The 2012 USEF National Show Jumping Championships and Selection Trials for the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2012 Olympic Games concluded on Saturday evening with an exciting fourth and final round under the lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. It was a full house of over 7,000 spectators as veteran competitor Margie Engle and young rider Reed Kessler tied for the championship title and shared the victory gallop.
The competition this week was held as both the national championship and the selection trials for this summer's Olympic Games concurrently. For the national championship, riders scores carried over through each of the four rounds of competition and $200,000 was awarded to the top twelve competitors overall. Those standings will also help to determine the long list for the riders that will compete in the Olympic Games in London this summer. The long list will be announced on Sunday.
Alan Wade of Ireland set the courses for all four rounds of competition held throughout the week and finished out with another great course tonight. Twenty competitors returned for the final round, and just three were able to clear the course without fault.
The final two horse and rider combinations on course tonight were Margie Engle and Indigo and Reed Kessler and Cylana. Each came into the last round carrying cumulative scores of eight from the previous three rounds. Both pairs then had a score of four over tonight's course to finish with twelve fault totals. The riders agreed to jump their horses no further in a jump-off and share the championship honors.
In addition to her ride aboard Cylana, Kessler was the first rider to clear the course without fault tonight with her horse Mika. Kessler and Mika carried 13 faults into the final round and kept their final score at just that. The pair finished in a three-way tie for third place overall with Mario Deslauriers and Jane F. Clark's Urico and Rich Fellers and Harry & Mollie Chapman's Flexible.
Kent Farrington and RCG Farm's Uceko also jumped a clear round over tonight's course and finished on an 18 fault total to earn the fourth place prize overall.
Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner's Cortes 'C' were the only other pair to clear the course. Madden and Cortes 'C' carried 20 faults into tonight's round and remained at that score for the overall standings. She ended up tied for the fifth place prize with Laura Kraut and Stars and Stripes' Teirra.
Engle spoke about tonight's class in comparison to the difficult track that they jumped on Thursday night. "I thought it was a good course. After the other night, it's what I expected," she said. "My horse felt great. The rail that I had was more my mistake. I kind of rushed the turn a little bit. I was kind of worried about the time. I just hurried a little bit and I pushed him at it. He's very sensitive, so if I push him too much...I just got a little bit past it. The rest he felt great. I was really proud of him. I didn't come into this where I wanted him, jumping fitness-wise, but he's got so much blood and so much heart. He just digs down and just keeps trying harder and harder all the time."
Kessler's voice shook with emotion as she took in the magnitude of her accomplishments this week. Earlier in the week, she was the only rider to jump double clear through the first two rounds. Although she had rails with both of her horses in the later rounds, she still remained at the top of the standings in a field of exceptional horses and riders, and now the possibility of an Olympic dream lies open.
"I just can't even believe I'm sitting here. I really didn't think I would be in this position," Kessler said after the class. "I was just looking forward to having a really positive first experience and so far it has been that! I think it would be unrealistic of me just to expect to be on the team. I have no experience and Cylana and Mika are both relatively green at this level too. From here on in, I'll do whatever (Chef d'Equipe) George (Morris) tells me and I'll do my very best. It has just been the best week of my life. I couldn't predict any further because I could not possibly have predicted this."
Source: Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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