Who Will Make the U.S. Team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

With the final U.S. selection trial at Luhmühlen now behind us, the countdown is officially on for the USEF Eventing Selection Committee to name the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon.

The U.S. team will be made up of five total combinations, with four ultimately named as team combinations alongside one individual combination. The long list, which we expect to be released within the week, will name the five team combinations, plus a list of alternate combinations. Nominated entries are due to the FEI on August 13. The new CIC at Bromont on August 17-18 will serve as the final mandatory outing for the U.S. WEG team.

Eventing at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games will take place Sept. 12-16 at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Click here to view the USEF Eventing Selection Procedure for WEG.

There are several key factors to consider when thinking about the riders and horses best suited to represent the U.S. at WEG. The removal of the dressage coefficient, which means scores are no longer multiplied by 1.5, plays as an advantage to horses that might not be able to challenge the leaders in the first phase but can climb the leaderboard with fast and clear jumping rounds. With Capt. Mark Phillips’ course largely expected to be a test of speed and endurance, fast and reliable cross country horses are paramount. It goes without saying that horses need to be able to jump clear on the final day in show jumping.

With those parameters in mind, which horses and riders do we think will be named to the U.S. WEG team? Read on for EN’s detailed analysis on the key horses and riders (listed alphabetically by rider name) that have been at the forefront of the conversation throughout the U.S. selection trials. We make our picks for the team at the bottom of the post.

* All dressage scores prior to 2018 have been converted to reflect the new scoring system.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

WILL COLEMAN

When looking for speed horses, look no further than Tight Lines. The 11-year-old French-bred Thoroughbred (Turgeon X Merindole, by Tel Quel) owned by The Con Air Syndicate has finished on his dressage score in three of his last four international runs with Will Coleman. That includes Fair Hill last year, where he finished second on 30.9 to win the USEF National CCI3* Championship, and Kentucky CCI4* this year where he finished 12th on 38.3.

Tight Lines’ strength lies in the jumping phases, and the first phase can present its challenges. The horse’s dressage average of 33.3 at three-star and four-star level over the past two seasons is competitive, but his score of 38.3 (converted to 57.5 under former scoring) at Kentucky this year was the highest of his entire international career across all levels.

OBOS O’Reilly smashed his personal best at Badminton CCI4* to sit seventh on 24.6 after dressage, but retired on cross country after an early runout on course at The Lake. Will Coleman re-routed the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse (OBOS Quality X Omard Clover Queen, by Clover Hill) owned by the Four Star Eventing Group to Tattersalls CCI3* and missed out on the win with a rail down in show jumping, ultimately finishing fifth on 32.4.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

BUCK DAVIDSON

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach delivered the best CCI4* finish of the horse’s career at Kentucky CCI4* this spring. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Radolin X Cloverballen) owned by Sherrie Martin and Carl and Cassie Segal placed 10th on 36.0 with 1.6 time penalties added on cross country and a clear show jumping round. While he delivered a fast round at Kentucky this year when we had good ground, this horse averages 9.6 time penalties on cross country at CCI3* and CCI4* level in eight completed runs.

Carlevo, an 11-year-old Holsteiner (Caresino X Ramatuelle, by Levernois) owned by Carlevo LLC, completed his first CCI4* at Kentucky this spring. He sat 12th after dressage on 32.2, but 9.2 time penalties on cross country, plus one rail down and 5 time penalties added in show jumping, pushed Carlevo down the leaderboard to finish 20th on 54.4.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

PHILLIP DUTTON

Phillip Dutton has ridden at every major championship since 1994 and brings a wealth of experience to teams. With injuries sidelining Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn this year, The Z Partnership’s Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide (Asca X Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z), has risen to the forefront. Z did not disappoint in his CCI4* debut at Kentucky this year, emerging as one of only four horses to finish on his dressage score to place fourth on 33.7.

The removal of the dressage coefficient benefits horses like Z who can finish on their dressage score or very close to it. He is very speedy on cross country and averages 1.2 time penalties in his five international runs over the past calendar year; he made the time in both of his CCI runs at Tattersalls and Kentucky during that timeframe. He is also a very strong show jumper and has jumped seven clear rounds in a row at international level, with only one rail down in his entire career with Phillip stretching back to 2015.

