Team USA Stuff: Aachen & WEG

In my opinion, our Aachen team selection was a reversion back to the unsuccessful strategies we’ve used in the past, namely short-sighted selection criteria with too much focus on not ruffling feathers by selecting the team purely on Kentucky results. To me, Aachen is a showcase that we, the USA, should be trying to win every single year and selection should center around our core riders with a strong pipeline of horses and an established program for the long-term. It’s an invaluable experience for riders, but if we don’t send the riders with a base to build on, it’s a wasted opportunity.

Aachen felt like a complete abandonment of the strategy Erik had established, which is really disappointing to see.

Megan O’Donoghue did a great job given the situation she was placed in, but it was completely unfair and illogical to make someone have their first ever US team appearance or overseas competition at Aachen. Sending a rider with one upper level horse who is now 16 doesn’t benefit team USA. In the future, I hope the 4th team slot will be reserved for a stand out young rider with a strong base for future success, similar to what the Brits did with Yas Ingham (think Alyssa Phillips or Mia Farley).

In Carlevo’s last 10 runs, he’s only jumped clear 60% of the time and has time penalties in every single run on his record. He’s also 15 and Buck’s record across horses is objectively sketchy with little evidence to show potential for further development. This spot should have gone to an up & coming 10 or 11 year old from one of the elite or pre-elite riders’ programs.

Will & Sydney did their jobs and Sydney in particular is a great example of how progressive, strategic experience with a long-term goal pays dividends. Yes she had two rails, but QC Diamantaire has developed into one of the most reliable XC horses we have and has consistently proven that reliability in high profile, high pressure situations. She has a strong owner, a relatively young horse at only 12, and shows a clear upward trajectory. In other words, there’s real evidence that there is a long-term benefit for the team by investing in her international exposure. Will is obviously more established, but the same goes for his horses who both are still in the early stages of their careers.

As for WEG, I’m expecting the below:

  1. Tamie Smith & Mai Baum
  2. Boyd Martin & Tsetserlg or Federman B
  3. Will Coleman & Off the Record (although his short format form is far better than his longs)
  4. Ariel Grald & Leamore Master Plan OR Sydney Elliot & QC Diamantaire OR Doug Payne & Quantum Leap (this is a group of extremely reliable XC horses that all three consistently tend to finish on scores around a 35 in big long formats)

Individual: Liz Halliday-Sharp & Cooley Quicksilver OR one of the 3 combos listed in slot 4

Here’s to hoping the train isn’t already coming off the rails in the post-Duvander world of US eventing.

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If having a “strong base for future success” is one of your criteria I’m surprised you have Doug Payne as a maybe. I’m not sure there is anyone in the US right now who has the line up of quality younger horses coming up the levels that they own than Payne.

We have a very long history of supporting younger riders with wealthy parents who make a big splash, maybe even ride on a team then after 10 years or so move on to something else or no longer ride their horse of a life time. I’ll pick the 40 year old with a strong personal program over an under 30 something every time. We aren’t beating Jung, Townend, Fox-Pitt etc.and etc. with someone who has been competing at the top levels for less than 10 years.

Eventers typically ride internationally up to 60–at 40 they are just starting to be seasoned enough. Support the promising younger pros, send them overseas, get them over the big courses, but for WEG I want the best and most badass, most seasoned riders and horses we have regardless of age.

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I think we’re on the same page.

What I see is a need to consolidate around those riders who are positioned for success long-term. I see two primary tiers as outlined below (probably forgetting a name or two). In my opinion, big team events like Aachen, Boekelo, championships should pull pretty much exclusively from this group, with the occasional add of a younger rider who’s pulling in consistently impressive results with a very high bar set on what that looks like.

In no particular order…
Doug
Liz
Will
Tamie
Boyd
Phillip

Jennie
Sydney
Ariel
Caroline

Always opportunity for someone to trend toward entering this list, but the burden of proof should be on those athletes to demonstrate consistent competitive results. I think the US tends to balk at exclusivity far too much when it comes to fielding nations cup teams and forgets that a lot of these top tier riders still lack significant team experience in high profile international events.

We Brits tend to use the FEI Nations Cup to give up and coming riders a chance to gain some helpful team experience.

The Swiss, under the guidance of Andrew Nicholson, have certainly seized their opportunities.

