Engle, Fellers, and Kessler Share the Lead after Three Rounds in USEF Selection Trials

Skelton Continues Winning Streak in $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 11 with Big Star, Farmer and Taken Win High Performance Working Hunters

Reed Kessler and Cylana. Photo © Sportfot

Wellington, FL – March 22, 2012 – Margie Engle and Indigo, Rich Fellers and Flexible, and Reed Kessler and Cylana are all tied at the top of the standings after round #3 of the USEF Selection Trials, which are being held to determine the riders that will represent the United States Show Jumping Team in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Riders showed in round #1 on Wednesday afternoon and round #2 earlier in the day on Thursday. The scores from all three rounds will carry over to Saturday evening when competitors will compete in a fourth and final round. This event also serves as the USEF National Show Jumping Championships, a return to the event that was last held in 2008.

Thirty horse and rider combinations showed in round #3 tonight over a demanding course set by Alan Wade of Ireland. Wade’s course tested the power, scope and stamina of all of the competitors, and none were able to clear the course without fault.

Brianne Goutal and Remarkable Farms’ Nice De Prissey and Mario Deslauriers and Jane F. Clark’s Urico were the only two to come close, each finishing with one time fault. Rich Fellers and Harry and Mollie Chapman’s Flexible and Margie Engle and Garber, Griese, Hidden Creek and Gladewinds’ Indigo each completed the course with four faults. Reed Kessler and her own Cylana completed an eight fault round.

In the overall standings, Engle and Indigo, Fellers and Flexible, and Kessler and Cylana all carry eight faults total after the first three rounds.

Kessler and Cylana, a ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Skippy II x Darco), were leading the standings coming into tonight’s class as the only pair to jump clear through both rounds one and two. Their eight fault total over round three’s challenging course leaves the pair in the three-way tie at the top.

Kessler also sits near the top of the standings with her second mount, Mika, with a 13 fault total after the first three rounds. After tonight’s competition, she stated, “Both of my horses were great. I think I got a little excited. I left Cylana pretty fresh because it was three rounds of really big jumping, but she actually was pretty wild. I wasn’t expecting her to pick up so much under the lights.”

“She’s still a green horse; she’s only done one other night class,” Kessler added. “She went beautifully and she jumped beautifully. She was just a little electric and I was obviously a little electric too, but both of my horses jumped well. I’m very happy because it was pretty hard tonight.”

Margie Engle and Indigo

Engle and Indigo jumped clear in round one, then incurred four faults in both rounds two and three for their eight fault total. Indigo is a twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Indoctro. The gelding is coming back from having some time off due to an abscess in his hoof, but jumped well tonight.

On her round, Engle noted, “Tonight was actually the first time I felt him a little bit fatigued. He never is tired. In his mind he wasn’t tired. He’s still very fresh that way, but it was the first time he was just a little bit empty. I’ve never had him that quiet going into the ring and coming out. His foot feels good; he’s just not that jumping fit from not doing much right now. He has a lot of heart and he still gave it a good shot.”

Rich Fellers and Flexible also carry eight faults after tonight’s class. The pair had four faults in round #1, jumped clear in round #2, and had four faults tonight. Flexible is a sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse stallion by Cruising x Safari.

Fellers received wise words from his daughter, who called him this morning. “She just told me, ‘Make sure that you let Flexible know that you love him.’ That’s what I did,” he said with a smile.

Regarding his chance for the team, he noted, “It would be a great honor, like it would be for any of these riders, to make the team. I don’t expect myself to make the team, but I feel like if I execute and ride well and my horse is on his game all week, I should have a shot.”

Sitting just behind the three eight-fault scores, Mario Deslauriers and Urico will carry nine faults into Saturday night’s final round after finishing tonight’s course with just one time fault. The pair jumped clear in round #1 and finished round #2 with eight faults. Urico is an eleven-year-old KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor.

On his preparations for the trials, Deslauriers explained, “I was supposed to go to Europe to get in gear for this, but I ended up going to Mexico instead, so we were a little behind when we got to Florida. We started to show early (in Florida) and with the help of John and Beezie (Madden), we really made a good plan. As you see, it’s paying off. I think we are right on form for these Trials. He’s peaking at the right time. We are thrilled with the process and how the horse is going. I was proud of him tonight; he jumped great.”

Commenting on tonight’s course, Deslauriers noted, “I think tonight was one of the biggest tests we’ve jumped in Palm Beach under the lights, for sure. I thought it was very hard. I think George (Morris) wanted to see the horses, to see if they find out their limits a little bit, find out about all the riders. I think you had to dig deep tonight to get around. It was a bit of survival out there. Some horses jumped it easier than others, but it was a very hard test.”

Engle also commented on the course, explaining, “I honestly thought the course was very difficult. When we walked, I thought it walked very big. I thought the distances were very difficult. It was quite scopey. Most of the oxers you couldn’t reach across. Not just someone my size, even a normal sized person! They were very wide.”

