The U.S. will feel the pressure to stand on the podium as endurance championships return to American soil. The U.S. won an individual gold medal at every World Endurance Championship (WEC) from 1986 until 1998–Cassandra Schuler (1986), Becky Hart (1988,1990,1992), Valarie Kanavy (1994 & 1998) and Danielle Kanavy (1996). But in recent years the team has bowed to competitors from France, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
Selection of U.S. Horse/Rider Combos for the 2010 WEG is a multi step qualification and selection process. Each country is allowed five horse/riders, four Team and one Individual. The horse/rider combination must meet FEI Qualification for the 2010 WEG, formerly called a Certificate of Capability (COC) . Riders who have applied for WEG and attended one of the June Regional Selection Trials will be able to attend the final Observation Trial in August where 12 horses/riders will be chosen. The 12 horse/riders will travel to the Lexington area and remain in training while the final determination of the Five member Squad and the traveling reserve is made.
The top contender for a gold medal at WEG will be Spain?s Maria Alvarez Ponton, the first rider to hold both world and European titles at the same time on her 13-year-old French-bred gelding Nobby.
The UAE will also be a force, with many horses from which to choose. Possible riders will include HE Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. His qualified mounts include Tazoul Al Parry, the 1997 French bred bay gelding that was third at the 2008 World Endurance Championship, and Kangoo d’Aurabel, the 1998 French gelding ridden by Sheikh Al Maktoum into first place at the 120-kilometer test ride in Kentucky.
Barring a shut-out in the 2008 Malaysian Championships, the French will be a reckoning force. Their medals include the team gold at the 2004 and 2006 championships. Stand-out riders and horses may include Caroline Denayer and Gwellik Du Parc, Jean Philippe Frances and Hanaba Du Bois, and Philippe Benoit and Akim Du Boulve.
The top riders in the U.S. rider rankings are a good bet to be selected for the team, which is ably led by chef d?equipe and three-time world champion Becky Hart. They are:
Valerie Kanavy of Virginia. The competitive Kanavy has three qualified horses from her Gold Medal Farms. Nine-year-old Gold Raven and eight-year-old Spectacular Gold have finished at the head of the field in 2009 races and nine-year-old LM Parys is showing promise. With two world championships and extensive experience in international rides, Kanavy knows how to rate a horse on the course and is the one to watch.
Farzad Faryadi of North Carolina. Faryadi?s background as a runner gave him a smooth transition into endurance. His qualified mount, 10-year-old Hot Desert Knight, proved a formidable competitor in 2009. After setting a new course record in Vermont, the duo finished eighth at the Kentucky WEG trial in October.
Steve Rojek has a reputation as a reliable team choice and regularly logs over 2,000 competition miles a year. His resume includes two world championships and five Pan American championships. His partnership with the 1996 grey gelding SeyvillaTriproof+/ brought them a seventh place finish at the Kentucky WEG trial.
Jan Worthington of Illinois. The most experienced rider at 70 years of age, Worthington is a veteran of many championships and a member of the 2000 World Endurance Championship team. Her 2000 Wiking-bred gelding, Golden Lightening, placed third in the soggy storms of the Kentucky WEG trial ride in October. The duo get the ?True Grit Award? for finishing, considering that they were nearly being struck by lightning in the 2008 Malaysian championship.
Ellyn Rapp, a newcomer to International endurance and the youngest of the proposed field at 28 years of age, is quickly making a name for herself. Fearless and competitive, Rapp moved from Iowa to Florida for year- round training. Rapp is qualified on the 15 yr old, Berjo Smokey and the gelding has proved to have excellent recoveries and an equally competitive spirit.
Heather Reynolds (33) and her husband Jeremy (30) have made an impact together and separately in the competition of endurance. Together they have over 22,000 miles of American Endurance Ride Conference competition, 3 wins at the 100-mile Tevis Cup and three Haggin Cup, Best Condition awards for that event. Heather?s resume shows numerous International Championships, including her Gold Medal win at the 2001 Pan Am Championship where she also received BC. Under the name of Reynolds Racing, the Reynolds also train and lease successful endurance competition horses.
Heather?s nominated horse, Ssamiam, comes from the racing stock of Sam Tiki. Jeremy?s nominated horse, Sir Smith, has the European racing giant, Vigule Al Maury, as sire.
Photojournalist Pamela Burton reports from the heart of International Endurance. A lifelong equestrian, her writing style and her eye through the lens reflect the attitudes and expectations of horse and rider in the heat of competition. She has covered World Endurance Championships and Pan American Championships on four continents for many of the major equestrian hard-copy and online magazines. Now based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, she has seen the desert area grow into a huge player in all areas of equestrian sport in the past 12 years.