I’m Sew Ready, a 14-year-old KWPN (Lupicor X Jarda, by Elcaro) finished 13th on 39.7 in his second CCI4* at Kentucky this year, adding 1.2 time penalties on cross country, plus one rail down and 2 time penalties in show jumping. He has not made the optimum time on cross country in his 11 runs with Phillip since he took over the ride from Kristen Bond in 2016. I’m Sew Ready has also only jumped one clear show jumping round at international level in the last year.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

LIZ HALLIDAY-SHARP

Deniro Z has been on a serious upward trajectory since he started eventing as a 7-year-old. The 10-year-old KWPN (Zapatero VDL X Zonne-Trend, by French Buffet xx) owned by The Deniro Syndicate won his first CCI2* last year before going on to finish 16th in the slop at Boekelo in his first CCI3*. He impressed once again in his CCI4* debut at a tough Luhmühlen last week, adding 4.4 time penalties and two rails down in show jumping to complete on 42.2. He has 11 consecutive cross country runs without a jumping penalty.

While Deniro Z is still very green to the level, he is improving across multiple key performance indicators every time out. His flying changes are currently holding him back from challenging the leaders in dressage, though he did manage two out of four clean flying changes at Luhmühlen. He has not yet made the time on cross country at three-star or four-star level, so speed remains a question.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Jenni Autry.

LAUREN KIEFFER

Lauren Kieffer has been quietly waiting for redemption following the 2016 Rio Olympics, and she is poised to get the opportunity following a strong spring season. Veronica, a 16-year-old KWPN mare (Pacific X Kimbel, by Ferro) owned by Team Rebecca, emerged as a WEG frontrunner following a strong eighth-place finish at Badminton, where she delivered her third consecutive CCI4* dressage test in the 25.0 territory.

Veronica is not a fast horse on cross country and has not made the optimum time in any of her international runs since 2014. But the mare’s strength in the first phase means she can give herself enough of a buffer to accumulate time penalties and still be in a competitive position on the final day. In her seven completed runs at CCI4* level, Veronica has delivered a clear round in show jumping three times, including at Burghley last year, and has only had more than one rail once at Pau in 2014.

A full brother to Lauren’s first CCI4* partner Snooze Alarm, Jacqueline Mars’ Vermiculus has blossomed over the last season. After being withdrawn following cross country in his four-star debut at Kentucky last year, the 11-year-old Anglo-Arabian (Serazim X Wake Me Gently) completed this year with a sixth-place finish on 34.8. This is another horse who has never made the optimum time at three-star or four-star level, but he jumped a clear show jumping round on the final day at Kentucky this year.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

MARILYN LITTLE

Marilyn Little has pared her eventing string down to just one horse in RF Scandalous. The 13-year-old Oldenburg (Carry Gold X Richardia, by Lario) owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders and Jacqueline Mars finished third at Kentucky on 32.8 to become the new USEF National CCI4* Champion under immense controversy due to visible blood on the mare’s mouth during cross country.

The mare can hit some seriously low numbers in dressage and has trended at the 25.0 threshold in five out of her last six international runs. While she is dominant in the first phase, she is another horse with question marks surrounding her speed on cross country. She has never made the optimum time on cross country at three-star or four-star level, averaging 7.3 time penalties at those levels. The mare’s strength in the first and final phases arguably makes up for her lack of speed on the cross country. In her 17 international runs with Marilyn, she has only had a rail down twice in show jumping. She also delivered clear show jumping rounds in all three of her completed runs at CCI3* and CCI4* level.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

BOYD MARTIN

Like Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin has battled injuries in his string this year. And like Phillip, Boyd is a rider you want on a team. Boyd has never recorded a cross country jumping penalty at a championships, a streak that now stretches back to 2010. He was the highest placed American rider at both the 2010 WEG and 2014 WEG, delivering top 10 finishes with Neville Bardos and Shamwari 4, respectively. He has a 100% cross country reliability rating at championships, which includes two Olympics and two WEG appearances.