On what to expect for Saturday night, Deslauriers mused, “I think it’s going to be along these lines. I don’t think they’re going to make it harder than what we jumped tonight. Maybe we’ll have the water Saturday night to a difficult line. I’m not sure what they’re thinking, but I think after tonight they saw what they wanted to see in the horses. Now they just want to see how consistent you can be.”

Reed Kessler Dominates Trial # 2

Seventeen-year-old Reed Kessler certainly showed how it was done in this afternoon’s USEF Selection Trial # 2. She was the only rider to go clear on two mounts, and was the only rider to have a double clear score. Going first on Mika, she noted a clear round, and finished with another on Cylana. She led the field after Trial # 2 with Cylana and is tied for second with Mika.

“I’m still catching my breath,” she laughed afterward. When asked whether she thinks she has a chance to get on the Olympic team, she expressed, “I’m going to do the best that I can either way. It’s a longshot, but it’s all I want. Whether it’s this time or years from now, that’s my goal. I’ll just keep working at it and take it day by day, jump by jump. It would be unrealistic going into this saying I would be on the Olympic team. I’m just trying to do the very best that I can and have a really positive first experience so that in the future, if I ever do really have a shot, I’ll be prepared.”

On today’s performance, she said, “This would be the accumulation of everything, ever, for me in riding. This is without doubt the greatest moment in my riding career. I know it might be very, very short-lived because it’s only getting bigger and harder, but for now I’m very, very happy.”

Kessler described Cylana as an “overscoped equitation horse; she’s so easy.” She continued, “Until she came to Florida this winter, she’d never really done anything above 1.45m. She has such an amazing brain. She’s so smart and so brave and so game for anything. When you’re riding, it’s just so effortless. We moved her up and moved her up and she never once struggled, so we just kept moving her up.”

The clear rounds today started with Rich Fellers of Wilsonville, OR, on Harry and Mollie Chapman’s Flexible. “He’s starting to feel really super. I didn’t jump him much in California. I kind of gambled. I didn’t jump him to the point where I was totally in my groove with him. We did four classes and I had one down in three out of the four classes, so I wasn’t really where I was last year in the year. I didn’t want to overdo it. He feels like he’s coming into his own,” Fellers said of the talented little stallion.

Fellers was the veteran of the group of clear-round riders, this being his third Selection Trials for an Olympic Games. Following Fellers and Kessler, the next clear round came from 26-year-old Charlie Jayne on Pony Lane Farm’s Uraya, a horse he started riding in February of 2011. They had success in Europe and at World Cup qualifiers. “I didn’t jump her so big this circuit. She likes to jump big, but I kind of wanted to save it for the Trials,” he said.

His thoughts were similar to those of the other younger riders on his tactics for competing in the Selection Trials. “I think round by round is how I look at it,” he explained. “At the end of it, we see where we lay.”

Immediately following Jayne, 20-year-old Saer Coulter of San Francisco, CA, rode Copernicus Stables LLC’s Springtime to a clear round. Coulter believed that competing at the FTI WEF this season helped her prepare her horse for competition in the trials. “Coming up to this, we’ve been jumping big grand prix with our horses and I think just being here is good preparation,” she agreed. “There’s pressure every time you go in the ring. I think you’re jumping big courses and getting experience every time you go in the ring. I think it’s good preparation just being here from week one.”

Quentin Judge (25) and HH Carotino, owned by Double H Farm, are another young pair gaining experience in the trials. “I think the younger riders might have a little bit of an edge because we’re not going into this, at least for myself, I’m not going into it thinking I’m going to be on the Olympic team,” he admitted. “I’m going into this thinking I’m going to try and have the best rounds I can, ride my horse well, listen to my trainer, and execute the plan. As we go along, especially with Reed more than everyone, it’s going to be more pressure and maybe those things start coming into your head. But just knowing you’re going in trying to have a good experience, not going in to win or win a jump-off, it helps a little bit for me.”

Of HH Carotino, Judge described, “Last year was his first year jumping grand prix. He started in Ocala and last year was my first jumping grand prix myself. He was a little bit difficult in the beginning. I took him to a few shows and indoors and was trying to figure him out. He’s very sensitive and needs a little bit of a specific ride. We’ve just started to come along and figure each other out. He was amazing today. Today was the biggest and the best he’s jumped.”

Nick Skelton Does It Again

First thing in the morning, there were 26 entries in the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 11. The class saw 11 clear rounds advance to the jump-off, and once again it was Nick Skelton and Beverley Widdowson’s Big Star that sped to the win. They knocked almost two seconds off the winning time and finished in 33.77 seconds. Ben Maher, who went first in the jump-off with Tripple X 111, led for almost the whole jump-off with a time of 35.39 seconds, which would stay in second place. Laura Kraut and Joan Kalman’s Woodstock O put in a time of 35.61 seconds for third place.

