Considering the USEF released last year’s winter/spring training list just four days before Christmas, we’re all getting a bit spoiled this year with the 2014 list coming out in mid-November. We saw 30 pairs on the 2013 winter/spring list and 20 on the summer/fall list; the 2014 winter/spring list contains 23 pairs, plus an additional six pairs that were not named to an actual list but will be invited to participate in training sessions with Coach David O’Connor this winter. I’ll be offering a variety of analysis on the lists over the next couple of days, but first let’s take a look at what each of these pairs accomplished in 2013 — particularly in the latter half of the season — to make it this far.
Combinations that currently possess the ability to win anywhere in the world.
Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott — Just like last year’s winter/spring training list, just one pair made the Global Talent list this year. Last year, Sinead Halpin and Manoir De Carneville took that honor thanks to winning almost winning Burghley. This year, the honors go to Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott, who also came incredibly close to winning a four-star at the end of this season. While two rails ultimately saw them finish in fourth place at Pau, there’s no denying that Phillip and Cave are poised for a fantastic 2014.
Combinations that currently possess the ability to be competitive anywhere in the world. The combinations listed on the World Class List will receive Land Rover Training Grants.
Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister — Tiana and Fin have nothing left to prove after a stellar 2013, in which they finished 17th at Badminton and 10th at Aachen. While it would have been fun to watch Fin romp around a fall four-star, there was really no need to add that additional wear and tear to his year after what he’d already accomplished. Thanks to Tiana’s hard work and faith in this horse, they’re well on their way to consideration for next year’s WEG team.
Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM — Reggie might be one of the most loved eventing horses currently competing in the U.S., and Buck’s partnership with this horse is truly inspirational. After finishing in fourth place at Rolex to become the 2013 U.S. National Champion, Reggie sustained a bone bruise on his right stifle, which kept him from competing on the Nations Cup team at Aachen. Thankfully, the injury was minor, and Reggie will be back into full work in time to participate in the winter training sessions.
Buck Davidson and Park Trader — Buck has had a wild fall with this horse, as they shipped to Burghley only to crash after the mid-way point on cross country in a freak accident when Kobe hung a leg after jumping beautifully the whole way around. In typical Buck form, he brushed it off and re-routed to Fair Hill, where he and Kobe finished in second place in the Fair Hill CCI3* in an emotional finale that served as one of the highlights on the fall season. It’s been incredibly challenging to get this horse to this point in his career, and now Buck’s enjoying the fruits of his labor.
Will Faudree and Andromaque — I love mares because they give so much of themselves once you truly cultivate a partnership, and Will has done just that with Missie. She finished fifth in the Saumur CCI3* in France in May and was poised to tackle Pau until she sustained a minor injury just weeks before the event. So it goes with horses. The good news is Missie will be ready for the winter training sessions and remains a major threat to make the WEG team this year. Girl power all the way!
Sinead Halpin and Manoir De Carneville — It’s been one hell of a 2013 season for Sinead Halpin. After skipping Rolex to save Tate’s legs for a fall campaign in Europe, Sinead fell at Chatt Hills in July, suffering a variety of injuries that ultimately kept her home in the States. This pair won the Plantation Field CIC3* in dominant fashion only to part ways in a bummer of a fall at Fair Hill, an event everyone expected them to win. While mistakes like that have kept another notable names off the list, Sinead and Tate have simply accomplished too much to be overlooked in a WEG year.
Marilyn Little and RF Demeter — Demi is the other powerhouse mare on the world class list, and she truly has all the pieces to be successful on the world stage. She finished seventh at Luhmuhlen earlier this year and also jumped around clear on cross country with just a handful of time penalties. If Marilyn can polish their performance across all three phases — and I know she’ll be totally determined to do so — this pair is going to be very tough to beat.
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen — This horse is another perennial favorite with eventing fans, and it’s been thrilling to watch him compete this year in England. After recovering from tie-forward surgery earlier in the year, Glen came back in dominant form to place third out of 84 starters in the Blenheim CCI3*. While he didn’t run a four-star this year, Glen has proven that he can be competitive amongst the best in Europe, and a good spring season will go a long way in showing what he could contribute to next year’s WEG team.
Clark Montgomery and Universe — Clark has had an up-and-down year with this horse, and he and Jess have shown true horsemanship in sticking by him and believing in him. Universe completed his first four-star in May at Badminton with a clear cross-country trip and no rails in show jumping. But a rocky go at Aachen raised questions as to whether he could be consistent at this level. The horse answered those questions at Pau, where he delivered a double clear cross-country trip to finish 10th. There’s still a lot to work on — namely his tension in the dressage — but there’s no question he’s a seriously talented horse.
Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate — Meghan is the youngest rider to make a training list in this cycle, and she absolutely deserves it after having a fairytale season with her off-track Thoroughbred gelding. After jumping clear around their first four-star to ultimately finish 12th at Rolex, Meghan crossed the pond to tackle her first European event at Blenheim. They finished 11th in the CCI3* in a very big field, and they deserve a huge pat on the back for such a stellar year.
Lynn Symansky and Donner — The Flying Deer has amassed a huge fan base this year — and for good reason. He finished on his dressage score at Rolex in his first-ever four-star to finish fifth, and then jumped double clear again on cross country in his next four-star last month at Pau — with the fastest time of the day, no less. While he’s not a stellar mover in the dressage, he can hold his own against the best cross-country horses in the world. That quality makes him extremely valuable to Team USA.
Combinations that are currently competitive in domestic international-level competition, and who the USEF Selection Committee feel have the future potential to be competitive anywhere in the world.
Jan Byyny and Inmidair — This is Jan’s first time being on a list in a very long time, and this achievement says so much about what she’s overcome to get back to this place in her career. There’s no doubt this pair deserves to be here after besting a very talented field to win the Fair Hill CCI3* last month. Thanks to that win, they received a free flight to the overseas competition of their choice courtesy of title sponsor Dutta Corp, and it will be exciting to follow their 2014 season.
Will Coleman and Conair — This horse is a very new ride for Will but no stranger to the highest levels of the sport. He previously competed in Europe with Rodney Powell in the irons, most notably finishing in second place in the Blenheim CCI3* last year. Since coming into Will’s program in the summer, they’ve slowly been creating a partnership, highlighted by a third-place finish in the Fair Hill CCI3* last month. Conair is going to be a very exciting horse for Will.
Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly — This horse hasn’t competed since Richland — where he only ran Intermediate and placed 13th — but it’s clear that the High Performance team really believes he and Will have the potential to go far. He won his first-ever three-star in June at the Bromont CCI3* and did so in very good form despite being super green at the level. While it would have been beneficial to see him at Plantation Field or Fair Hill, it’s clear the horse has a lot to bring to the table.
Buck Davidson and Petite Flower — The more I see of this mare, the more I love her. She’s scrappy and a real trier, and that’s exactly the type of horse that suits Buck. Flower is very new to the Advanced level, as Buck took over the rider from Caroline Martin to move her up this summer, but she’s showed a lot of promise so far. While they ran into trouble and retired on course at Fair Hill, Buck re-routed to Galway Downs, where they won the CCI3*. I’m sure we’ll be seeing her at Rolex in 2014.
Ellen Doughty and Sir Oberon — Ellen has enjoyed a Cinderella story of a season with Sir Oberon, a horse she’s campaigned all the way up from Training level. They just moved up to Advanced this spring, enjoying top placings across the country before finishing in sixth place in the Fair Hill CCI3*, they’re first attempt at the level. Ellen’s already announced she’ll be taking Obie to Rolex next spring — and getting married there to boot! Her story is a beautiful example of hard work paying off.
Will Faudree and Pawlow — Ernie started out his season super strong with a sixth-place finish at Rolex, but fell upon landing from the final jump on the cross-country course at Aachen. That was a truly terrifying moment to witness, and, mercifully, the horse walked away from it. He’s been out of commission since then, so it makes sense that we’re seeing him bumped down from the world class list. The horse is incredibly talented, and we can expect to see a number of strong performances from this pair in 2014.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night — I am over-the-moon excited for Liz, who has quietly campaigned in England since she left California in the late 90s to train with the best in the world. After stints with William Fox-Pitt and Joe Meyer, she went out on her own — all while splitting her time with being a professional racecar driver. She’s decided to devote herself to horses full-time now, and she and Blackie competed on the U.S. Nations Cup team at Boekelo last month. While they had a bummer of a runout on cross country, this horse has all the pieces.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley — Liz brought this horse over from England to contest the Galway Downs CCI3* in front of her hometown crowd, and they absolutely rose to the occasion, ultimately finishing in third place. Cooley is super new to this level, but he has the talent to excel across all three phases, and he should flourish under the extra coaching and attention now that Liz has firmly cemented herself in the spotlight as a potential threat for future U.S. teams.
Lillian Heard and Share Option — Lillian and Whitey have had a very solid season overall, especially when considering the horse hadn’t run Advanced in three years due to a tendon injury. While they struggled a bit in the fall — most notably parting ways in dramatic fashion at the infamous water complex at Plantation Field — they came back with a vengeance at Fair Hill to finish in 10th place in the CCI3*. Lillian is an extremely fierce competitor, and she’s been through so much to get back to this place with Whitey.
