next youngest team member, 36-year-old McLain Ward, Reed Kessler just turned 18 in early July. But being young hasn’t stopped her from showing the world what she’s got. Together with mare Cylana, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood, Kessler came on strong. Kessler and Cylana finished second in the $32,000 Hagyard Classic CSI 2* at the Kentucky Spring Classic. And then at Spruce Meadows, she and Cylana had two out of four rounds clear and finished first in the U.S. Selection Trials. She also piloted her other horse, Mika, to a 7th place ranking on the 2012 U.S. Olympics Long List. Even though she may be young, Kessler has been competing internationally since 2009 and is ready for London 2012.
Here is Cylana and Kessler at the WEF:
In reserve is Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ, a 9-year-old Zangersheide stallion. Jayne piloted Chill RZ to an impressive win at Devon in the $50,000 Idle Dice Stakes. Originally, Jayne was ranked 35th on the Olympic long list, but with this performance and the performances at Spruce Meadows, his hard work was rewarded with being named the alternate. Chill RZ had an injury back in March that forced him to miss the earlier observation events which is how he ended up so low on the list. But Jayne proved that his horse has what it takes by going out and jumping clear rounds when they counted most.
Watch Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ win the Idle Dice Stakes:
And now you’re all up to date on the American Show Jumping Team. Again, no medaling predictions, but I sure have high hopes, especially for Flexible, arguably the best show jumper in the world at the moment.
Here is the show jumping schedule:
- Sat Aug 4 – First Qualifier 10:30 am-2:15 pm (local time)
- Sun Aug 5 – Second Qualifier 11:00 am-2:30 pm
- Tuesday Aug. 6 - Third Qualifier + Team Medals 2:00 pm-5:30 pm
- Wed August 8 – Individual Jumping Finals Round A 12:00 pm, Round B 2:45-4:35 pm + Individual Medals
Go here for a complete broadcast schedule of equestrian events.