Skelton has had an unbelievable circuit, with nine major wins. The list of his results include:

Week 1: $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix – 2nd with Unique, Suncast 1.50m – 1st with Unique

Week 2: Suncast 1.50m – 2nd with Unique, WEF Challenge Cup – 1st with Carlo 273

Week 3: WEF Challenge Cup – 1st with Carlo 273

Week 4: $80,000 Adequan Grand Prix – 1st with Big Star

Week 7: Suncast 1.50m – 1st with Big Star

Week 8: $150,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix – 1st with Carlo 273, Suncast 1.50 – 2nd with Unique, WEF Challenge Cup – 2nd with Carlo

Week 9: Suncast 1.50m – 1st with Unique

Week 10: $80,000 Pennfield Feeds Grand Prix – 1st with Big Star

Week 11: WEF Challenge Cup – 1st with Big Star

Nick Skelton and Big Star

Skelton, who is 54 years old, admitted that he’s never had a circuit like this, but also that, “I’ve never been to a circuit as long as this.” He recalled, “Years back at Wembley and the Horse of the Year Show, I hadn’t won a ribbon. It started on a Monday and I hadn’t won a ribbon until Thursday. I won a class on Thursday and then I won every one after that until the end. I won 10 classes on the balance. That’s the best I’ve done. I won six in two days once (too).”

Of Big Star, he said, “This horse is going great. He’s come along leaps and bounds. He’s only nine years old.”

Skelton noted that while nothing is really different this year, his key has been to try and keep his horses fresh. “I know you would say, ‘Oh god he jumps those horses all the time.’ But I haven’t actually gone crazy with them. Unique jumped almost every week, but the first week he jumped three classes and then he’s jumped once a week. He didn’t jump last week. He hasn’t over-jumped really. For Big Star, he’s jumped but I haven’t gone mad at him. He probably jumps more than others because he jumps a lot of clear rounds. But he’s feeling well.”

He compared, “The thing is here, we haven’t got all of the traveling to do, like in Europe. There you’ve got to put them on a truck after three days, travel 2,000 miles and then off the truck and jump again, then back on the truck. There’s a lot of traveling involved in Europe, which tires them out. You haven’t got that here.”

Skelton said that he plans to ride Carlo 273 in next week’s $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* on March 31. “At the end of the day, he’s still a little more experienced and has a couple years on Big Star,” he said.

Hunter & Equitation Riders Wow in Week Eleven

Kelley Farmer and Taken

Kelley Farmer of Keswick, VA, wowed judges this week in the High Performance Working Hunter division atop her mount, Taken. Farmer scored three firsts and a third over fences and finished second under saddle to claim the championship tricolor with 40 points. Reserve honors went to Cynthia Williams of Somers, NY, atop her eight-year-old German Warmblood, Smoking Gun. Williams collected a second, third and two fifths over fences and topped the under saddle to bring home the reserve tricolor with 22 points.

The winning steed, Taken, is a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood imported by Ali Nilforushan, and owned by Nancy Amling. The bay gelding began his show career in 2010 as a First Year Green Working Hunter, and has since competed as a Second Year Green, High Performance and 3’3″ Amateur-Owner hunter. This week’s victory earned Taken the Sanctuary Peak Performance Award along with a gift certificate to The Sanctuary at PBIEC.

Following the championship presentation, Farmer commented on Taken’s performance in the show ring. “He’s like a big lazy pony,” Farmer explained. “You have to get his blood up and remind him that he has to try hard. Yesterday, he was just a little rusty and had a few rubs, but he won a class and was third in the other. Today, he was definitely trying hard. He just needed to be reminded that he was jumping big jumps again.”

Describing Taken’s personality, Farmer continued, “He’s a big ham, really. He thinks he’s the coolest kid on the block, and he probably is. He’d be the kid that got away with everything. He would come home and be like, ‘I didn’t do it mom, seriously,’ and I’d be like, ‘Oh, you’re too good, you didn’t do it.'”

According to Farmer, Taken refuses to jog for ribbons without carrots for encouragement. “He demands his carrots,” Farmer joked. “He’s always been like that, too, since the very beginning. I remember the first time we showed him as a First Year horse and he stuck right in the middle of the ring! But, believe me, he’s won enough now to deserve to act however he wants.”

In the coming weeks, Farmer hopes to add yet another victory to Taken’s list of accomplishments, and will compete in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby held during Week 12 of FTI WEF.

In the equitation arena today, Schaefer Raposa of Clinton, NY, demonstrated her versatility as a hunter/jumper rider, winning the WIHS Equitation overall. Raposa finished second in the WIHS Jumper Phase and third in the Hunter Phase of competition atop her mount, French Kiss, an entry owned by Heritage Farm, Inc. Second place honors went to Catherine Tyree and her mount, Co Co Pop, while Charlotte Jacobs and Stallone VDL claimed third.

The eleventh week of the FTI WEF continues tomorrow with the Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge and the Low Adult Hunter 2’6″, among many other classes. The George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation class will be the highlight class in the International Arena. For full results please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival
The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 11 through April 1. The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are “AA” rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $6 million in prize money will be awarded.

About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,800 employees located in 23 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.4 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2010. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.

Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.

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