Doug Payne and Crown Talisman — Tali is such a cool horse, and he has this presence about him that screams quality. Doug deserves major kudos for working through this horse’s tension in the dressage, and he was a completely different horse in this phase at Fair Hill from what we saw earlier in the season. They were fourth at both the Plantation Field CIC3* and Fair Hill CCI3*, and I imagine Doug is already scheming about his strategy for Rolex.
Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless — It’s so exciting to see Kim back on a list after she’s made a wonderful comeback to the upper levels this year with Sparky. They most recently finished in fifth place in the Fair Hill CCI3* after a myriad of other solid finishes throughout the season, and I don’t see a reason why they won’t be tackling Rolex next year. It will have been three years since Kim competed at Rolex, and I’m thrilled for her to be back at this level.
Sharon White and Wundermaske — Sharon deserves a major pat on the back for believing in this horse this season. After a scary fall at Millbrook severely damaged the horse’s confidence on cross country, Sharon worked tirelessly to help him regain his mojo. That ultimately meant making the tough decision to cancel their trip to Blenheim and stay home in the States instead. But that strategy paid off, as Patch jumped beautifully around the Fair Hill CCI3* to finish in seventh place.
In addition, the following riders will be invited to participate in Training Sessions with O’Connor this winter/spring:
Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair — I got to hear all about Cody when I featured him on EN’s Got Talent this fall, and this quirky little gelding is a pretty cool horse. As a team, they haven’t placed lower than fifth in a single one of their 25 starts together since the horse started his career at Beginner Novice back in 2011. He moved up to Intermediate this year, and he and Maya contested their first CCI2* together at Galway Downs earlier this month, where they finished second. The Pacific Northwest eventing crowd has to be bursting with pride for this pair.
Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF — Matt imported this horse from Ireland earlier this year and has since enjoyed a lot of success with him, placing fifth in the Intermediate at Rebecca Farm, eighth in the CIC2* at Woodside last month and third in the CCI2* at Galway Downs. This is another strong West Coast pair deserving of extra training time with Coach David O’Connor, and considering we don’t have a single West Coast pair on any of the main lists, it’s great to see them included here.
Matt Brown and BCF Belicoso — Matt has to be thrilled to have two horses invited to participate in the winter training sessions, and this horse is another one that’s very deserving of extra face time with David. Also imported from Ireland this spring, this horse has won four of its five events since Matt took over the ride, most notably finishing first in both the Woodside CIC2* last month and the Galway Downs CCI2* earlier this month. At just 7 years old, this horse is definitely one to watch for the future.
Sydney Conley Elliot and Cisko A — Sydney has most notably been in the news this year for sourcing Boyd Martin’s latest upper-level mount Pancho Villa, and now she’s making headlines with Cisko A. They finished in ninth place in the CCI2* at Galway Downs earlier this month and also had a solid second-place finish in the Poplar Place CIC2* in September.
Kurt Martin and Anna Bella — This is another horse I featured on EN’s Got Talent earlier this year, and she really came into her own this fall. She finished second in the Virginia CIC2* and Plantation Field CIC2*, and she also delivered an impressive sixth-place finish in the Fair Hill CCI2*, her first attempt at that level. She’s a to-die-for mover and super careful jumper, and it’s going to be very exciting following her career going forward.
Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights — Can I hear an “IT’S ABOUT TIME!” While Colleen and CR didn’t make it onto an actual list, her inclusion here in the group that will receive extra training time with David is certainly a step in the right direction. Colleen fans have long bemoaned her exclusion from the lists, and it’s now become impossible to ignore Covert Rights, her super talented homebred gelding who moved up to Advanced this summer. After winning his first start at the level, he then contested his first CIC3* at Richland Park, where he finished fourth.
He then competed against some of the best upper-level horses in the country at Plantation Field, where he held his own for a ninth-place finish in the CIC3*. In a huge bummer of a way to end his season, Colleen had to withdraw from the Fair Hill CCI3* after breaking her hip at Morven Park last month. Had Colleen and CR contested Fair Hill — and I have total faith they would have done so in good form — we’d likely be seeing them on the national list. You can bet Colleen will come out swinging once her hip has mended, and we’re going to see a very exciting season from this pair in 2014.
What’s next? Now that we’ve examined each pair on the 2014 winter/spring training lists, it’s time to look at the notable names left off the lists. Stay tuned for that post coming up shortly. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on the lists in the comments below.