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I think we need to pick clear cross country as first criteria.
I agree about leaving Carlevo off. Unreliable.
i want Phillip and Z. Z lost a shoe at Badminton…and Ian Stark commented what a great job Phil did without a shoe and studs on a really difficult course. I do not hold his time penalties so much against him.
I want Boyd. he is tough as nails. I wish Luke were ready…but I will take Thomas…I hope Federman can wait one more year to confirm at the level.
Ariel Grald and Tamie…
Liz…even Mark Phillips said that Luhmuhlen was a minus five star…

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I don’t think we can keep ignoring Liz. It’s disappointing the Deniro horse got hurt before the olympics, but she’s consistently winning in this country with various horses at all levels. They are good on the flat, she’s competitive and rides to win. I think she deserves her spot on a team

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Was the Aachen team really selected or was it just made up of people who were going anyway?

For WEG I would chose:

Lauren and Bug - Perfect horse for the course
Ariel and Lenamore - Solid reliable pair who almost always deliver
Tami and MB - Need I say anything? Medal contendor
Phil and Z - Phil because he always gets it done
Will and Off the Record - Unbelievable form currently

Won’t happen this way, but those are my picks!

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It certainly read like a WEG tryout for those horses on the bubble post-Kentucky:

  1. QUANTUM LEAP - box checked at Kentucky
  2. TSETSERLEG TSF - box checked at Kentucky & elsewhere
  3. CARLEVO
  4. DONDANTE - assume Will would have Off the Record as his top pick for WEG
  5. QC DIAMANTAIRE
  6. SEA OF CLOUDS - assume Phillip would have Z as his top pick for WEG
  7. PALM CRESCENT
  8. OFF THE RECORD

Aachen isn’t really an event you can just enter at your own will.

I think Will Faudree should also be on that list. Mama’s Magic Way is an incredibly impressive young horse. With some more miles to make everything a little less exciting for him, he will be quite the horse. Lauren Nicholson should be as well, though her horse power needs some adjusting at the moment IMO.

My team for the WEG is:

  • Tamie and Mai Baum
  • Ariel and Leamore Master Plan
  • Boyd and Tsetserleg
  • Will and Off the Record
  • Doug and Quantum Leap

Depending on team strategy, I think you’d either make Tamie the individual so she can go for an individual medal, or you’d make Doug the individual as the horse is young and can be a touch inconsistent on the flat. Note that young doesn’t mean low mileage - Quantum did Le Lion as a 7 year old and performed well, and he’s done three 5*s despite only being 11, so he’s been on planes and in stadiums and knows what they are about. I don’t think WEG is an unfair ask.

I will say I thought Will Coleman and OTR left something to be desired at Kentucky. That performance overall was lackluster. He would be the one I am least sure about. I love the horse to bits, but Pratoni will be a test of fitness, and he needs to go faster over the longer distances to really sew it up for me.

Which Will?

I think Mamas Magic Way might be a bit too big and strong for Patroni, and his SJ record leaves much to be desired.

Sorry - Will Coleman and OTR left something to be desired at Kentucky for me (will edit accordingly).

I think Will Faudree should be on Benchmark’s list of riders big team events should pull from, although I agree that it’s a bit early for MMW to head to Pratoni. I think he’ll be more where he needs to be in another year or so.

what about his Aachen run?

I do think MMW is a team horse for the future, just not for that specific course. But what do I know (nothing LOL)

I think the XC IS going to be super influencial.

I really liked it, and it’s part of why I put him on my team, but I’m getting concerned about his seeming ability to go faster in a short format than a long. It’s unusual for the sport - 4S is statistically the hardest level to make time at - but for me I wish he had been more convincing over a long format. Again, not enough for me to take him off my team, but I raised an eyebrow.

Agreed.

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When are they going to announce anything, already?!

I’ll go younger because we are not going to win WEG or even make the podium. So we might as well send youngsters for them to build experience. It will also help them acquire more and better horses for the future.

  • Ariel and Leamore Master Plan
  • Sydney Elliott and QC DIAMANTAIRE
  • Boyd and Tsetserleg
  • Doug and Quantum Leap
  • Tamie and Mai Baum
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Do we think today USA might name the Pratoni team this afternoon? Or Monday?

August 1st is what I’ve heard so not to much longer

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Benchmark, I agree with everything you said. I am hopping up and down waiting for the announcement.

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August 1 for Canada! So excited