While Boyd has seen some of his top horses sidelined, he still has a strong option in Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg. The 11-year-old Trakehner (Windfall X Thabana, by Buddenbrock) is green to the level but has delivered strong results. He finished third at Fair Hill last fall to become the USEF National CCI3* Reserve Champion, adding only 1.2 time penalties on cross country. He stepped up to CCI4* level at Kentucky this spring, adding 2 time penalties on cross country and one rail down in show jumping to place 11th on 37.2. Tsetserleg has had a rail down in his last three international runs, but he jumped clear rounds in his three runs prior to that.

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Jenni Autry.

KIM SEVERSON

Cooley Cross Border is the only horse listed in this article to have won a CCI3* in the last calendar year, giving Kim Severson the second win of her career at the Blenheim Palace International CCI3*. But he struggles with consistency on cross country, having jumped clear in only one of his four runs at CCI3* and CCI4* levels over the past two seasons.

The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Diamond Roller X Whos Diaz, by the Cross Syndicate) owned by the Cross Syndicate is always a threat to lead the dressage, and he set a record at Carolina International CIC3* this year with a jaw-dropping 20.8. He is also an extremely strong show jumper and has only had two rails down in his entire international career across all levels. On paper, he is a world-beater. On the day, his consistency on cross country remains a major question mark.

Tamie Smith and Wembley. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

TAMIE SMITH

Tamie Smith has competed Kevin Baumgardner’s Wembley sporadically over the past two seasons, but they have managed to quickly forge a successful partnership. Their first international run of the 2018 season at Galway Downs CIC3* did not go to plan, but the stars aligned at Kentucky for his CCI4* debut and the first time Tamie had ridden at the level since 2009. The 15-year-old KWPN (Lester X E-Vip, by Cantus) sat 11th after dressage on 32.1, added 4.4 time penalties on cross country, and had one rail down in show jumping to finish 14th on 41.5.

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

LYNN SYMANSKY

Lynn Symansky somewhat famously said that Donner, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred (Gorky Park X Smart Jane, by Smarten) owned by The Donner Syndicate, made Kentucky’s cross country course feel “boring” this year. But when your horse has jumped clear cross country rounds in eight of his nine CCI4* runs, such a declaration is understandable.

Donner’s performance in the first phase has improved leaps and bounds over the last two seasons, culminating in a personal best of 30.3 at Burghley last year, where he finished sixth. While he trends towards a rail down in show jumping, he makes up ground on the cross country. A rail down at Kentucky this year still saw him finish sixth on 35.3.

While Lynn’s partnership with Mary Ann Ghadban’s Under Suspection is not nearly as established, she has delivered consistent results during the 2018 season with the 14-year-old Holsteiner mare  (Contender X Naomagic I, Exorbitant xx). In their two international runs together this year, Lynn and Under Suspection finished sixth at Carolina International CIC3*, and second in the CCI3* at Bromont with 2.4 cross country time penalties and one rail down to complete on 38.6.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Jenni Autry.

SHARON WHITE

Sharon White has been steadily chipping away at Cooley On Show‘s performance in the first phase, which culminated in a personal best score of 28.9 at Carolina International CIC3* this year. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ricardo Z X Jogantina, by Grand d’Espagne) owned by Sharon delivered in a big way at Kentucky, making the optimum time for the second time in his career at 3*/4* level to finish eighth on 35.6. He is on a rapidly improving form line across all three phases.

TEAM PREDICTIONS

  • Phillip Dutton and Z
  • Lauren Kieffer and Veronica
  • Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous
  • Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg
  • Lynn Symansky and Donner

ALTERNATE PREDICTIONS

  • Will Coleman and Tight Lines
  • Buck Davidson and Copper Beach
  • Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready (direct reserve to Z)
  • Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z
  • Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus (direct reserve to Veronica)
  • Tamie Smith and Wembley
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border
  • Lynn Symansky and Under Suspection (direct reserve to Donner)
  • Sharon White and Cooley On Show

Who do you think will make the U.S. WEG team? Weigh in with your own analysis in the comments below. Stay tuned as we await the U.S. WEG team announcement. Go Eventing.

Comments